Prius Personal Log #1102
October 19, 2021 - October 22, 2021
Last Updated: Sun. 11/28/2021
page #1101 page #1103 BOOK INDEX
Scrambling to Report. The news of Tesla's embrace of LFP has got the websites that thrive on controversy scrambling. They aren't sure how to report such an abrupt (from their perspective) shift to a new chemistry they are unfamiliar with. That is quite obvious with articles missing some fundamental differences. Ugh. Needless to say, I'm trying to race ahead to provide useful information that's easy to understand & convey. Someday... when I finally get my bZ4X after a loooooong delivery wait... I will be able to follow-up with real-world data. Living in Minnesota, such owner perspectives will be priceless. By next Winter, that should be a reality. In the meantime, I'll be posting stuff like this: 2 major advantages to LFP not mentioned are the significant higher number of charging cycles it supports and the fact that charging to 100% does not have a longevity penalty. Both are absolutely essential for appealing to shoppers actually shopping... you know, mainstream customers comparing vehicles on the showroom floor. That's what the paradigm-shift to a different battery chemistry brings. Rather than automakers competing with each other, their own vehicles are now competing at the dealership. Tesla obviously has a big problem with this new chapter in BEV history. Moving beyond early-adopters means the loss of a lot of conquest opportunity. Those sales are what made Tesla what it has become. Now, Tesla must appeal to consumers with different priorities... hence the announcement of greatly expanding the SuperCharger Network.
Overlooked Advantages. There was another article about Tesla switching to LFP batteries. My guess is the writer really wasn't aware of them, since this is a new topic for many. So, I will give benefit of the doubt by saying the advantages not mentioned in his article were overlooked. This is how I put it: 2 major advantages to LFP not mentioned are the significant higher number of charging cycles it supports and the fact that charging to 100% does not have a longevity penalty. Both are absolutely essential for appealing to shoppers actually shopping... you know, mainstream customers comparing vehicles on the showroom floor. That's what the paradigm-shift to a different battery chemistry brings. Rather than automakers competing with each other, their own vehicles are now competing at the dealer. Tesla obviously has a big problem with this new chapter in BEV history. Moving beyond early-adopters means the loss of a lot of conquest opportunity. Those sales are what made Tesla what it has become. Now, Tesla must appeal to consumers in a different manner... hence the announcement of tripling the number of SuperChargers.
Misleading Mentions. A reply to my comment stated the following: "It's probably just the cost to buy one, doesn't say anything about it coming with the car." People don't use critical thinking. They tend to make assumptions. Greenwashing efforts take advantage of that. By muddling facts, it is very easy to mislead... especially in that context. I have seen it again and again. The tactic to confuse works really well when someone passes along the information. This vague study didn't sight a source or any data. It was nothing but meritless claim. It wasn't correct either. That's the part that really angered me. It was wrong. The claim of a level-1 charger averaging $600 was a gross exaggeration. Of course, I knew the mention was through in there for ill intent. So being inflated to such an extreme was no surprise. This is how I replied to the commenter, who probably had no idea what the situation actually was: The mention gives an impression of needing to purchase one. That price is grossly exaggerated too. Look on Amazon. There are a ton (I counted 33, with some supporting both level 1 & 2) priced between $150 and $250.
Signs of Worry. A recent article from a Detroit publication claimed "results were surprising" when comparing the charge costs of an EV to gas. Right away, I was curious what twist the writer would take to misrepresent. This was the first clue about intent: "The study found that the average cost of a Level 1 charger is $600." Who conducted that supposed study? 100% of the vehicles include a level-1 charger, which means out-of-pocket expense beyond purchase price is $0. It was a red-herring planted to give the impression of surprise cost. Ugh. Next was a comment about level-2 installation. There was no mention of the lifetime return, that the cost to establish power would only happen once and would remain in service for the existence of the home? That wiring is permanent. No replacement, ever. Many electricity provides offer rebates too. We got $500 for each of our installs. The worst though was the focus of the article, charge costs. I posted this comment in the discussion about that obvious intent to undermine: Cost to charge at home was conveniently missing from the article. Readers were given the impression commercial charging would take place on a regular basis, despite overwhelming statistics to the contrary. The quote of $1,554 to drive an annual distance of 12,000 was extremely misleading as a result. $0.10 per kWh for a vehicle delivering 3.5 miles/kWh works out to just $343... a cost drastically lower than the $1,030 quoted for the ICE. Such blatant attempts to mislead is a sign some are getting worried, that the inevitable tipping-point for plug-in vehicles will be arriving a lot sooner than they had hoped.
Preposterous. This time, I made more than just a
reference to the "Tortoise and the Hare" story. It became
quite necessary to draw attention to the absurdity which has emerged from
that antagonist. Continuously attacking Toyota for the sake of growing
an audience is pretty bad. But now, the fact that he is making money
from doing it is quite telling. Think about how many times my motive
has been questioned and troublemakers drew the conclusion that I must be
working for Toyota. I don't. I never have. My only
association is being a customer and studying their approach. I agree
with that approach too. Rather than the glamor of self-promotion, I
prefer the same subtle outcome of continue improvement. That is what
Toyota has thrived on. It made be dull. It may be slow. It
usually goes completely unnoticed. It is true change though.
Think about the story. This is a very, very, very long race.
Going as fast as you can has consequences. Being smug about winning,
long before any real distance has been achieved, is a recipe for disaster.
Yet, we see the gloating and victory-dances taking place already.
Toyota is doomed. They will be gone by the end of the decade.
Legacy automakers without any real place, just a hard push with a single BEV
or two, will somehow triumph. It is preposterous. Seeing Model
3/Y from Tesla, ID.3/4 from VW, Hummer & Lyric from GM, and F150 from Ford
doesn't exactly spell out a plan for growth. In fact, we have
literally no clue how that next step will be taken from any of those bigger
players. Despite that, claims are still made about the dire situation
Toyota is supposedly it. Ugh. This is that reference I made, the
final sentence and moral of the story: The race is not always to be the swift.
Scrambling Defense. A sudden sense of panic has emerged. One of the troublemakers was really at a loss. He apparently had no clue this decision by Tesla was coming. My guess is he had assumed stability, that the building of new production facilities for increasing battery-supply provided a predictable outcome. He hadn't expected a new chemistry to muddle choice. LFP definitely interferes with the mindset of enthusiasts... who believed larger battery-packs and faster charging was the obvious next step. Seeing the target move in a totally different direction must be quite a sucker punch. It will especially sting later when they discover I was correct. Mainstream consumers do indeed have different purchase priorities. The larger & faster traits being pushed won't be aspect of appeal. In fact, both are far less important than an enthusiasts will ever care to admit. Recognize they have backed into a corner, you watch for a scramble to defend. As each next attempt at damage-control fails, they will become increasingly more desperate. I have witnessed this before, many times. It become quite telling. This was the start of that: "It's less energy dense. And there are other issues. LFP has been around a long time and there's a reason why many didn't use it. But now with battery shortages...it certainly looks better." I went straight for the totally-wrong reply. The guy posting that nonsense is a real jerk, quite a pain in the butt on a regular basis. So, I let him have it: That reason is simple. There was a *PATENT* preventing sales. Exactly 1 month ago, that patent expired.
Sensible Comments. It is difficult to assess whether this was some critical thinking or it is just me hoping for worthwhile discussion: "LFP cells are damaged by charging at temperatures below 32F. In cold climates, owners will have to be very mindful of their battery's SOC. If a car sits outside too long then the battery will have to warm up before the car can operate normally." Seeing that, I quickly looked up one of my videos with such information. I had to go back several years, since working from home due to the pandemic has eliminated most of my data-collecting opportunities. I did indeed have relevant detail. It confirmed there really isn't anything to worry about. Even in the worst-case scenario, you'd still be able to draw a modest amount of power from the pack to drive. That reduced load would result in heat-generation to supplement warming. So, you'd be fine even without plugging in or planning ahead. I kept to the basics though, replying with: That shouldn't be a big deal. The pack-warmer on my Prime has worked great in Minnesota. It routinely maintain a temperature above freezing just fine. In fact, one of the videos I captured showed 55°F for pack after sitting for 6 hours with the outside departure temperature at -1°F.
Reaction To Supply? Speculation of reason for Tesla's decision to use LFP looked like that: "Likely more about additional cell supply". In other words, this came as a complete supply to some. So, they are trying to figure out why without actually researching. I have researched. It has been obvious the massive investments from VW were reactionary... choice made from necessity. Tesla's serious production ramp-up is also obvious, a required response to stay ahead of the upcoming competition from VW, GM, and Ford. Then there is Toyota, the juggernaut not revealing much of anything for plans yet. However, there are clues and much relates to audience. I replied to the speculation posting: No, it is about what LFP has to offer. Elimination of the need for either cobalt or nickel dramatically reduces cost and makes the cells much easier to recycle. Not needing either of those elements addresses the political & environmental challenges for both. That chemistry change also makes the cells far more resistant to fire. Their tolerance to heat greatly improves longevity. Cells can deliver roughly triple the cycle-life compared to current chemistry. They can routinely be charged to 100% without penalty, which indirectly addresses the lower energy-density tradeoffs. Additionally, fast-charging won't require the current slowdown we see as SOC rises. That means even a supposed "slow" speed of 50 kW could be sustained longer, increasing the value of public DCFC charging-stations... a very big deal for business owners having to choose between many "slow" chargers and just few that are ultra-fast. Stepping back to look at the bigger picture, it is now becoming easier to see how Tesla fanboy obsession with range & speed so much it had the potential to back the business into a corner... growing too specialized... lack of diversity... Innovator's Dilemma. Providing consumers a choice is a required next step.
Predictable. This morning started with an article about Tesla making LFP batteries standard on their standard-range cars. I jumped into the discussion right away with: We saw this coming. September 21, 2001 the patent for LFP chemistry was issued. 20 years later... last month... it expired. LFP offers a number of advantages for ordinary consumers, a should-not-miss opportunity for market growth. That's why Tesla began offering the choice, a means of demonstrating to shareholders the potential... since the attributes of the cells directly address some of the shortcomings of current generation batteries. It has been fascinating to witness. We have had the "Tortoise and the Hare" story playing out right before us. Sales to early-adopters were praised as leadership, even though there was nothing to support them being representative of mainstream interest. Those taking their time, carefully trying to identify next-gen demand prior to investing, were labeled as laggards. Meanwhile, we have been watching unresolved challenges related to infrastructure continue to go unresolved... challenges which LFP address. In other words, the choice Tesla made yesterday was quite predictable... as some pointed out prior to the patent expiring.
LFP Patent Expiration. Remember how I pointed out that that LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) patent for its chemistry was about to expire, that it had the potential to usher in next-gen batteries. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. While Tesla has been apparently struggling with its new 4680 cells... you know, those bigger format batteries with the rolled & tabbed design... it was also opening up the opportunity to for buyers in the United States to choose LFP. That was a sign, an interesting move to phaseout the older cells. If 4680 takes a lot longer and yields are low, that gets really expensive. Production of LFP in China being well established already means just a matter of shipping here to test reception in this market. Well, it must have been very good. The announcement was made today that standard-range models would now be using LFP. That makes a lot of sense. They are a better choice in many regards. If you still want an ultra-long range pack instead, the current chemistry will fulfill that desire. This is that divergence I had been eluding to, the reason Toyota has been so patient and so quiet. It's rather obvious LFP targets Toyota's audience. That market was a more resilient battery with a low price and very little fire risk. It's what I have been waiting for... and will continue to for awhile. I will be placing my bZ4X order the soonest possible, to jump on the promotion & education of next-gen BEV. This is what I have been preparing for. Seeing Tesla make the move now puts them right on schedule. It's the next wave of change. A new chapter is about to begin. Those days of Volt & Leaf are quickly becoming history from early-adopter stories.
Third War. I fought the HYBRID war, then the PLUG-IN HYBRID war, now the war for BATTERY vehicles. Seeing the same old problems recycled with a new audience is rather frustrating, but quite predictable. People move on and circumstances change. We still face the reality of wasting resources and climate change. Learning from the past is how to overcome certain challenges. If you don't, you will likely repeat the same mistakes. I was amazed by the level of stupidity from Volt enthusiasts from that very behavior. How many times must you point out the observation of repetition, getting back denial in return, only to get confirmation of being correct in the end? When you are providing detailed information about past observations matching present circumstances & response, why wouldn't you at least provide reasoning why you don't expect the same outcome. Dismissing evidence is stupid. How else can I state that? It is self-destructive behavior to be so reckless like that. Yet we're seeing it again, again. It's the same thing too. From the user perspective... Who should public chargers be for? Where should they be installed? How many is enough? What should the fee be? From the automaker perspective... What should the target-price be for the masses? How much capacity is enough to entice shoppers? When will the market move beyond early-adopters? Will there be serious consequence for lack of diversity? Unanswered fundamental questions is a warning sign that the next step should not be taken yet. Rush mentality has consequences. In my profession, it is one of two things. Either you are willingly accepting risk or you are unaware of technical debt. Both have costly outcomes if things go wrong. Choosing to gamble on the war for the sake of winning a battle is not worth it.