Personal Log  #1018

July 6, 2020  -  July 11, 2020

Last Updated:  Sun. 7/19/2020

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Thinking & Wishing.  Looking back at my posts from 5 years ago, it was quite clear even back then how much GM was already struggling with Volt survival.  So, seeing this in that new PHEV discussion was interesting: "Still think the Volt was the best of all.  Wish they'd used that platform for a small awd suv or crossover."  With so many new participants sharing online comments, its basically just a new group of enablers forming.  No one knowing the history means no one to stop mistakes from being repeated.  Of course, there are a few who actually encourage that.  Whatever the cause, it's happening.  I added this as a wake-up call:  Reality check is that the problem has existed for years and the enablers turned a blind-eye to what needed to be done.  I posted this back at the end of 2016, when the situation with Volt had obviously become dire and enthusiasts were doing everything possible to deflect: "RAV4 hybrid has been selling well and the potential for it to offer a plug using the same approach as Prime is very real.  Again, why is GM not saying anything about any type of efficiency offering for Equinox?"  Hope had shifted to Bolt, rather than GM actually doing anything with Volt's technology.  My follow up to the rhetoric it that particular discussion was: "Toyota is far closer to offering a plug-in compact SUV than GM."  It's only going to get worse too. The new Corolla Cross hybrid would make a nice complementary offering to RAV4 Prime also as a plug-in hybrid.  In other words, people can think or wish whatever they want. Sadly, that doesn't change the reality of the technology going nowhere.  It was a waste of tax-credits, achieving nothing with regard to the intended purpose of those subsidies... to change the status quo for GM customers.

7-11-2020 Pushing Limits.  It has been very easy to provide constructive perspective now.  Those days of getting attacked with surprisingly hostile propaganda are gone.  Enablers have vanished, as too their rhetoric.  Having the way cleared by antagonists simply doesn't happen anymore.  Meritless claims are very easy to identify and simply don't stir emotion anymore.  We are starting to see the more practical nature of mainstream consumers emerge.  The enthusiast audience is gone.  Early-Adopters have moved on.  In other words, their claims of "obsolete" are now getting recognized as "mature" technology... which they want no part of.  That leaves me ample opportunity to speak from the soapbox... which I am not hesitating to do:

GM priorities have been seriously misaligned since the development of Volt.  It boils down to focusing on the wrong audience.  They catered to enthusiasts, who enabled them to indulge in elements of praise rather than actual change.  The resulting "leadership" was really a massive waste of opportunity, using tax-credits for conquest instead shaking up the status quo at their dealers.

Trouble became obvious with design of gen-2 Volt.  Rather than placing emphasis on cost-cutting measures to produce a configuration able to thrive without subsidy dependence, more was invested toward delivery of increase speed, power, and range.  In other words, rather than recognize priorities of their own loyal customers, it was a race to push limits.

That obsession carried over to Bolt.  Anyone who has studied driving requirements in depth can see the mistakes GM continues to make.  Increased range isn't necessary. Faster charging isn't necessary.  Something able to compete on showroom floors for their shoppers is.

It comes down to choosing between praise & practical.  Delivering more than 200 miles of EV range means increased cost, weight, and size.  More is nice, but the tradeoff simply isn't worth it with current technology.  Then there is the issue of fast-chargers.  It is very expensive to deliver speeds faster than 50kW.  Expecting a business to offer many chargers in a higher pricing-tier is just plain not realistic.  Yet, farther & faster continues to be the emphasis.

Notice how GM quotes never address the actual challenges.  They are completely absent of substance; instead, you just get "feel good" comments without any type of expectation being set.  It's how you play the crowd, telling them what they want to hear... not what they need to hear.


Hint Hint.  We went from silence & indifference to explosion of PHEV interest in a surprisingly quick manner.  Some of that has to do with Tesla growth struggle.  Sure, those vehicles are still great, but the lack of fit & finish combined with such an expensive price-tag is not what mainstream consumers expect.  There simply isn't a match with vehicle type/size/config either.  That's why RAV4 Prime is has becoming the overwhelming favorite.  To be cliché, it pushes all the right buttons.  The catch is, writers of "EV" articles are struggling to draw in that new audience.  Catering to enthusiasts doesn't work anymore.  That obsession died basically overnight.  Now, it's trying to figure out what the Prius supporters learned a long time ago.  I'm helping to move that process along, dropping hints when appropriate.  Today, it was in response to a PHEV discussion where a Honda Clarity owner was sharing his experiences.  I jumped in with:  That extra 20% observed in real-world driving is quite common.  The EPA rating was designed to provide a standardized means of comparison, not to set an expectation.  That's the way it was for decades with MPG and continued to be even after the major revision to better reflect actual driving conditions.  This is why the absence of measures like kWh/100mi and usable-capacity should be added to the chart.  It helps build a better picture of what you are considering for purchase, because you really can't determine what to expect in terms of propulsion system design.  There are also outside factors missing that very much play a role in EV outcome.  The 2 most obvious omissions are type of cabin-heater and charging-speed.  Needless to say, those should be added to providing more comprehensive information for readers... hint hint.


Clueless.  There are no qualifications required to post online.  Everyone has an opinion.  That's fine, but don't draw conclusions for others.  This is especially important when you get advance beyond the newbie stage and come to realize you weren't well informed.  I see a lot of the conclusion-drawing from those new names.  They appear out of nowhere with the confidence of knowing it all.  Usually, they do know some aspect of the topic well.  But without the full range of facts needed to make an informed decision, they shouldn't.  With the case of something like a plug-in hybrid, that's a very real problem.  Much of the knowledge shared is nothing but anecdotal observations from just a single design.  Based on that, they assume the entire category must be the same.  They couldn't be more wrong.  That poor data collecting leads to all kinds of challenges, almost all based on being clueless.  They have no idea what they don't know.  That missing information contributes to what ends up being hostile exchanges in some circumstances.  They can't figure out why there is so much pushback to their observations.  I confront that on a regular basis.  This was today's encounter:

That "all these others" is a clue which reveals having no idea how a system like RAV4 Prime actually operates.  It's more common of a problem than you think.  Reading recent posts, you'll find that some Volt owners & supporters still believe it is a serial hybrid.  It's not.  It never was.  The entire "EREV" campaign to present that technology as different was really nothing be a marketing label.  Reality is, design of PHEV offerings vary.  Some of that comes from not even sharing the same purpose.

For example, the BMW i3 REx was intended to deliver a full EV driving experience under all conditions, then used its under-sized engine as a backup generator only after depletion.  It had no physical connection to the propulsion system.  That was a true "Range Extended" design.

Volt's engine could directly provide thrust to the wheels, making it a PHEV.  Enthusiasts desperate to promote it as "vastly superior" to Prius PHV, coined EREV.  For the sake of marketing, that kind of worked for awhile.  That fell apart though when Prius Prime rolled out.  Toyota added a one-way clutch to disengage the stopped gas engine, allowing the system to propel the vehicle as a true EV using nothing but the 2 electric motors.  No gas at all debunked the EREV identifier.

RAV4 Prime carries that same design forward, adding in a third electric motor along with even more battery power.  In other words, the claim of "turning on the gas engine far more than needed" has no merit.  Driving 42 miles without starting the engine is quite realistic... and completely eliminates any type of differentiation you were hoping for.


Next Step.  You'll find that enthusiasts tend to be forward-looking to a fault.  They see the goal, but have no idea how to get there.  It's like something magical just happens, that they don't need to actually to anything to help the process along.  That's quite annoying.  Such an absence of a plan shouldn't require a constant reminder that is it needed.  There's an implicit belief that the automaker they have faith in will do the right thing and that all others will mess up horribly.  When you request something to actually back their supposition, it gets turned back on you as someone just trying to stir trouble.  When you present something of substance to support your own claims, they do everything possible to avoid acknowledgement.  It's a world of hope & denial with little actual merit.  Who needs to plan out steps when you have great technology that will magically appeal to everyone?  Ugh.  At least with Toyota, it's really easy to point out the steps being taken and those about to be taken:  The writing is on the wall.  Phaseout of traditional vehicles has begun.  Sienna & Venza being hybrid-only is obvious evidence of that.  What's not so obvious is the product-gap RAV4 Prime has created.  It raised the bar for size & performance.  That opens up opportunity for a smaller, more ordinary powered SUV as a hybrid and plug-in hybrid... Corolla Cross.  With early-adopter obsession being so much more intense than usual, it is no surprise everyone overlooked such a clear next step.


Corolla Cross.  When there is a non-stop battle to get you to look the other way, all you have to do is wait.  Patience really pays off.  In this case, it has been the on-going effort to spin the situation as neglect & disinterest.  Supposedly, limited supply of RAV4 Prime is an abundance is from negligence.  Toyota management really doesn't want to sell plug-in vehicles, so they are sabotaging the market.  That lack of demand is an illogical argument when placed up against the most popular seller.  This is why if GM had actually chosen a SUV for their rollout of plug-in hybrid choices, it would have been a big hit.  After all, there was a prototype of exactly that prior to Volt.  No one seems to remember that Saturn Vue though.  It was the next logical step forward for both Two-Mode & Vue.  That platform was key to mainstream acceptance.  Fast-Forward to over a decade later, the same is true... only the vehicles have grown, across the industry.  That's normal, which makes the introduction of a smaller new offering normal too.  For GM, that was Trax.  Something needed to fill in the void Equinox left behind as it got larger.  The same missing vehicle size exists for Toyota, with RAV4 having grown larger.  No one seems to have noticed that gap though.  It should be obvious, especially with nothing in the smaller size category.  Where is that SUV from Toyota?  We found out today.  It got introduced as the Corolla Crossover.  Pretty much exactly as expected, it is a smaller, less aggressive offering.  Rollout will begin in Thailand.  It will be available as a hybrid.  Whether or not it will only be a hybrid or what the intent is for this market is totally unknown; however, it makes more sense when RAV4 Prime isn't being rushed.  Waiting for initial feedback from it, combined with the rollouts of Sienna & Venza, help to build that bigger picture.  Notice how no one arguing about supply wanted to address what should come next?  That was exactly how Volt arguments fell apart... refusal to consider what step should follow.  We know how well Toyota plans ahead.  That puts today's reveal right on schedule.  It makes sense.  Antagonists are going to hate this new fact.


Writing Reviews.  This really bothered me: "You don't have access to an EV charger."  It came from an automotive source writing what was clearly a new topic for them.  They were reviewing plug-in vehicles, listing the top-5 reason in favor and the top-5 reasons against.  That one I singled out was obviously against.  It went on to claim: "The ability to drive on pure electricity is a major selling point for the RAV4 Prime, but you can't really enjoy this benefit unless you have reliable access to an EV charger.  If your home or workplace has an EV charger, or maybe if you live extremely close to a public station, you're in the clear.  But if not, why pay extra for a feature you'll rarely use?"  That was such poor research, you have to wonder if the person every even saw the vehicle or understood how it worked.  You get a charger (properly referred to as "EVSE", which means Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) included standard with the purchase.  All you need to use it is a standard household outlet.  That's not a big deal, if stated as a ordinary 120-volt connection.  People understand what it means to plug in a device that uses an everyday plug.  This wasn't how the "charger" was presented though.  It made the problem sound like there was a special new device required.  The need to find a location where you can plug in is profoundly different.  That "access" isn't at all what the title implies.  Supposedly, this wisdom came from a well informed automotive resource.  Ugh.


That Daily Blog.  It's gone!  All evidence of that terrible propaganda source has vanished.  Troubled right from the very start, it became a place to feed antagonists.  That was really unfortunate.  The founder had sincere intent to teach supporters, giving them a voice and means of sharing & learning.  That fell apart surprisingly quick, resulting in a number of outspoken enthusiasts being born.  They thrived on the discourse.  It was hope transformed into hype, simply because they didn't want to use any critical thinking.  It was easier to just accept ambiguous press releases.  Never question the lack of substance.  Never seek material to prove merit.  Nothing.  It was just a bunch of comments posted on a daily basis... over and over and over.  They spread lies as a result.  That loss of integrity is what finally caused a stir.  Eventually, the moderator abruptly & mysteriously departed.  Things fell apart from there.  You can read over a decade of the nonsense documented in great detail with these blogs.  I got some great quotes and some truly inspiration motivation from their antics.  The troublemakers simply didn't care.  They thrived on pride... which was their ultimate undoing.  To see the owner of the website finally clean up the mess, by removing all elements of it, was quite nice.  Today, it is gone.  That history will always be around.  Such a powerful means of online misleading should never be forgotten.  They had no clue just how much damage could be caused by their careless posts.  It enabled a self-destructive path.  I watched it play out, warning them of what should have been obvious.  Their actions were their own undoing.


Drawing Conclusions.  Intrigue from pointing out a fact, but not actually sighting any data, is what keeps me going sometimes.  There's no critical thinking.  For example: "Believe it or not, big companies do tons of market research before they launch a product."  There wasn't any substance provided.  What was that research?  What did they learn from that?  What were they doing about it?  Merit cannot be assumed; yet, that is the approach.  I gives me the opportunity to supply exposition, bestowing past, present, and future.  In this case, we are still dealing with short-sightedness related to rollouts:  That is reason why first-year rollout has a set limit.  For those of us who have been part of green tech for awhile, we know that "challenges" come up when the wheels hit the road.  Toyota is well aware of how much help the devoted can be to help out. Owner endorsements contribute a great deal toward dealing with the "critics" of their new offering.  I have witnessed & participated in that approach for 20 years.  No amount of complaining here will change that. They have their way and it has proven to be successful.  If you have a constructive suggestion though, that's different.  Keep in mind, research comes in a wide variety of formats.


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