Prius Personal Log  #1103

October 22, 2021  -  October 24, 2021

Last Updated:  Sun. 11/28/2021

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Endless Arguments.  Some random online enthusiast got worked up about Toyota and found me to let out his frustration.  It was rather bizarre.  His rant was all over the place.  What got me most though was how he called bZ4X a wonky design, even though it so closely resembles RAV4 it is almost impossible to deny.  He had just went on a rant about fake grilles too, which bZ4X does not have.  The self-contradicting posts compelled me to take the time to respond with something that won't become an endless exchange of not-listening posts:  It comes down to not liking Toyota's approach.  Being slow & subtle rubs early-adopters the wrong way.  Diversifying offerings to cover the wide audience does too.  And if you don't think that $4,500 will make any difference, you are disagreeing with a lot of people.  Reality is, they are focusing on all aspects of sales & production to ensure transition doesn't plateau. The trap of only appealing to a particular audience is an easy one to fall into. Taking the time to rollout their first dedicated BEV in a body & style similar to their best-seller is quite the opposite of "scare people away from buying it" appearance.  That is exactly what you should do to attract sales.  In fact, that is the same thing Ford is doing. bZ4X resembles RAV4.  F-150 resembles F-150 Lightning.  Back on narratives, there is a clear effort to divert attention away from Toyota's success with EV drive system.  Every time RAV4 Prime is brought up, how it flawlessly delivers all-electric operation, the discussion is changed to wanting to sell ICE.  That is outright denial of Toyota's preparation to sell more plug-ins.  RAV4 Prime builds upon the EV drive Prius Prime has offered for years.  It also sets the stage for a smaller companion offering, a plug-in model of Corolla Cross hybrid... which brings us back to approach.  A mix of PHEV and BEV is not what enthusiasts want to endorse.  Continuing with online arguments makes no difference to what happens with this topic... how things play out at dealerships.  Watch how reaching out to those not involved in online discussions becomes more of a problem not being addressed.  It is far easier to sway someone with a shade of interest than someone who sees no reason to change.


Looking For Treasure. I have been looking for treasure, some little clue about bZ4X buried without a casual mention.  One was finally discovered tonight when I did some searching for the other BEV coming from Toyota within the next year.  It will be a Lexus.  That makes sense.  Considering the luxury counterpart to RAV4 Prime, it makes sense that their will be an all-electric as well.  That will likely share some of similarity & differences too.  The most obvious is power.  Lexus favored it, because that was more of a priority than EV range.  That got me especially thinking of market preference, you know, audience.  Based on what I found from an article published back in July, it looks like gold: "The Lexus LF-Z Electrified is expected to use the same platform as the Toyota bZ4X, Toyota's upcoming electric crossover.  It is roughly estimated to travel over 350 miles on a single charge.  350 miles of range is phenomenal considering that 300 miles of range is more than most base model EVs are capable of."  That lines up with prediction of range.  A configuration from Lexus would use the more expensive battery, since travel distance would more of a priority than longevity.  Faster DC fast-charging speed would be too.  For that matter, it favors performance as well.  Using the currently favored NCA chemistry of lithium battery fits the requirement.  That puts it head-to-head with a more expensive brand, like Tesla.  For the Toyota though, importance of cost & lifetime makes LFP chemistry a clear winner.  In other words, I got a roundabout confirmation that Toyota will likely reveal bZ4X range to be between 250 and 300 miles... which is exactly what I was hoping for.  Sweet!


Don't Bother.  Sometimes, it is not worth it.  There was more spin this evening.  Enthusiasts absolutely hate the idea of anything that disrupts their purity.  It is BEV for everyone, period.  I typed this up as a response to the obvious propaganda feeding article, but decided don't bother after reading the comments posted.  So, I'll note my thoughts just here instead:  There is clearly an upcoming market.  Use of fuel-cells for commercial transport and industrial vehicles is a no-brainer.  We're not going to see large ships, trains, and airplanes replacing their diesel engines with banks of batteries.  The size & weight simply make that unrealistic.  Toyota will be providing some of those fuel-cells is a choice to produce & sell products beyond just the automotive section.  The fact that some of those could also be used for fleet vehicles and locations where BEV isn't practical makes sense.  That's just a diversification of business.  bZ4X builds upon the expertise already gained, placing their well-proved EV components into a platform dedicated to BEV.  Following that will be 6 additional BEV.  It's only a matter of time, now that next-gen batteries are on the way.  Keep in mind, Toyota is targeting 90% capacity retention after 10 years of use.


Detroit Spin.  The same Detroit publication writer that we've had trouble with for 20 years is still at it.  This time, it was an article titled: "Plug-in hybrids save drivers time and money. Why don't more people buy them?"  All we got was rambling about the new Escape PHEV and some real-world observations.  There was no actual explanation why or even any quantities.  There wasn't an mention of RAV4 Prime either.  That's the rub and always has been.  He will omit vital information to distort the situation.  In this case, you got an impression of a struggling market rather than one with people enduring long waits for delivery and willingly paying over MSRP.  We have been dealing with that type of spin for so long, it has become a narrative.  Facts are presented in such a way to support a false narrative... just keep repeating the same distorted message over and over again.  It makes me wonder what will happen when Detroit actually sees some success.  The upcoming F150 Lightning should present a conflict.  That same question of why could be asked.  If not, an endorsement could trigger the Osborne Effect.  A substantial drop in sales caused by consumers deciding to wait for the BEV model could create a disaster for ICE sales.  Without any hybrid or plug-in hybrid to satisfy an acceptance of change in some manner, there will be a sense of disappointment... which leads to disenchantment.  Then what?  If we are getting the message now that Escape PHEV is somehow unappealing to shoppers from writers like this, what will the spin become?

10-23-2021 Pioneer Spirit.  It is fascinating to watch history play out.  Things are falling into place.  From the outside, it looks chaotic & unproductive.  Reality is quite different.  In an article asking if dealerships will be able to adapt, I homed in on this particular statement about a research visit to a dealership: "Toyota of course officially has no electric cars.  Nor did anyone have a clue, which is funny since they once broke new ground with the Prius.  Toyota seems to have lost its pioneering spirit.  Only one salesperson had knowledge of electric cars, and that was due to his own personal interest."  I know a lot about this history.  I very actively participated & documented it.  What is to come will surprise many.  The pattern is easy to see:

That narrative is becoming more interesting as we move beyond the early-adopter stage.

Toyota's goal has been true change, which means appealing to mainstream consumers.  That is the audience who avoids anything which would give the impression of stirring the status quo.  They wait until a technology has become well established.  Seeing both Camry & Corolla available as hybrids, an obvious next-step beyond Prius, is why RAV4 hybrid and RAV4 Prime have been such massive hits.  There is nothing special about the sales process; no essential knowledge is required to sell the vehicle.  With the hybrid, you just drive it.  With the plug-in hybrid, you just plug & play.  Prime's battery-pack is right-sized, just enough to completely recharge overnight using only a 120-volt outlet and delivering a full commute in EV.

That experience of successfully appealing to the masses is how Toyota's upcoming 7 dedicated-platform BEV will be approached.  Expertise from the all-electric drive in both models of Prime and Mirai will carry over, starting with bZ4X.  So what if appearance of disinterest from Toyota has become a "delay" from the perspective enthusiasts?  They aren't the target market anyway.  Once Toyota seemingly awakes to change, they will be a juggernaut.  Their preparation before the storm isn't obvious. In fact, it gives the impression of being ignorant or careless or caught off guard.

Reality is, Toyota knows how to get reluctant dealers to accept change.  Enthusiasts continue to think an automaker just pushing BEV inventory is all it will take to overcome that fight to retain the status quo.  It is a terribly naïve gamble.  So what if the outcome is risky loss of initial sales?  Those are only conquest anyway.  All it takes is word-of-month from loyal customers to create momentum... which was a key component to the success with Prius.

In other words, ask yourself what "pioneer" really means.


Tipping Point.  An article today asked when, posing this question as its title: "Could The Triumph Of Electric Cars Come As Soon As 2023?"  This is quite reminiscent of Volt.  No one defined what success was.  With nothing to measure progress or no intended clear outcome, the question cannot actually be answered.  That same thing is true now.  We have no clue what "triumph" means or even who would make that assessment.  This is comment posted about that which really caught my attention: "By 2030 half the cars on EU roads should be EVs . In that year people should be arguing about the year the last legacy ICE is taken off the road: 2035 or 2033?"  It was obviously from an enthusiast who had absolutely no clue how change comes about.  You can't just imply there is a plan by not actually planning anything.  That is the same nonsense GM pulled for years and continues to.  Like the underpants gnomes from that episode of South Park where none of them knew how profit would be achieved, yet continued to collect underpants anyway.  Ugh.  I replied to that nonsense with:  Taken off means what?  Someone would have to pay to permanently remove the vehicle from service.  That means wasting resources to recycle long before necessary.  2029 model-year vehicles will be expected to remain in use until at least 2040.  To prevent any further legacy technology from being carried forward, something easily supported should be mandated.  That is what Toyota is planning for.  With their entire ICE fleet transitioned to HV, making those all PHEV is quite realistic.  Look at how easily RAV4 hybrid was made into a RAV4 Prime.  With a 50-mile EV range and DCFC, those unable to make the BEV switch would still have a viable plug-in anyway.  At that point, raise the price of gas so high there is a significant penalty for not recharging at every opportunity.  In short, this topic exposes the shortcoming of those targeting 2030 who don't actually have a plan for what follows that milestone.


Proved My Point.  There ended up being quite an exchange in response to my swift post.  In the end, he backed himself even further into the corner: "When the legacy maker's decided to join the race they won't be able to make the same profits.  They will have lost market share, won't have the capacity, won't be tech savvy.  Tesla will be seen as the leader, and people ask what's the best EV people will say Tesla.  You see in your analogy the tortoise has lost the plot and its about to have a heart attack."  It was that part about being tech savvy that really got me.  Toyota's EV has been so flawless, no one has taken notice.  People use it.  It just works.  That is the ultimate praise for me as a software engineer.  Such a rewardless outcome is exactly what you strive for.  To rollout something new or an upgrade without any trouble is the ultimate achievement in such a profession.  No fanfare.  No recognition.  Nothing.  Users simply use your software.  That's the same objective for Toyota.  In fact, it is the very reason why enthusiasts label Toyota vehicles as "boring" and "uninspired".  Appealing to the masses means not standing out.  In this particular situation with this exchange, it has an even larger impact.  Rather than just the change itself, there is a direct reflection upon those who are drawing conclusions.  I kept my reply to the nonsense brief:  You proved my point by declaring a winner when the race has only just begun.


Union Incentives.  It was nice to finally see this: "Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh weighed in on the Biden Administration's goal to offer $4,500 in extra incentives for electric cars produced by unionized companies in the US."  Prior to today, there hasn't been anything.  Tesla was strangely absent, but isn't a legacy automaker.  The 2 big players are Toyota & VW.  Since Toyota is always the scapegoat, focus exclusively on it was expected.  VW wants to grow significantly in the United States.  Being completely silent isn't the way to achieve that when active legislative efforts are to undermine support for your new product.  It has been rather disturbing to watch $4,500 of subsidies be pushed just for the sake of supporting union workers.  What makes the product they deliver (which is the point of EV support) any different from non-union workers?  They all live & work in the United States.  There has been no rationale provided for such unbalanced funding.  I was thrilled that this topic is finally getting some attention.  I jumped into the discussion with:  It's about time VW finally spoke up.  The narrative about Toyota being anti-EV, despite 7 new dedicated-platform BEV planned for by 2025 with the first coming next year, was getting out of hand.  It simply makes no sense that plug-in vehicles built in America by American workers would not get some type of federal backing.  That's exactly what is needed to stimulate growth, encouraging production increase here.  Isn't that the goal?  Think about how many vehicles VW and Toyota can build here in the states.


Obvious Desperation.  Seeing an enthusiast back themselves into a corner so quickly was unexpected: "It is not "a choice or two" it is 6 choices currently, in ten years there is no reason there couldn't be another 10 new model types. Toyota sold over 50 million Corollas."  Getting that from my reply to has 10-million claim tells the story well.  It resembles the blindness I recognize from Volt enthusiasts.  Seeing that repetition of history so clearly is quite unexpected... though, there was outright denial back when the pattern emerged with them compared to Two-Mode.  It was the same old nonsense.  So, I posted some of the same old outlook, but now updated to reflect the changing market but with the same goal.  Remember "nicely under $30,000" and how vital it was to growth?  He either didn't have that background or didn't care.  I may found out with this:  Like I said, absurd. You completely ignored my reference to price. It took Toyota over a half-century to sell 50 million Corollas.  That massive amount of ownership was due in large part from the car being affordable to mainstream consumers.  No Tesla falls into that category yet, not even close.  With a starting price of $41,990 for the base Model 3, there's no chance of it appealing to a mainstream consumer looking something with a $25K price.  Battery plays a role in price, but only equates to a portion of the vehicle. 60 kWh at $80/kWh is only $4,800.  A much smaller body with a less powerful motor is required to make a Tesla for the masses.


Limiting Factor.  A surprisingly universal mindset from BEV enthusiasts is the belief that batteries are the bottleneck.  They see the situation as just a matter of production being ramped up.  Clearly, none of them have actually studied the topic extensively.  Not only did I in college (my bachelor's minor is in business), I also thoroughly enjoyed that.  It's nice when something you have strong interest in applies to life in general later.  I see the world differently from having that background.  Some of the projects we had involved study related to elements you wouldn't expect could have such an influence.  The situation is large & complex... not just a matter of producing more.  Nonetheless, some don't see it that way: "well the batteries are the limiting factor.  If Tesla had enough batteries it could easily sell 10 million cars per annum."  That was the attitude I got back in response to my "Tortoise and the Hare" comment.  He clearly wasn't pleased with my claim that faster isn't necessarily better.  Being so well versed with enthusiast obsession, it's very easy to recognize overkill.  This is how I dealt with it:  That is absurd. You can't just endlessly flood the market with only a choice or two and expect sales to continue at the same rate. Model 3 will hit a saturation point.  This is why the $25K model keeps getting brought up.


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