Prius Personal Log  #1096

September 27, 2021  -  September 28, 2021

Last Updated:  Sun. 11/28/2021

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Message Change.  I am impressed by the actual critical thought being posted today: "Most real car makers don't see any profitability in making purely BEV cars without subsidies or free money from their governments.  BEVs are just too expensive to produce for the average car buyer.  Unless everyone in the world get suddenly rich and wealthy, BEVs will only be rich peoples play toys."  Who knows what that will bring about.  It would be great to see such constructive discussion continue.  Unfortunately, these bouts of intelligence often fade.  The nature of online exchanges makes it far to easy to get distracted and loss momentum.  We'll see.  I added:  The significantly lower price of LFP batteries, combined with their liability cost (automaker warranty expenses), should help to bring down prices on some models.  Since that type is more robust (able to handle heat better and capable of many more cycles), lower capacity isn't as big of a deal.  And of course, not everyone needs a massive battery-pack anyway.  Change like that is how to reach mainstream consumers.  Early-Adopters are much easier to appeal to and tend to have deposable income available to pay a premium.

9-28-2021 Further Along.  I was pleasantly amused by this: "If Toyota had really got serious about EV's 10 years ago, they could be much farther along than they are now."  It invited me to ask:

How do you know they were not?

The narrative involving hydrogen is an attempt to portray Toyota as if this industry embrace of BEV is a sucker-punch to them, that they were taken completely off guard.  Looking at the EV drive system Toyota has already delivered tells an entirely different story.

Think about how flawless the all-electric driving has been from Prius Prime. That is second-generation PHEV, based upon the original rolled out in 2012.  Its success is why sales of RAV4 Prime were a hit-the-ground-running outcome.  Motors, controllers, invertor, software, and even the heat-pump have undergone many years of refinement already.   Don't forget, those same components were used in Mirai to help establish that sharing of expertise... all of which will be carried over to bZ4X.

In other words, Toyota has been serious all along, enthusiasts just didn't like the approach.  They don't like the idea of business diversity; it dilutes what they are enthusiastic about.


Getting Stuck.  We are starting to get interesting questions.  I was especially intrigued by this: "What are the odds that VW will be sitting on their hands?"  Not having to deal with Innovator's Dilemma like GM puts VW in a position of opportunity; though, that could easily go astray.  Here's how I answered:  With regard to VW, the ever-changing market presents new problems.  They were forced into this paradigm.  That meant making the best of the situation.  As competition emerges, the situation changes... but they are stuck with what they already committed to.  They could create their own Osborne Effect if they are not careful.  Toyota is well aware of that VW predicament.


Looking Ahead.  A look outward, beyond just the brainless "anti" messaging is nice: "When will Toyota be shipping a compelling EV in volume?"  Of course, that was addressed long ago and nothing has changed.  We are still in the early stages attempting to overcome status quo with initial offerings.  That's easy to confirm too.  Just for the lack of any measureable milestone.  That type of accountability doesn't come until there's something consistent to actually measure.  When we are still just struggle to make some type of standard emerge, there's really nothing to endorse.  Our look ahead is to achieve what?  Volume is something measureable.  Here's why that played such an important role in the past:  Moving goal-posts is routine with this group.  Care to provide an actual "in volume" quantity?  Back in the days of Volt, that was a sustained 60,000 annual and the reason why was clear. It was the threshold for a new model to become profitable enough to allow the automaker to move the tech to the next stage.  For Volt, that was never achieved.  Keep in mind, that criteria must be met by all legacy automakers.  Transition is a challenge and most here don't want to address that next stage.  Think about what happens after tax-credits are gone and enthusiast desire satisfied.  Also, don't overlook the complication caused by new batteries.  When chemistry or format changes, how should that be handled?

9-27-2021 Some Never Learn.  I got attacked.  It was the passive type, where the antagonist exaggerates & ignores.  My comment was called a rank and facts deemed untrue.  I was amused, since that matched what I have seen for years.  That same old nonsense is so recognizable now, which makes it enjoyable to respond to now.  After so many of their ramblings amounting to literally nothing, the expectation of impact to status quo is absurd.  Any hope to reach a receptive audience has been lost.  They are preaching to the choir now... since everyone else has left.  Ugh.  I put it this way:

What does "all in" mean?  It is used as an immeasurable talking-point.  Without accountability or consequence, what's the point?  It's easy to see enthusiasts didn't like delayed introduction, so they created a narrative to villainize.

As for that attempt to portray actions as a pivot, rather than business diversification, that's implicit acknowledgement.  We know commercial use of hydrogen is inevitable.  The question more is will that be limited to the largest machines or will some of it be used in fleet vehicles too.

Toyota's approach has been one of refining BEV components prior to rollout.  Use in PHEV and FCV puts economy-of-scale into place.  Waiting until better battery-chemistry is available, like LFP, could really pay off.  Rushing to commit to something with obvious next-gen opportunities still is risky.  Toyota sees benefit of waiting until the time is right.

I find it all quite enlightening.  I had not anticipated being a witness to enthusiast mistakes from overstated urgency.  But that history is now written and some of those same mistakes about to be repeated.  Some never learn.

9-27-2021 Now I Believe.  This was rather interesting: "My thinking was aligned with yours until I got the Bolt 3 months ago, now I believe that many of my longer trips will be all electric."  I asked:

How long?  Where?  That simply wouldn't work for many. know your audience.

We will be replacing one of our PHEV with a BEV.  Scarcity of charging-stations here (Minnesota, which is now a California-rule state) makes travel beyond the range available on-board impractical still.  Fortunately, the PHEV has large enough capacity to provide EV for most of the non-trip driving anyway.  So, it is basically a non-issue. Gas consumption with just the PHEVs has already dropped dramatically.

Of course, focus on infrequent travel is really an evade to not have to address the problem of not having enough level-2 charging available at home.  How many households are you aware of that have 2 dedicated 40-amp lines (240-volt providing 32-amp draw) available in their garage?  Anything less means not being able to recharge to a practical range overnight.  (8 hours = roughly 200 miles).  It is easy to see how the second vehicle would end up a PHEV, since it is limited to just level-1 recharging.

Fortunately, ownership of a PHEV (the kind with EV drive) encourages the expense of home upgrades.  You recognize benefit of what that 6.6 kW speed will deliver.  It sets the stage for BEV being next.  So even with just factory equipment to start, using only a 120-volt outlet already in the garage, it enables the process requiring nothing at the time of purchase.

Notice how much of that is rarely discussed?

9-27-2021 No Choice.  Desperation continue to get worse: "Toyota has no choice, but to go all in on BEV's as quickly as possible, or lose a massive amount of sales to competitors."  Attempt as they may, that just makes their efforts more obvious.  I responded with:

There's an ongoing "doom & gloom" narrative so absent of substance, it makes you wonder what the purpose is.  Who are you trying to appeal to with "more desirable" and "too late" claims?  Ordinary consumers couldn't care less.  We are still very much in the stage of appealing to early-adopters.

It quite telling though how the post above frames the situation BEVs getting cheaper in the future for others, but the same battery advances not helping Toyota with either their BEV or PHEV offerings.

You know all too well Toyota will progress too.  We already know that there will be several smaller, less expensive models of bZ4X coming.  Heck, the bZ4 is an undeniable clue... the non-AWD model of bZ4X, which will obviously have a lower price.  We already know that Corolla will following the path of RAV4 too, a less expensive SUV hybrid that will pretty much inevitably become a plug-in hybrid.

I would very much like to know what the supposed competition is assumed to be.  Who is the audience and what specifics will draw their purchase away from Toyota?


Doom & Gloom.  The theme of Toyota struggling to survive draws like of posting activity.  This particular one was of interest to many: "This once-promising strategy is now in tatters..."  From my perspective, that was an invitation to present some facts they likely were either completely oblivous to or didn't want to accept:  Since we already know Toyota is planning 7 models of BEV in their new "bZ" brand along with 8 others (all 15 by 2025), that isn't much of a prediction.  We also know that Toyota has been quietly working on improved battery chemistry, setting the expectation of 90% capacity retention after 10 years for the upcoming bZ4X.  In other words, the idea that Toyota is suddenly seeing the light and will struggle to survive really doesn't have any merit. It just stirs a lot of comment posting.

9-27-2021 Ditching PHEV.  There was an article today posted about Skoda (the Czech automaker) supposedly abandoning PHEV production.  But then when you looked for detail, it actually said they would not expand offerings.  It was a mixed message coming from so-call journalists, writers creating blog content to draw participation... not actual reporting.  That's quite annoying.  But right now, that is pretty much all we have available.  So, I seek out something constructive to discuss.  For example: "Given their products are rebadged VWs, that declaration is kind of obvious."  In which I posted:

What's not so obvious is why PHEV won't be included, from them.  From GM, it was obvious.  They couldn't check any of the essential boxes for sustainable business.  Neither EV nor HV efficiency was competitive and the system itself wasn't profitable.

It's ironic how some claim Toyota will lose marketshare by not offering BEV, but then spin an impression as if they Toyota will only be offering PHEV to support their case.  Reality is, there are indeed BEV coming and we are all painfully aware that PHEV will play a role in their acceptance.

I don't see how anyone can sincerely argue in favor of going "all in" without acknowledging the challenge households will have with charging multiple BEV overnight.  If your service-panel is not located in the garage or there isn't enough capacity, that expense to upgrade cannot be just brushed aside as a non-issue.  That will be a deterrent to BEV purchase, as will lack of public charging.

In the case of Skoda, "planning to launch three new EVs by 2030" doesn't actually tell us much of anything.  Put another way, what expectation will they be setting for sales shift?  How will the status quo change?

9-27-2021 Perhaps.  There are times when someone will post a comment wondering if there was more to the situation than presented in the article topic: "GM didn't do proper homework on Bolt.  The "conservative" Toyota can perhaps do better testing.  Clearly Tesla and a lot of others are able to do a good job."  Sadly, those are rare.  Most stick to their antagonist routine.  Ugh.  I replied with:

Toyota is taking the time to pursue better chemistry.  LFP is a great example of next-gen offerings.  Elimination of cobalt & nickel dramatically reduces fire risk (as well as political turbulence), while at the same time providing a more robust and longer-lasting battery.  That type is heavier and less energy-dense, but the tradeoff for those other benefits along with much lower cost delivers an significant overall improvement.

GM was quite literally the Hare making fun of the Tortoise.  Tesla is about to face challenges of diversification.  Former leadership, like Nissan, is now fumbling for direction.  It's basically a market with lots of opportunity still... which Toyota is positioning thrive in.

Believe what you want about "survive" articles.  It doesn't change the fact that bZ4X will be rolled next Spring, ushering in Toyota's brand of BEV models.  The sad reality that enthusiasts favor quick & simple results is their own downfall.  Changing the status quo takes more effort than just cheering the first to cross a milestone in a very, very, very long race.

9-27-2021 Half-Hearted.  It is fascinating to see enthusiasts struggle to keep their narrative alive: "Toyota is going the Kodak way.  Most will prefer a dedicated EV maker rather than a half-hearted company, whose intention is only to fulfill regularity requirement rather than genuine concern for the environment." Absence of substance is the confirm of intention.  There's never any detail provided to support their claim... which ironically, that makes their effort half-hearted.  I was more than happy to pushback with:

Tell us what company is not half hearted?  We see great efforts from VW and Ford targeting specific audiences, but neither is a "dedicated" ev maker.  GM obviously isn't in the running now either, unless talk of BEV to come counts.  But then that puts Toyota ahead of them with bZ4X and the 6 models to follow.  Stellantis should be interesting, but there's no real direction yet, just a very strong interest in change.  Hyundai/Kia is demonstrating lots of potential though.  But there is no obvious going "all in" from any source.  Don't be distracted by low-hanging fruit.  There are very difficult challenges still to address to reach the masses.  That audience is far less forgiving and are extremely difficult to appeal to.

As for concern about the environment, look further than the plug.  Notice who is pursuing the elimination of cobalt & nickel use in lithium batteries.  Notice how clean hybrids easily adapted to offer a plug can reach a very wide audience right away.  Notice how other automakers don't actually.  Notice focus shifting to battery traits other than range, like lower cost and heat resilience.

Ask yourself what is really important for the bigger picture, to overcome other barriers.

9-27-2021 Critical Thought.  Gasp!  There was a very informative post from someone taking the time to really spell out the situation.  The topic of BEV growth beyond early-adopters is getting attention, finally.  It was a thought out big-picture post.  I really appreciated it.  I joined in with:

Think about it multi-vehicle households.  One of the vehicles pretty much necessitate a backup engine.  Access to several level-2 for charging overnight simply won't realistic for quite some time still.  In fact, that expense is likely going to take many, many years to overcome, especially with our infrastructure so unsupportive of public recharging.  That means a mix of BEV and PHEV in the family.

To help speed that process along, Corolla is already being transitioned.  The rollout of a crossover model has begun.  That hybrid can undergo the same type of transformation as RAV4 to become a Prime model.  Notice how well the battery-pack disappeared within the raised floor of that platform.  A smaller, less expensive PHEV is exactly what is needed.  The reduction of gas consumption to just trips outside of the EV range and where public chargers simply aren't available yet equates to a dramatic reduction of emissions (both carbon & smog) with the simple act of overnight charging using a 120-volt outlet.

Note that most of Toyota's passenger offerings are already available as hybrids.  The final few are getting that convert effort now.  It's a transition plan no other legacy automaker can match.  Watching GM, VW, and Ford simply hope for the best with their cold cutover to BEV means turning a blind-eye to those who are difficult to sway or simply don't have a guaranteed location to recharge.  In other words, enthusiasts are still focusing on easy sales in denial, refusing to acknowledge the challenge that still awaits with a majority of buyers.


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