Prius Personal Log  #1075

June 5, 2021  -  June 24, 2021

Last Updated:  Mon. 8/02/2021

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Honda 2040.  My first opportunity to check up on what the rest of the world was doing came today, nearly 2 weeks later.  Apparently, Honda has "become the first of Japan's automakers to state publicly it will phase out sales of gasoline-powered cars completely, setting 2040 as the goal".  It was a statement of "all in" that has served as a commitment to change which enthusiasts have demanded.  There is no actual obligation, no consequence, no plan.  That complete absence of any type of milestone to measure progress or even a vague expectation should be a source of concern.  With an automaker like Honda, who produces & sells around 4.5 million cars and 15 million two-wheel vehicle every year, so a generic objective really doesn't tell us anything.  Nonetheless, the internet sung songs of praise.  Ugh.  It is really a matter of how fast can BEV sales become profitable.  This is the same problem the non-legacy automaker has too.  Tesla depends upon other business to keep their automotive segment funded.  Vehicle sales aren't profitable yet and are still far from reaching middle-market, the audience which provides sustainable profit.  2040 is a long time from now.  A major battery advancement is still required in the meantime.  The improvement to safety & capacity that solid-state is expected to offer should fulfill that need.  Until then, there is no real plan.  Each automaker will simply refine their propulsion system design while waiting for the battery technology upgrade we so desperately require.  Change is difficult.  Promises for a distant future really don't help.


In Africa.  There's nothing like carefully coordinating the timing of a Covid test so you can get to your destination over 10,000 miles away within the 72-hour window allowed for such travel.  That's what we had to do for our trip to Tanzania in Africa.  We had a flights & drives carefully planned to get us to our adventure in the Serengeti, as well as a few other locations with wild animals running free.  It was a trip with lots of education opportunity.  I would have limited access to electricity & internet.  The pleasure trip was to have a safari experience... or at least that's how it started, prior to the pandemic.  The complications of lockdown resulted in a long pause in tourism.  Attendance dropped to such an extreme, much of the time in the parks you would be alone.  Rather than the usual 200 or so vehicles competing to view animals, there would be 5 or 6.  It was mind-boggling to be part of such a limited audience.  That dramatic reduction of safari vehicles had the added bonus of freedom for the animals.  They felt very comfortable walking along the road, since traffic has dropped to a minimum not seen for decades.  I felt incredibly fortunate.  It was inspiring.  The drive to those locations was eye-opening.  You hear about the roads being so different, filled with a wide variety of travel along with a sense of no rules.  It was indeed.  We were in Africa, a very different place from home.


2030 Plans.  Vague intent with no accountability is a sign that automakers really aren't going "all in" as enthusiasts like to claim.  They have an obsession with commitment, but never want to hold anyone to real consequences.  That is a sign of uncertainty that they like to conceal with promises.  This is why the media has become so wishy-washy lately.  There's nothing solid anymore to look forward to, no long-term plans.  It's all about individual vehicles, not change of the fleet itself.  Recognize the pattern?  This is why individual voices from the crowd start to make a difference.  Their observations end up revealing what is really happening.  A message beyond rhetoric is wonderful.  Toyota as a scapegoat is the typical rhetoric.  Enthusiasts like to attack their for-the-masses approach... since anything intended to become common is exactly what repels their enthusiasm.  It's what actually makes a difference though.  This particular comment pointed out why: "Having a 15% EV lineup by 2030 means Toyota expects to sell around 1.5 million of them and 8.5 million of every other vehicle type combined.  Considering Toyota sold almost 2 million hybrids last year, which is 4 times as many EV's as Tesla sold..."  That is real change.  It is not a token gesture or a halo.  It is the real thing.  Hopefully, we'll see the same with Ford.  From VW, that's a big unknown heavily dependent upon encouragement from corporate.  GM still seems hopeless.  Stellantis could be interesting.  Needless to say, there are no plans yet.  It's all quite a stir now.  Watch what happens elsewhere for clues.  Oil industry adaptation from this new reality is what will help the paradigm-shift along.


All Bark.  No Bite.  There is a big EV blog that has been struggling to remain relevant.  With so many other more informative news source, they have turned to enthusiast-stir for connect choice.  That's the type of article written to provoke discussion among a niche audience... they cater to enthusiasts now.  That loss of journalistic pride is sad.  It's quite common though.  Finding content with depth to draw participation with critical-thinking is a challenge.  So, there's lots of hype instead.  For example, today we got a topic highlighting GM's supposed commitment to change.  It's the same old mixed messages though, no clarity or commitment.  One of the standout comments played up the hype well: "They backed the wrong horse and now they want their money back."  How is that constructive?  It's so vague & pointless, there's nothing really to respond to.  I did anyway though:  GM has been playing this game for much longer than the previous administration.  Remember the "game changer" nonsense with Volt?  It was a vehicle that didn't target their own loyal customers.  The result was exploitation of tax-credit opportunities to achieve conquest sales.  In other words, it was a halo... viable technology never spread to a bread & butter product.  Notice how Bolt has also floundered in place, never progressing beyond that single limited-market offering  Hummer does nothing to reach the business-sustaining audience either.  That pattern reveals a history doing things for show.  We don't see change at dealers.  Looking at other giant legacy automakers, we can actual disturbances in the force.  Ford & Toyota are both targeting core products... not niche offerings. F-150 should indeed be a game-changer for their loyal customers.  RAV4 has already, achieving sales over 25% hybrid and the PHEV surpassing first-year allocation expectations.  In other words, GM's reputation for "over promise, under deliver" has transformed to one of "all bark, no bite".


Duh.  It is quite remarkable to read about a supposed revelation of the market when you've been pointed out that very observation for an entire decade.  For example: "Something that is not often acknowledged in the EV fan world is that legacy automakers can have a very challenging time trying to get their traditional, mass-market buyers to even consider the big shift to electric vehicles."  Remember all the hundreds of times I asked: "Who is the market for Volt?"  That is what my question was all about.  I knew the early-adopter market was all that had captured interest.  Ordinary consumers couldn't care less.  They expressed no interest whatsoever.  Volt wasn't even a curiosity for most.  It was some new technology from a legacy automaker that was expensive & unproven.  For a technology to be considered, it needs to be so ubiquitous that there's nothing new to convey.  The consumer looks on the dealer's lot and sees a variety of choices.  To that typical shoppers, that's what proves to them it is worthy... the dealer endorsement.  If inventory is stocked, it must be selling well.  Notice how effective that has been for RAV4 hybrid.  It is now very easy for a salesperson to point out the availability of Camry & Corolla hybrids.  That makes the choice for RAV4 a no-brainer.  This is why when the Volt enthusiasts relentlessly attacked me about Prius, I would respond with a non-Prius reply.  Pointing out how much more size & power Camry hybrid delivered and what the potential for the hybrid system would mean later when rolled out to RAV4 made them crazy.  They did everything they could to attempt to get the spotlight back on Prius.  They understood audience too, but refused to acknowledge it.  I recognized how vital it was to by able to reach "mass-market buyers" all those years ago.  Their stubborn denial got the best of them.  Don't turn a blind-eye to an inconvenient truth.  There are consequences.  Duh.


News Narrative.  Online media thrives on themes of assumption.  When it comes to EV news, that means persisting a belief that change is market driven.  This little blurb buried inside of an introductory paragraph gives you an idea of how the rest of the article presented supposed status: "...sales have slowed in the U.S. in the past few years, largely due to the declining popularity of plug-in hybrids..."  That is, of course, complete garbage.  We know that GM exploited tax-credit opportunity, taking advantage of discounts on an unprofitable vehicle they had no intent to do anything with beyond conquest sales.  So when that subsidy expired, production ended.  That single vehicle skewed perception by providing an artificial impression of demand.  Basically, it was a monopoly with a short-term goal.  Nothing with long-term potential was delivered until last year.  That was RAV4 Prime.  It targeted mainstream consumers directly and sales have been quite strong.  Remember how the expectation was set for roughly 5,000 to be delivered to this market for the first model year?  By the end of first quarter, delivery count was just 8 vehicles shy of 6,000.  With several more months remaining, potential for 50% beyond that production plan (the 5,000 as revised due to covid-related supply constraints) is looking realistic.  That doesn't play well into the narrative.  Don't expect the news to cover it.  They'll just spin results (likely with omission) to portray the plug-in hybrid market as declining.  Ugh.


Late?  Commit?  The most recent round of arguments came about from an article starting with this title: "Toyota Won't Commit To EVs".  It was obvious bait to attract antagonists, those who thrive on the provoke.  They stir participation... or at least, have in the past.  It's not working as well for them anymore.  In fact, it appears to be falling apart.  Seeing the number of truly evil participants drop is a sign of change.  It wasn't just a narrative in the past, something to give you a false impression.  They would outright lie.  Their means of competing was to mislead.  That sad state would ultimate backfire.  You can't fool all the people all the time.  This is why I kept asking "Who?"  It's much better of a situation now.  With audience reaching far beyond their artificial "EV market" scope, we see a big picture which tells us a very different story.  One person on that recent series of comments summed it up well: "So what if Toyota is late to the EV party?  Getting a 0.01% share of a tiny market is no big deal as long as they get a good fraction of the market when the EV market gets large.  Somebody buying an EV in 2024 isn't going to give a rat's *** that Toyota didn't sell a substantial number of EV's in 2021.  We know that 2024 Toyota EV's are going to be reliable, competent, boring cars.  That's what Toyota does.  That's what a lot of people want.  Anybody that can make the complicated Prius drive train as reliable as it is can make a solid EV."


Entry-Level Vehicles.  They are necessary.  A mainstream automaker cannot survive on nothing but premium-grade offerings.  A luxury brand can, but most of them leverage some other brand's resources to make it work.  A giant like GM, Ford, or VW needs entry-level vehicles as part of their fleet.  When that came up in a thread today, this is how I jumped into that discussion:  Rebadging Corolla is nothing new.  Once upon a time, GM used to purchase them from Toyota and slap on a "Prizm" badge.  They were produced in California, so no one took issue with GM being unwilling to produce small cars themselves.  The reason why is common knowledge.  Small cars barely deliver any profit.  Some even sell at a loss.  The long-term benefit was well worth it though.  Those entry-level vehicles were how the automaker established brand loyalty.  You catch some new driver when they are young, then hook them for life.  Their next purchase was inevitably with the same brand from a vehicle delivering substantial profit.   GM wasn't the other automaker who did that.  Ford did too, but they produced their own entry-level car.   That was Escort.  Ending production of that put them in a pickle.  The latest news is Ford will revive the "Maverick" name to now serve that purpose, but it will be a small 4-door pickup instead of a car.  It works, especially knowing how most consumers really don't pay attention enough to notice what the automaker is really doing.


Called Out.  Like virtually all other Toyota attacks, this one turned to hydrogen & fuel-cells.  It's a desperate move to divert attention.  Basically, the person yells "Squirrel!"  It works so well, they don't bother to try anything else anymore.  It is lazy & obvious.  He tried to change the subject several times rather than address the supposed issue he brought up.  Ugh.  So, I called him out on it yet again:  I called you out for claiming "Toyota needs to get some miles under their wheels with a pure EV..." and you evaded evidence showing they already have that, then tried to change the subject.  Again, Toyota has delivered EV drive many years ago and has been building upon that experience ever since.  There is nothing else to prove, just spreading it across new platforms and increasing kWh capacity available.  That's it.  It's all about expanding choice now.  The technology itself is already established.  For those of us driving Prime vehicles, we are quite familiar with the all-electric daily commutes and all-electric errand running.


Zero Experience.  It has been interesting to watch the various green-vehicle blogs struggle to remain relevant.  There is one that I had looked upon as a go-to in the past that has since fallen prey to antagonists, so much so, my posts there get held for moderator-approval initially.  Much of that came about due to my pointing out of Volt shortcomings and enthusiasts attacking to make it stop.  What I predicted played out as expected... which has resulted in that site becoming a refuge for those still in denial.  This was one such encounter today, comments on an article about the recent bZ4X concept reveal: "Toyota knows they have zero experience in building the software EVs need, zero experience building an electrical platform, zero experience building a long range EV, zero experience building large Li-ion battery packs, zero experience selling EVs."  It is difficult to tell if that is outright denial (a lie to oneself) or an outright lie to us.  Whatever the case, it isn't true.  This is what I had to say about that:  Reading through all 161 posted comments, that's the standout one.  What does it take for someone to so blatantly dismiss reality?  Claiming "zero experience" makes no sense.  From both models of Prime, we all have access to extreme detail about how clearly they operate as all-electric vehicles, delivering EV drive for their entire plug-in capacity.  How can anyone witness that and still insist that in no way provides the software, production, and experience necessary to deliver the very same thing but with a larger battery-pack?  What audience do you expect to believe such an obvious false narrative?  Ordinary consumers will see the RAV4 plugged in at charging-stations.  They will see the port when shopping the showroom floor.  They will hear about it from the media.  None of them will claim "zero experience" from that.


EV Configuration.  Buried within the response, I got this: "I don't pay attention to narratives"  The reason why was obvious... he's a source of them.  These snippets from that same post revealed that: "The battery on the Prime are only small with limited range." and "Don't get me wrong, I love the brand but they are unproven in the world of BEVs which is where all the growth is coming..."  It is quite bizarre how there is such a lack of understanding how the various EV components go together.  It is basically like a 21st Century version of the "parts bin".  These are interchangeable pieces, but rather than creating a new vehicle model with them you are creating a new EV configuration.  That's why it is nonsense to claim unproven when the parts already are, but are simply assembled in a different arrangement.  This is nothing new.  Heck, I have even been doing that with "object oriented" programming for over 25 years.  You develop bits of software to interact with each other.  Each piece proven independently in a platform agnostic design.  That approach allows for easy sharing without the need to retest.  Perhaps that is where the poorly informed aspect of this comes from.  Anywho, it is quite counter-productive for someone to claim unproven without explaining why.  So, I asked:  Dismissing the EV system delivered by their PHEV (since 2012) because it has a small battery-pack, yet was carried over to BEV implementation is a narrative.  That also turns a blind-eye to the EV system delivered by their FCEV (since 2014).  Both provide all-electric driving.  It makes no sense to declare "unproven" when it is blatantly false.  The motors, controllers, software, battery-cells, and heat-pump are all shared experience, already proven.  Toyota is at the refinement stage, well past initial rollout of the technology.  What do you believe still needs to be proved?


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