Personal Log  #1081

July 20, 2021  -  July 27, 2021

Last Updated:  Mon. 8/02/2021

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Repeating Mistakes.  Someone rented a Tesla, then wrote up a review to have published as an Op-Ed article.  You can imagine how enthusiasts reacted.  I waited a day before jumping into that mess.  Here's what I posted:  The same mistake continues to be repeated.  Over and over and over again, there are reviews written from the perspective of an early-adopter.  They focus on engineering... range, charging, design, etc.  None of the over 250 comments actually address one of the primary priorities for ordinary consumers: PRICE.  This isn't rocket science. Know your audience.  Remember way back when Volt was first revealed?  The target of "nicely under $30,000" was set for very good reason; yet, both GM and Telsa enthusiasts avoid discussion of it at all costs (bad pun).  For EVs to be ready for prime time, they must be affordable.  No entry-level offerings to compete directly with traditional counterparts means they are not, period.  You want a dose of reality, a slap in the face about what some other markets have for personal transportation, travel somewhere with a challenged economy.  I was in Africa last month, specifically Tanzania. In a big city like Arusha, you see lots of cars & trucks.  They are all priced far below the expensive nonsense we have here in United States.  Yet, enthusiasts portray the market here as representative of what the world needs.  The current choices are far out of the reach of the global market.  We need diverse offerings.  High prices for initial offerings to help establish the technology is fine, but we are still a long way from anything capable of standing on its own yet.  That will happen, but it will take a disappointingly longer time than enthusiasts want.


It's The Process, Stupid.  Watching the same old attacks attempting to reinforce the same old narrative is telling.  Some people just plain don't get it... and may never.  Today, it was again an attempt to cast Toyota as an automaker struggling to keep up.  I was amused.  It's the same old braindead mindset.  Ugh.  Again, I pointed out what should be obvious:  That definition of leadership is the problem.  It focuses on the object of change, not the process.  Toyota is a master of process.  In fact, certification classes are taught featuring what Toyota has developed for approach.  It's a real-world "tortoise and the hare" situation playing out right in front of us.  There are many cheering the apparent leader, but choose to ignore shortcomings that could prevent actually winning the race.  They just praise whomever is farthest ahead at milestones along the way.  Look at how GM turned Volt into such a disastrous effort, no one wants to talk about it anymore... despite so much praise in the past for supposed leadership.  Now, we see efforts with Bolt falling into the same trap.  Tesla has matured to the point of facing similar challenges to legacy automakers when it comes to growth.  Their leadership was limited in scope.  Offering nothing whatsoever for entry-level shoppers means no change, no actual leading in that category.  Toyota does phenomenally well with regard to change.  They have transformed almost their entire passenger fleet to profitable hybrid offerings.  So what if that is a small step?  That next small step is to plug-in hybrid.  That choice is an easy one.  It will result in profound change too.  Gas consumption drops dramatically by such an easy move to electricity use.  That kind of change is being a true leader... achieved by process.


Why?  I liked this question: "Another question is why did Toyota sign a JV with Panasonic last year?"  It was a logical question followed by a series of illogical answers... a series of attacks from well known antagonists.  They seeks out opportunity to belittle & undermine.  It's sad to see the same nonsense repeated again and again.  Of course, know your audience.  That's what many want to see.  They don't actually care about logic.  Nonetheless, I post it anyway:  Simply racing for capacity to produce as many batteries as possible is what many think best.  Not everyone has that mindset though, since it could potentially result in only short-term gain.  That approach could leave you stuck with outdated technology.  It's a gamble.  Ironically, people claim Toyota is unwilling to take risk, but turn a blind-eye to that strategy.  You want to build a better battery, you have to have the patience to invest in the time it takes for comprehensive research & development.  That's what Toyota has done.  That signing was to advance their effort to the next step.  Think about how tiny of portion of the market BEV has captured so far.  That's basically just low-hanging fruit, those willing to spend a premium and cope with very limited charging away from home.  To reach a wider audience, next-gen batteries are needed.


Contradictory Claims.  I am really enjoying the desperate measures some are taking to keep the Toyota narrative going: "Toyota basically bets that the manufacturing cost of batteries does not drop in the future, enabling companies like Tesla to make BEVs that are cheaper than hybrids and at some point as cheap or perhaps cheaper than ICE cars.  That's a very risky bet to make.  One that will put Toyota at the bottom of the pack in a mere few years."  Notice how there isn't any mention whatsoever of technology anymore, how the entire effort has shifting to battery supply?  That's quite a change from the past.  Back then, focus was entirely on how inferior Toyota's technology was.  There's none of that anymore.  It all faded away when the EV drive from Prius Prime rolled out in RAV4 Prime.  It was the spread of a well-proven design.  The technology had performed so well, there wasn't any means of spinning it as bad.  Toyota checked the quality box.  No one is willing to acknowledge it though; instead, they are scrambling to find some other way to misrepresent the progress Toyota is making.  Those antagonists see more problems coming too.  They see their own "very risky bet" not paying off.  Simply producing more batteries isn't a true solution, it is only part of it.  Shortcomings elsewhere is what Toyota is already addressing.  Their attempts to portray an image of being behind is falling apart.  Here's why:  That doesn't make sense when you look at Toyota's upcoming bZ offering.  In fact, the narrative of "behind" is really showing signs of weakness now.  Toyota is leveraging EV experience gained from their current PHEV, FCEV, and shared platform BEV production to deliver their first dedicated BEV platform.  There's nothing risky about that. In fact, it is a very business-wise approach.


Still Defending Volt.  There are a few still who refuse to learn what Volt taught the industry about what not to do.  They continue to portray it as different, so what is being said will somehow not apply.  In other words, GM is getting crushed by Toyota.  The long anticipated plug-in hybrid promised from way back in the Two-Mode days, expected to be a next-gen design using Volt technology, was promised but never delivered.  Toyota did though.  We see RAV4 Prime as what a plug-in hybrid Equinox could and should have been.  Instead, there's continued damage-control: "The Volt was an EREV.  The gas engine only ever charges the batteries that runs the car."  What I found most amusing from that was the information provided within the link included.  It was an article about how Volt was supposedly a series hybrid.  But when you read through the detail provided, the claim was disproven.  He had contradicted himself.  So naturally, I provided quotes to show that:  Volt gen-1 used propulsion power from the engine for a limited number of circumstances, not just charging the battery.  In fact, GM's took advantage of that efficiency approach for HV driving and expanded upon it with Volt gen-2.  Funny part is, if you actually read that linked Op-Ed from 6.5 years ago, you find detail contradicting your claim: "Rather than converting the mechanical energy of the engine to electricity, then converting the electrical energy back to mechanical energy to propel the car, the engineers provide this indirect mechanical link to the wheels: the engine is coupled to one of the electric motors (which normally acts as a generator), and that electric motor instead turns the drive shaft."  It then further goes on to explain: "Doing this provides the same "electric" feel, but results in a 10-15% efficiency improvement under these load conditions, by avoiding the conversion losses from mechanical to electrical energy and back."  In short, you are quite incorrect only charging.  EREV turned out to be nothing but a marketing gimmick, now very easily disproven as advantageous by RAV4 Prime.


Predictable Problems.  Rewriting of history happens long before statements like this are made: "This is such a sad disaster.  The Bolt is such a nice inexpensive regional EV and now it's making all EVs look bad."  When there are deep discounts for years and no successor/growth of the technology, it is a disaster even before any type of public relations nightmare.  There was already a problem.  That just adds to the mess.  Sells weren't going well even with those huge markdowns.  True, they appear to make the vehicle inexpensive, but cutting into profit like that is not sustainable.  It's yet another predictable problem.  Enthusiasts now faced with the dilemma of their own stance have to do something.  So, they spin & distort to help reduce the fallout and hopefully establish some other focus in the meantime.  I like to remind them of what actually happened:  It was a nightmare in the making from the start.  Perception of "inexpensive" was really GM gaming the system.  We all saw low prices through tax-credits and price-drops, but there was a blind-eye turned to production cost.  Why is now quite obvious, GM was rushing the process for green praise.  That gamble was a decision with consequences.  Covering essentials is a time-consuming process.  Making excuses and distracting with scapegoats was a dead giveaway enthusiasts were well aware of that.  To deliver something truly capable of directly competing with traditional vehicles, you have to take a lot of small steps.  Portraying the process as beyond the early-adopter stage, disregarding signs of growth struggle, confirmed status.  Now GM finds itself backed into a corner, creating even more of a mess by dealing with the problem at hand so poorly.  It is that very "don't screw things up" situation the entire industry was concerned about when GM started.  Remember the messes created decades ago with both diesel and cylinder-deactivation?


Public Relations Nightmare.  GM's recall of Bolt started with a software update that didn't actually fix anything.  It simply changed the hill-top-reserve setting to a slider, offering greater flexibility.  It also introduced an alarm (honking & flashing) to draw attention to a battery problem if detected.  With the second recall this week, that advice of "Set your Bolt to 90% state-of-charge." continues.  The really troubling part is this added advice: "Avoid running your range down below 70 miles remaining."  2017 Bolt only had a range of 238 miles.  That 70 represents a 30% reduction of range at the low end and there's already a 10% reduction at the top.  Subtracting 40% brings you to just 140 miles.  That's going to upset a lot of owners, who are already having to park their Bolt outside and avoid unattended overnight charging.  Needless to say, GM is handling this terribly.  The first fire late last year gave them plenty of opportunity to come up with a plan to ease owner concerns.  That didn't happen.  Now, they have a mess to deal with.  How in the world will the GM handle the upcoming rollout of Ultium batteries with so much reputation fallout happening currently?


Square Peg, Round Hole.  An old retired friend switched over to driving a Tesla and has since grown frustrated with the slow pace of Toyota's progress.  He wants more sooner.  That's understandable for him, but not helpful for others.  Remember audience.  I'm curious what he'll say with my response to his post: "As for Toyota's LiON battery ... I am NOT impressed.  For example, our former 2017 Prius Prime had a 25 mi EV battery built from prismatic cells, a square peg located in the spare tire round hole.  Had Toyota used cylindrical cells, a spare tire shaped, battery could have fit in the spare tire recess: (1) more Ahr capacity, and; (2) lower the floor for usable cabin space.  It was an opportunity missed."  This is how I replied:  There were multiple mutually exclusive opportunities.  Lots of people want to cast Toyota's intent as maximizing sales.  It was not.  Since the goal was to take advantage of a proven design, leveraging the low cost and robust design, it simply didn't make sense pursuing a shape change at that time.  Looking back, now knowing Toyota's goal was to confirm the prismatic cells were indeed an excellent PHEV choice, the decision should be obvious.  We got RAV4 Prime as a result.


Proprietary Barriers.  Tesla created one right from the start.  That unique advantage of having high-speed DC chargers dedicated to only Tesla owners meant being faced with growth problems later.  There would only be a limited number available.  That meant too much growth could leave owners with limited vacancy while on the road.  It also meant some degree of hesitancy due to the uncertain future of compatibility.  Adapters work, but there is typically a tradeoff involved... cost, speed, convenience.  Whatever the case, the situation would eventually come to an impasses.  It did in Europe.  Every automaker using CCS2 going forward would be required.  Looks like that type of decision could be coming here too, but for CCS1.  It may not even be in the form of a mandate.  It could be a business choice... one with consequences, as this comment highlighted: "Have a look at the replies to Elon's tweet.  Tesla owners are not happy with the prospect of sharing charging stations with EV plebs."  That was a long time in the making.  Talk of somehow opening up the SuperChargers to non-Tesla vehicles would be interesting.  Would those stations get added adapters or would some stations simply switch over?  A seemingly simple barrier gets more and more complicated as you study the problem.  I joined in the discussion with:  It's the growth challenge Tesla enthusiasts have not wanted to address.  To gain marketshare, what makes Tesla unique will likely have to be sacrificed.  That's how becoming common works... adopt... adapt... improve.  Why fight that move forward?  We have seen this history play out already.  Volt enthusiasts shared a similar attitude about the spread of that technology.  They would cling to unique traits, resisting anything regarding adaptation... which ultimately contributed to its demise.  Fighting any effort to standardize should raise concern, especially when it comes to connection/port technology.  Look at the mess the computer industry has struggled with regarding USB.  Each automaker can customize how the electricity is drawn & stored.  But when it comes to the plug itself, proprietary has costly barriers.


Excuses.  This is the best I have seen in quite awhile: "Dec 13, 2019 - The Bolt gets three times as many CARB credits as the Volt per car which is why they got rid of the Volt, they can get all the CARB credits they need and only have to sell 1/3rd as many Bolts and ..."  That was explanation provided for why Volt production had ended... long after the history of what actually happened had past.  It was evidence of history being rewritten.  It was also quite odd.  For all those years when Volt was available, it was argued to not be a "compliance" vehicle and there in print was text stating that was Volt's only purpose.  The very concept of being a "game changer" had totally, completely been abandoned.  The technology went no where.  With the huge investment GM had made to seamlessly integrate engine with motor, the effort had been entirely abandoned.  Bolt was the anti-Volt.  Following years and years of propaganda and even a trademark promoting "range anxiety" with Volt presented as the solution, all of that history was being erased.  No one wanted any association with that anymore.  It was very interesting to see.  That goes so far beyond hypocrite, it's astonishing.  Rather than even trying to spin Bolt as the next logical step following Volt, the failed step to spread what had been delivered to other vehicles was omitted.  It was a blatant skip in the master plan.  That project has proceeded so poorly, everyone involved was pretending it never happened.  They makes excuses.  Enthusiasts use them to justify outcome.  It's a sad reveal of their disingenuous nature... hence being identified as "enthusiasts" rather than supporters.  When you support a goal, you objectively analyze outcome to learn from mistakes.  Attempting to mislead about results & intent is just plain wrong.


$0.80 Charge.  Coincidently, the very next day I found myself starring at one of those old-school text display.  It appeared to be an optional means of unlocking that pubic charger I hadn't ever used before.  For that matter, it was the very first time I had ever seen that brand of equipment.  Being in a hurry, downloading the app and setting up an account wasn't the realistic choice.  I could do that later.  Inserting my credit-card into that reader appeared the better option.  So, I did.  The charger unlocked and the powered reel for the cord released.  A gentle tug of the handle started feeding the length I required to reach the port on the Prius Prime.  It worked fine.  I was intrigued.  That simple interface was all I had available.  Since the chargers available didn't have a screen, it could have been a bust if that didn't work.  We had to be somewhere and I didn't want to block the spot.  It was either connect or move on.  I was able to connect.  Later when we finished, I got to witness the powered reel retract the cord into the charger.  That was a first.  I didn't even know such hardware was offered.  Anywho, I checked my credit-card app afterward.  There was a pre-charge of $20 to reserve the maximum fee I could potentially be billed for electricity consumed.  Upon disconnect, it automatically refunded $19.20 to my account.  I had paid $0.80 for that charging session.  That worked out really well.  It was a simple & effective setup.  Gotta like that.


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