Prius Personal Log  #1077

June 27, 2021  -  July 3, 2021

Last Updated:  Mon. 8/02/2021

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In Time.  This was disappointing to read: "The General made a strategic decision to start on the extreme high end (ie. big profit-margin) with the Hummer to impress wall street, but things will come down in time."  Things don't always come down.  When it involves GM, things tend to just die instead.  That's their history.  It's a cold, hard fact.  But since most people don't pay attention and the disenfranchised are long gone, token efforts end up dominating discussion.  Nothing in terms of change is ever delivered.  Think about Volt.  How much of all decade-long effort resulted in change at dealerships?  We witnessed steps in the opposite direction.  No progress.  Just more guzzlers to choose from.  Ugh.  Anywho, I replied with this:  That strategic decision was not for the motive many had hoped.  It is a pattern of favoring green praise rather than pursuing change.  Pointing out the repeat when Volt was revealed as Two-Mode was dying stirred a lot of fanboy retaliation.  But then it happened again with Bolt.  Now, we are seeing it with Hummer EV.  In short, GM doesn't target their own customers.  Each offering has been to attract outside interest, resulting in conquest sales.  Notice how my previous post about that on this thread got lots of negative votes but no rebuttal?  That's confirmation of an inconvenient truth.  "Who is the market for Volt?" was asked hundreds of times throughout its production.  The reason why was simple.  Loyal GM customers were not interested.  So regardless of price or profit, it was failing to be a "game changer" as hoped.  Put another way, what should the expectations be?  My push was to get Voltec spread across the fleet quickly.  Ironically, the supposed laggard (Toyota) is doing exactly that and has directly targeted their core audience... SUV shoppers with a compelling plug-in hybrid... exactly what GM was hoped to do well over a decade ago, back when the Saturn Vue model of Two-Mode with a plug was first revealed.


Whatever Reason.  This is the type of response you get from those who refuse to accept an approach other than the obvious.  They convince themselves certain steps must be taken in certain order, no exceptions.  If you don't follow that expectation, you are doomed... as this comment eludes to: "The trouble is, Toyota has never been willing or able to supply that many for whatever reason."  There's no trouble.  Toyota approach is a comprehensive business plan.  That is slow.  That is boring.  That feels like a let down.  Enthusiasts won't ever accept that.  They demand excitement and quick returns.  It is a fundamental flaw in their reasoning... hence the "whatever" sentiment.  I posted this in return:  We have known the reason all along.  There's simply no benefit from rushing to market.  In fact, we have examples of there being significant penalty for pushing to an audience that isn't ready.  So, Toyota has been refining the technology in the meantime.  Think about what Tesla did, planning ahead for the tax-credit flipped to the phaseout phase.  When subsidy availability switched to unlimited quantity, Tesla went all out with production.  Why shouldn't Toyota take advantage of that same opportunity?  Look at all the preparation happening, the stage being set.  RAV4 Prime has reached an entirely new audience while proving to the market as a whole that Toyota PHEV technology works flawlessly in any platform, not just Prius.  It's a recipe for change across the entire fleet.  That is Toyota's focus, not appealing to early-adopters.  At this point, when automakers are being forced for to consider more than just introductory plug-in vehicles, it makes a lot of sense planning ahead to avoid the consequences a paradigm-shift.  Upgrading from hybrid to plug-in hybrid is easy for Toyota and almost all of their passenger vehicles already offer a hybrid model.  Choosing the PHEV version of RAV4 is proving to be a no-brainer.  Toyota proved raising the floor in RAV4 hybrid for more battery was easy.  The same is realistic for Corolla Cross hybrid. How will other automakers deal with change?  A customer wanting to purchase a model of Trax or Equinox offering a plug is left with only a guzzler model.


Improved Sales.  GM had a really good Q2 this year in terms of Bolt sales.  That was definitely an improvement.  But then again, niche sales are much easier when regular inventory isn't available.  Nonetheless, we're still hearing this: "It is very difficult for GM to compete in the EV space with a $7,500 disadvantage."  Know your audience.  Of course that what an enthusiast will claim.  The perspective is quite different from a mainstream perspective though, as I gladly pointed out:  Purpose of the tax-credit was to provide a means of addressing the true competition... what happens on the SHOWROOM FLOOR, not to compare with other automakers.  That's why each automaker was given the freedom to decide how to best use their own credits for their own situation.  GM chose to squander that opportunity, wasting it on conquest sales rather than appealing to their own loyal customers.  That supposed "disadvantage" is GM's own fault.  Making matters worse, GM decided not to exploit the phaseout period like Tesla did.  So, playing a victim card is really sad.  Think about what "EV space" represents.  It's an artificial market distinction created to feed a narrative about sales, an intentional cherry-pick to avoid having to address an automaker's fleet as a whole.  The technology must be spread to all their vehicles, hence that subsidy assistance.  Regardless of how many tax-credits are offered, they will eventually expire. Finding a means of making plug-in choices appealing on the SHOWROOM FLOOR is absolutely essential for the automaker's business.  That change is vital; otherwise, their own loyal customers will just replace their old gas guzzler with a new gas guzzler.


Charger Congestion.  It has begun.  All those early-adopter stories of how wonderful Tesla SuperChargers can be were avoiding the reality of growth.  When there are more and more owners wanting to take advantage of the same opportunity, it is no longer the same opportunity.  You end up having to wait.  An encourage tactic to get owners to vacate the charging spot as soon as they finish is to introduced an "idle fee".  A long-term owner of a Tesla Model S with lifetime free charging finding himself now having to pay those fees or be cutoff from using SuperChargers has filed a lawsuit.  He feels betrayed by the unexpected expense.  Tesla has about 2,800 Supercharger sites globally.  Roughly 1,100 are in the United States.  They are becoming congested as the population of Tesla vehicles increases.  That growth is not keeping pace.  Having a propriety connection is compounding complexity of the situation... which is already challenging... since those chargers have power-draw limitations.  They are installed in pairs.  2 chargers share the same feed line.  If you are sharing, you only get half the speed.  It's bad enough not even having a spot to plug in.  Ending up with a slower recharge when you do get a spot doesn't help the situation.  That expectation of "super" is lost.  The expectation of free lifetime charging is lost too.  It's an unfortunate result that was easy to predict.  How do you prevent it though?  That choice of non-standard ports combined with automaker oversight doomed the approach.  This was pretty much an inevitable outcome.


Rebate.  Exchange of beliefs, especially when it comes to approach, is extremely difficult online.  That desperate compel to embrace simplicity can be a trap.  You can endorse a solution that doesn't promote continued improvement.  It seems worthwhile, but is really a dead end.  For example: "My original comment is just speaking to the possibility for options in homes with small services and reducing the barrier to entry for EVs.  Not everyone is going to need 50-amp chargers in their home, in fact most don't.  The average American commute is somewhere around 30 miles round trip.  Even level-1 charging is enough to recoup those miles overnight.  I think all the talk about upgrading services and needing fast level-2 charging as a "necessity" scares off some potential buyers."  While it is quite understandable about what he was trying to achieve, I could easily see the shortcoming.  His closing thought confirmed it: "Overall, reducing barriers to entry for EV adoption is the key.  Everyone's situation and use case are different, having some options that keep costs down for the average car buyer gets more EVs on the streets which is the ultimate goal, right?"  He was unnecessarily eliminating barriers, rather than actually just reducing them.  Put another way, he was shortening the race.  Simply moving the finish line doesn't equate to a win.  You end up in a different place, never reaching the ultimate goal.  So, I hinted about that goal.  It isn't just to be able to plug in.  You want to support all the vehicles in your household conveniently.  Workarounds are only temporary.  You want to do it right, you have to take the time and make the effort for that.  This is why I am taking so much time to create the next User's Guide.  It will help inform, teaching people what they need to be empowered.  A well-informed person is key.  That's how you reduce barriers.  We don't just want entry.  We want permanent & comprehensive change.  I put it this way:  Keeping costs down doesn't necessarily mean lower price equipment.  In fact, an unintended consequence could be trapping the owner into an underpowered system.  We need to make sure people are aware of discounts & rebates.  For example, my provider offers $500 per EVSE install.  So, we actually saved money by having 2 installed at the same time and taking advantage of the rebate.


Middle-Market.  It is now the following morning.  I watched the post count climb to 330.  That commenting activity reminded me a lot of the Volt daily blog.  Those enthusiasts thrived on topics that wandered off-goal.  They'd like to speculate on topics that really didn't matter.  It was their lack of recognition of difference between want & need combined with the desire to be part of a niche that clouded judgment so much, they could no longer see purpose.  It became a relentless quest for bragging rights.  Ugh.  Anywho, in this discussion there was a poster from that past with a recent comment related to pricing.  He stated that $25,000 expectation would follow the trend of ending up roughly 15% more.  That would put it at $28,750 instead... which is a rather significant price... which I was happy why that was important:  The reason for GM setting "nicely under $30,000" as their target all those years ago wasn't to have a catchy marketing phrase; it was recognition of a very important price-point.  That logic still holds true.  Carrying inventory with a razor thin profit-margin, having a big gap, then inventory that's exceeds need makes no business sense.  You can't just skip an entire market segment.  That step up from entry-level is middle-market, the bread & butter production for legacy automakers.  If Tesla chooses to introduce an entry-level model to avoid cannibalizing sales of their current focus, growth will be limited.  That would be handing over the massive opportunity for middle-market sales to the competition.  Good product or not, Tesla would remain a niche automaker.  In short, Tesla must deliver something for middle-market if significant growth is the goal.  A small hatchback will not achieve that.


$25k BEV.  The idea of an electric-only vehicle being offered for just $25,000 is a very compelling topic.  It stirs fundamental beliefs of the automotive market... in a bad way.  That was quite obvious from yesterday's big discussion topic.  It was featured in the big banner, heavily promoted as thread to post comments on.  People did too.  There were 255 as of this morning.  I read through them.  Not a single one addressed the problem Toyota brought up years ago.  When cost of battery production reaches a point at which entry-level vehicles can offer a decent sized pack, the industry will be turned upside-down.  A basic compact car will be able to deliver the same performance as a high-end luxury vehicle.  This is why that topic yesterday... which specifically highlighted Tesla's supposed plan for a Model 2 offering... has yet to come to fruition.  Why even consider a $40k choice when there's a $25k choice?  That's a dramatic price difference for essentially the same outcome for a daily commute.  You'd be able to take advantage of SuperChargers too.  Think about how much that would upset availability.  Capacity would less, since the vehicle size itself would be smaller... placing higher demand on current locations to recharge.  It becomes increasingly clear that a large number of 50 kW chargers would serve the population better than the far more expensive ultra-fast type (300 kW speeds the enthusiasts are hyping).  This is when the reality of reaching a mainstream audience crushes the dream of early-adopters.  They don't like compromise.  The idea of balance is unacceptable.  That difference between want & need is not understood... which was quite clear reading through the comments posted.

6-28-2021 Cultural Differences.  I jumped online this morning to see what the big Prius forum had been discussing while I was gone.  To my surprise, one of my friends there was currently in Africa.  It will be his final trip for work before retiring.  His task was to help install a solar system in a remote location.  His write-up was impressive.  I was delighted to learn more about someone I had interacted so much with in the past, but had very little personal information.  His sharing was very much appreciated.  So, I shared my own recent travel experience:

I just got back from my 2-week adventure in Africa.  Travel was for pleasure, safari at several locations within Tanzania.  We saw a lot more than just wild animals.  Those drives & flights provided hints of what life is like there.  It is a land of motorcycles there.  If you owned a car, it almost certainly would be a Toyota.  The roads were fascinating to witness.  As for electricity, it is minimal outside of the cities.  From the main roads, we could see powerlines strung to some homes while others were skipped.  Off the main, even fewer had access.  Electricity is limited and will likely remain that way for a very long time still.

Solar was impressive out in the camps.  At one, tents had their own panel & battery.  It was a stand-alone system to provide interior lighting.  That was exciting to see.  At another, it was a combination of distributed panels and a master control to shut off draw during the sleeping hours.  With locations so remote, it was really nice not having to use a flashlight for everything.  That's their priority... not anything related to transportation.

Charging of our camera batteries and battery-banks was achieved by solar at the camps and inverter within the safari vehicle.  You had to plan when & how for power needs.  That worked fine.  I ended up taking a over 19,000 photos.  Gotta love digital.

Looking at transportation need, I see electric motorcycles eventually coming into play.  Knowing that Honda sells 15 million two-wheeled vehicles per year, it was easy to confirm firsthand where & how they were being used.  That's how much of their powered transport is achieved.  It was rather impressive to see the large loads balanced on those motorcycles.  It was also quite enlightening to see them enjoy the ride with 3 people on a single motorcycle.  That's the way things are.  They make it work.

With regard to emissions, the pollution from their vehicles is really unfortunate.  Motorcycles have minimal cleansing (if any) and there are a lot of poorly maintained large diesel vehicles.  Again, that is the way things are.  Seeing the potential for small 2-wheel and 3-wheel vehicles to eventually adopt battery use is encouraging.  Those opportunities are very much dependent upon solid-state technology.  Having a liquid electrolyte in such a harsh environment (pretty much no shade ever for the vehicle), heat is very much an endless exposure.

I hope you enjoy that experience.  It is fascinating to be able to visit such places.  We thoroughly enjoyed my recent exposure to the cultural difference... though the painfully long air-travel complicated by Covid requirements is a challenge to the character of a person.  Now, we're back home dealing with jet-lag and sorting through a massive collection of digital photos.  We had a great time.  Hope you do too.


Market Disruption.  A series of posts followed.  The attempt to undermine was obvious.  He just made up supposed evidence:  "Notice how every traditional car manufacturer has come out with at least one BEV in 2020 and how more models are on schedule (except Toyota)."  I anticipated this type of response: "You must be living in an alternate reality... Toyota has zero BEV's on the market"  Whether that was close-mindedness of only considering our market here or simply being poorly informed didn't matter.  I had my confirmation he was pushing a narrative.  Then, this came: "Lexus UX300e is offered in Europe"  Seeming to agree with me and counter his own previous post was bizarre, until he quoted the range of only 200 km.  Looking up the Lexus website in Europe was simple.  It stated 400 km.  It was undeniable he was testing the waters to see what dishonest element would take hold.  This followed: "I'm sorry to disappoint Toyota fans, but the Lexus UX300e is a 2021 model... First model reached only 30-37 kW charging speed, after update they now reach up to 47 kW."   Seeing that "zero" change to an update of the "first model" was a blatant indication he felt quite comfortable outright lying.  How could Toyota have change something if there was nothing to change?  He own words being contradictory reminded me a lot of the rhetoric from that old daily blog for Volt.  I brought it to an end with:  For those not paying attention, the claim went from Toyota having nothing at all to their being an older model already replaced.  It's desperate efforts like that to misrepresent history which tell us quite about what to expect.  We know that Toyota has other BEV also available in China, but UX300e has been rolled out in Europe.  So that provides better discussion context.  It does indeed use CHAdeMO, but a CCS adapter is expected.  Preview images from BZ4X showed us CCS within the vehicle itself.  As for this discussion, Tesla faces the same challenge as legacy automakers.  Disruption is pointless unless it leads to growth.  To grow, the automaker must offer more choices. Consumers need a variety of sizes & types of vehicle.


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