Prius Personal Log  #1063

March 31, 2021  -  April 4, 2021

Last Updated:  Fri. 5/21/2021

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Background Noise.  Opinions from those were it really doesn't matter are what promote being dishonest.  I pulled up an article from over 7 years ago.  It was about setting the record straight... an attempt to end some of the lies.  That's when "fake news" thrived, but back before that term had been coined.  Anywho, in the comments was a post blatantly disregarding what has been sighted as incorrect claims.  The person simply didn't care and repeated the same old rhetoric.  That's what today's comment reminded me of: "You can do this song and dance all day but Toyota is a laggard."  It was an echo of the past, but no longer possessing the weight anymore.  They take their audience for fools, hoping the mindless repetition of meritless claims will eventually become so ingrained, the truth is lost.  I deal with that in this manner now:  No one is fooled by the false, misleading, and inaccurate claims made on a regular basis.  Using a word like "laggard" is an act of desperation, stated without any detail to support it.  Even the "do much more" lacks any type of substance or merit to back it.  Anyone who takes a moment to look up Prius Prime or RAV4 Prime finds a plug-in system that delivers EV driving.  The all-electric propulsion up to 84 mph (135 km/h) includes cabin warming & cooling that is also electric.  It is a profitable design able to transition the entire fleet to plug-in models.  In other words, go study what it really takes to move the industry forward.  Rhetoric from enthusiasts is just background noise in a very complex business.

4-04-2021 Sales Surge.  Success of RAV4 Prime is getting noticed.  The narrative of Toyota being "behind" is falling apart.  Those hoping to distract & defend in favor of other automakers are really beginning to struggle.   Each argument is showing weakness.  There's nothing more to deceive with.  The rhetoric has been exhausted.  That made posting this as a comment in an article about Toyota's excellent first-quarter results for 2021 was rewarding:

The bigger story is what's happening across the fleet.  Hybrid models are available for most Toyota passenger vehicles now.  That choice is opening the door for PHEV offerings, since adaption of the hybrid system is a just matter of adding a one-way clutch.  Everything else (traction motor, generator motor, power-split device, inverter, software) is already present and fully capable of EV driving.  The clutch simply allows the generator motor to become a second traction motor, taking advantage of the increased power available from the larger battery-pack.

This is why we now see Prius at a tipping point, where the plug-in model is starting to draw more attention than the regular hybrid.  Both dealer & consumer recognize increasing battery-pack capacity as the only barrier to taking that next step.  There is nothing to prove technically anymore.  The system has confirmed being both reliable & durable.  And with production-cost dropping for batteries, it is quite reasonable to see this as the shift to plug-in only playing out right before our eyes.

The most important takeaway from these observations is the diverse nature of the current 2 offerings.  Prime is quite different from RAV4.  Being able to reach such a variety of potential customers is key, something all automakers must address.  Knowing another PHEV is on the way, it is easy to see Toyota's move away from ICE across the fleet is well underway.

4-04-2021 5-Year Cost Of Ownership.  Some sources of green news have fallen to hype and click-bait.  Any sense of journalism is lost for certain topics.  Today provided great evidence of that: "However, interestingly, according to Kelley Blue Book, the average purchase price of a passenger vehicle in the US in 2020 was $37,876."  With such a leading statement in a 5-Year comparison, there wasn't much hope for constructive discussion.  It was just more source material for feeding a narrative.  In fact, it didn't even take responsibility for the content.  There was only a few opening paragraphs, then a link to a video with the comparison itself.  Needless to say, I couldn't keep silent:

Interesting is the failure recognize how misleading data can be if it is not properly identified.  Simply grouping everything together to calculate an average doesn't tell us anything meaningful.

For example, it is like stating average MPG, but including all vehicles with a gas tank.  To make such a blanket assessment, without recognition that some plug-in hybrids will be driven extremely long durations (6 months to 1 year) between gas tank refills, results in a heavily distorted average.

In this case, how useful is "average" information knowing it is $21,783 for a compact car and $36,487 for a full-size car.  (Data from Kelly Blue Book December 2020.)  That's a dramatic difference just within the category of "car".  To further reveal how misleading conclusions are drawn, look at the data for entry-level luxury car at $42,016.  That is nearly double the price of the compact.  When you look at average for luxury car, excluding high-end models, it rises to $58,174.  The same type of range variance happens with SUV/Crossover compact to full-size from $31,027 to $66,811, and for luxury it's $46,563 to $89,524.  Notice those ranges even within a category didn't include values for subcompact.  Car is $16,511.  SUV/Crossover is $25,197.

This is why "sticker shock can turn people away from virtually any product".  It is a mistake on the presenter's part for not knowing their audience.  You want someone to consider a plug-in replacement for their current ICE compact car, you quote a price for a BEV compact car.  Quoting an average is a quick way to lose your listener.

4-03-2021 Accounting Department.  Priority differences are what sets apart enthusiasts from mainstream consumers.  Rating affordability higher is what you are going to get from someone shopping the showroom floor.  An early-adopter is especially likely to forego concerns of price in favor of satisfying a desire.  It works out fine initially.  But as rollout must progress from introduction to high-volume, the necessity for profit becomes a really big deal for an automaker.  That audience shift makes it a very big problem.  GM gambled that production cost would fall enough to cover the difference.  It didn't.  That ultimately killed Volt, since there was simply no option available.  Sustainable sales an a cost low enough to return a reasonable profit are required.  That means GM has been faced with the challenge of how to keep Bolt from also dying.  Comments like this only make the situation worse: "GM is going to really need to step up their EV effort.  They come out with nice cars that for some reason or another are hobbled by poor design choices like the 50 kW DC fast charge in the new Bolt.  I think cars like the old ELR and the new Bolt show that too much of the design process is limited by the accounting department that forces them to cut corners that shouldn't be cut."  Enthusiasts don't consider a balance of cost & performance acceptable.  I pointed out the error in that "poor" assessment:

An easily overlooked aspect of 50 kW DC fast-charging is how robust it actually is.  Ever think about why we already see some stations setup with banks of them at that particular speed?  They are have proven to be quite reliable.  You don't want to be tripping faults like some of the super-fast chargers currently do.  Struggle like that quickly sours appeal.  You also want it to have a minimal impact to battery longevity, which is what the slower rate does.  People make fun of Toyota sticking with 50 kW, but their 1,000,000 km warranty (621,000 miles) is not something to just dismiss as unimportant.  Being cost-effective means a balance between automaker & consumer.

Owners of charging-stations must also somehow make money.  Reasonable, sustainable profit is essential. How many of you are willing to pay $0.43 per kWh for the fastest DC charging?  Slower cost the provider less, which allows them to offer a reduced price for a longer recharge time.  Getting 4 mi/kWh on the highway, it will cost you $10.75 at the fastest rate to travel 100 miles.  Prius Prime effortlessly delivers 50 MPG on the highway.  With gas currently at a high of $3.90 per gallon in California (just $2.59 here in Minnesota), it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to see the challenges still faced for the fastest DC charging.  Paying less for 50 kW service is an easy argument.

The goal is appealing to the masses.  It's how market growth will be achieved. That means finding a balance, not striving to deliver the very best technically possible.  It's a fundamental that makes enthusiasts absolutely crazy.  They fight the idea of compromise.  Business depends upon on-going sales, which are usually not that exciting.  The common vehicle is what pays automaker & dealer bills, not niche offerings.  That cold, hard, bitter reality is sometimes too much for some to accept... like the reason for 50 kW.


Overkill Marketing.  Some products in some industries can attract sales based on performance the consumer will never actually use.  The automotive industry is notorious for that.  But in changing times & technologies, they now face what the computer industry had to address.  Even though their were more better choices (efficiency, speed, weight, size), they simply were not a draw.  That kept them as premium options, rather than becoming standard.  We're seeing the same for the highest rate available for at-home charging.  The technical specification for SAE-J1772 allow for more than double the rate most vehicles offer.  Most people will never use that ability though.  So, it is not worth the expense or effort to use it as a selling point.  Enthusiasts disagree: "I wish more vehicles would support 19 kW L2 charging."  It's blanket statements like that, without any reasoning why, that really cause trouble.  In other words, lack of critical thinking continues to be a problem.  I addressed the obvious mindlessness with:  I know quite a number of plug-in owners who were forced to install a sub-panel as a result of their incoming power being undersized or too distant from the garage.  The market potential for customers with dedicated 100-amp lines is so small that wouldn't achieve anything.  Luxury features for a niche audience are fine, but there are numerous better things to focus on at this stage.  Just look at how many current plug-in owners that are settling for 120-volt charging still.  Consider how many households that will be challenged to support multiple 40-amp lines (7.7 kW peak rate) at the same time.  There's so little to gain, it's basically a wasted wish.


Luxury Market?  The expectation is 300 miles of EV range, DC fast-charging rate of 150 kW, AC level-2 charging rate of 19 kW.  That's the supposed word for GM's upcoming Cadillac offering, the new BEV called Lyric.  It's yet another example of not targeting their own core consumer.  With specifications like that, bragging rights is what comes to mind... not actual change.  How will the status quo be altered by what will clearly be a low-volume seller?  Again, we have to ask the "Who?" question.  What is the point of such a configuration?  Aren't we past the point of proving the technology?  If not, it is quite hypocritical to claim Toyota is behind.  Supposedly, this time next year sales will begin for this vehicle.  Pricing will supposedly be somewhere around $50,000 to be able to compete with Model Y.  So much for GM's supposed leadership.  Where's the plug-in selling for a price "nicely under $30,000"?  Oh, that's right.  It is a Toyota.  Yes, Prius Prime is still the top-seller in that category.  Go figure.  Reading comments posted about the article attempting to stir hype, there wasn't much to respond to.  It's just another example of being out of touch with ordinary consumers.  Priced so far out of reach, what do they hope to achieve?  This is the same old nonsense repeating.  Remember how Volt spawned a second model, but that was a luxury option?  How is this any different this time with Bolt?  Ask what the point is of catering to a luxury market.  See the problem?  It's one of those challenges Toyota has mentioned repeatedly.  An affordable BEV will undermine your expensive offerings.  It upsets the balance.  This is why Toyota has been pushing new architecture across its entire fleet, in a manner so subtle most people never notice.  It is their setting of the stage.  Toyota is preparing to shift while avoiding any type of fallout like the Osborne Effect.  This is why GM is essentially stalling with Lyric.  They too must prepare... but don't want to admit focus on the luxury market is really a diversion.  Think about it.  19 kW level-2 charging requires you to provide a dedicated 100-amp AC line.  Who at home is going to be able to afford to do that?  It's a very, very limited audience.


Industry Outlook.  Anything at all that shines an encouraging light on Toyota must be attacked.  It's quite entertaining.  There are some antagonists who do anything they can to undermine & belittle.  The ironic thing is they accuse me of doing the same thing, but don't actually provide any supporting detail to back their claim.  Their posts are nothing by repetition of stance, no actual substance.  Just the same statement of position over and over again.  When there is nothing to merit what is posted, it's just rhetoric feeding a narrative.  That works on a basic level.  But at some point, that enthusiast with ill intent gets caught.  This is what that looks like: "Whichever way the wind blows as GM, Toyota, and Fiat supported Trump's plan to roll back CA emissions standards, allowing cars to pollute more and for a longer time, but now they are all on board with the new administrations plans to support EVs."  Avoiding detail is key.  None have wanted to consider reasons why.  California emission standards falling short is a very good one.  Why commit to that when a stronger standard can be put in place?  After all, isn't addressing loopholes and consideration of raising the bar important?  From closely watching the rules approval process taking place right now in Minnesota, I have a heightened awareness of the challenges being faced.  Why not closely evaluate what can be achieved now instead of just blindly adopting what had been deemed worthy in the past?  Shouldn't we consider what we have learned since then?  That should be an obvious next step... unless it wrecks your narrative.  To those who are still trying to feed it, this post sums up my observation:  Some understand the value of "choose your battle".  Others feel the need to waste resources on principle.


EV Adoption Plan.  There's a lot to what this administration is proposing.  I homed in on a comment posted from someone who actually read the detail: "It will give consumers point of sale rebates and tax incentives to buy American-made EVs."  That was nice.  We seem to finally be moving beyond rhetoric.  It's encouraging, but don't expect propaganda efforts to cease though.  My contributing to the hopeful swing was:  Vehicles made in Kentucky, like RAV4, are what should give everyone pause for what "American" really means.  Detroit imports from Mexico don't exactly inspire or promote subsides.  Watch what Toyota is doing. They are targeting their core customer, getting them reluctant dealers to not miss ICE models.  Sienna & Venza are now 100% hybrid and sales are going strong. RAV4 is at a 25% shift to hybrid and the projected limit of 5,000 for the first year of the plug-in has already been exceeded (currently at 5,992) with several months to go still.  And of course, Prius is leading the way with the plug-in model sales starting to outpace the hybrid.  All that is what solidifies production here.  That's also how you set the stage for EV incentives.  It is a push from behind rather than a pull from in front.  Such a fundamentally different approach really rubs enthusiasts the wrong way, but no one else cares.  It's only the early-adopter who quibbles over method or design.  Mainstream consumers simply want a reliable vehicle they can enjoy driving and not worry about monthly payments for.  We're getting back to the basics.  Helping that process along with point-of-sale reductions will really make a difference.


That's My Beef.  It's nice to hear a voice of reason from time to time.  An even better one we hear from on a regular basis.  From such an individual, we got this today: "I don't believe Toyota ever had anything against EVs.  I think their reluctance to go fully electric has more to do with the current expensive, heavy, slow-charging, short-range battery.  That's my beef with EVs."  It is interesting to encounter some a comment posted on a blog.  Most of the websites are struggling now.  Once a source of consistent message, they all have become a chaotic mix of messages.  Support is very difficult when there is no real theme.  Basically, they have become a haugepage of stuff related to plug-in vehicles.  It's all quite random, with a "flavor of the day" approach.  Content is extremely easy to lose and pretty much impossible to find later.  This is the nature of endless problems... hence the challenges Toyota has been pointing out.  Remember all that messaging from GM, the wild mix of supposed support?  It all came down to words, not actions.  That's why this particular individual today hasn't ever given up on Toyota.  He routinely comments about progress being made.  His confidence in Toyota is strong because he has seen genuine progress.  Those successful steps forward, a true change of the status quo, are what other automakers continue to struggle with and hope to overcome with a single massive step.  Skipping what happens in the middle isn't easy and comes with much more risk.  Their reluctance is hidden those... by words of broken promises.  GM was obviously the loudest, but it's pretty easy to remember others... Ford, Dodge, Honda, Nissan, VW, and even Hyundai coming up short.  This is why I constantly push for those arguing to consider the bigger pictures.  Here's more word to that affect which I posted today:  That's the way it has been for the past 2 decades.  Toyota priorities are different from other legacy automakers.  Their focus is delivering products for the masses, not catering to enthusiast wants.  That's why the early-adopter perspective is one of disappointment & upset.  Realistically, it's all rhetoric noise.  Claims of "will be left behind" simply have no merit.  Toyota has already developed & delivered EV drive.  So what if that is used in PHEV platforms and augmented BEV.  The upcoming dedicated BEV platforms aren't that far off and they will directly benefit from the real-world production & support already taking place.  It really does just come down to challenges BEV supports continue to struggle with... cost, weight, charging and range... all of which PHEV can also serve to advance.


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