Prius Personal Log  #1105

October 29, 2021  -  October 30, 2021

Last Updated:  Sun. 11/28/2021

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10-30-2021 Yesterday's Stir.  The reveal of bZ4X detail (the specs for Japan anyway), caused quite a stir.  Naysayers were struggling to create a new narrative.  There is no sense of doom & gloom anymore.  You cannot portray an automaker as being 10 years behind when they essential reveal a vehicle rolling out in a few months with similar specs to that which was rolled out earlier this year.  In other words, take a close look at ID.4 specs with an emphasis toward how VW and Toyota will compete globally.  You can see the rivalry beginning.  It's strange how Tesla gets left out of that type of compare entirely.  Legacy automakers aren't focused on conquest like that.  In fact, both VW and Toyota are targeting their own loyal customers.  That's why even the them of being "late" abruptly became a difficult argument.  To someone who also recognized this and was pushing back at a naysayer attempting to reinforce that old stance, I jumped in with:

Well said.  Focus on "new and exciting wow products" is called enthusiasm, hence those exhibiting the trait are identified as enthusiasts.  That is the very reason why they label Toyota vehicles as dull & boring. Toyota customers don't.  The bulk of Toyota customers aren't those who seek new & exciting.  The fact that bZ4X doesn't pop out the latest must-have BEV reflects more of what a Toyota customer prefers.  Spending a premium for class-leading capacity or speed simply isn't a priority, quite unlike enthusiasts.

That puts the "late" nonsense in perspective.  The market so far has been almost entirely just early-adopters, those who seek opportunity.  Appeal to ordinary consumers... mainstream shoppers... the product must be common enough to share the showroom floor with other popular vehicles.  Having to place an order and wait several months for delivery of a vehicle is solid confirmation of not being late.  The market still awaits the stage where supply starts to match ordinary purchase behavior.

What I find most telling though is the obvious evade with respect to choice.  It is the same problem GM faced, history repeating yet again.  Remember Two-Mode, how it was trapped as a niche?  GM didn't spread the technology, which became a warning to enthusiasts about Volt.  Any technology proving its worth, but not deployed to the rest of the fleet defeats the point of why it was developed.  Notice how Tesla has been struggling in a similar fashion?  Choice is limited to models not affordable for the masses.  Even that $35k model never really happened.  Something under $30k looks highly unlikely here for years to come.

There are blatant shortcomings with regard to infrastructure too.  Notice how nothing has emerged as a template for landlords of high-volume housing to follow.  Apartment complexes have nothing still with regard of suggestions for how to invest in support for parking spot upgrades.  They have no clue how to provide charging for their tenants.  The same is true for owners of businesses.  Public charging-stations are still stuck in unicorn status.

As you stated, EV adoption has just begun.


U-Turn.  Speaking of no drama, the abrupt awakening of antagonists has resulted in several efforts to make it look like Toyota has suddenly accepted reality.  Turns out, that was actually their narrative falling apart.  Toyota has been on the same course all along.  They have been well aware of what it takes to truly get change to happen.  You must remove obstacles.  Believing that you could entice those unwilling by just sweetening the offerings to make them too good to resist was a doomed effort.  No matter what the incentive, people will naturally resist if their barrier still exists.  To them, it is a very big deal to overcome whatever that impediment is.  Enthusiasts fail to see that.  This is why they perceive change as something like a U-turn rather than a blockade.  To them, the only barriers are those that are technical problems to solve.  Overcoming them is the solution to sales growth, in their mind.  That's not how consumers actually think... know your audience.  To the absurd distortion of reality playing out right now, I'm not saying much.  The countless warnings of how the status quo can be altered is well documented already.  Now that they are starting to notice something isn't as they had assumed, there is no reason to say much else.  So, I don't:  I bought a PHEV from Toyota back in 2012 and will buy a BEV from Toyota in 2022.  None of the drama you claim.  No sharp U-turn.  It was just a natural progression from hybrid to plug-in hybrid to electric.


Recognizing Overkill.  This was the perfect example of enthusiasts mentality: "6.6kW charger is too small.  This isn't the last decade.  It should be 9.6 at minimum.  My Bolt is 11.2kW, and that is where I think this should be as well.  Here's Toyota going half way again."  If there isn't a continuous growth of some sort... speed... size... power... it is a failure, in the mind of someone like that.  It's because the focus is on want, not need.  That means it is always a moving target.  The idea of fulfilling a requirement and diverting resources elsewhere afterward doesn't make sense.  The belief is you must always strive for more.  Focus on something else to make the product more balanced and all aspects of design thoroughly addressed is counter-productive, to them.  That's why you'll never win a battle.  They basically fight for the sake of fighting.  Nonetheless, I point out facts anyway:  32-amp EVSE have become popular for a reason.  Think about how many vehicles you will be plugging in overnight charging at the same time.  There's only some much household capacity realistically available before it gets really expensive.  6.6 kW is really a minimum, stated that way since some households still only have 220-volt service.  For those with standard 240-volt service, the 30-amp draw is 7.2 kW.  Doing the math, 8 hours will deliver 57.6 kWh.  Taking charge losses into account and using an efficiency rating of 3.25 m/kWh, you get 175 miles of range.  Having 9 hours available for charging, you get 200 miles.  What makes that too small?


Software.  It is quite remarkable how stupid some enthusiasts are.  Being unaware is one thing, but stupid is a conscience choice to remain uninformed.  No matter how much it is pointed out to them that Toyota's PHEV system delivers full EV in every regard, that the daily commute is all-electric exactly like a BEV, they willfully deny it.  That outright dismissal of evidence is how I knew Volt was doomed.  It was a pattern I recognized from Two-Mode's failure.  They were following that same history, intentionally.  When pointed that out, I got attacked.  It brought inconvenient-truth to an entirely new level.  That's what makes this comment posted today so amazing: "Toyota's "wait & see" approach to the EV market may work in all but one area, an area that almost crippled VW's first EV attempt.  The elephant in the room that no one is talking about -- Software.  Not an area where conservative legacy automotive companies are excelling.  It requires entirely new departments and personnel to be hired, trained and, the real challenge, managed totally differently from the legacy hardware management style.  Even with VW's tremendous resources, it took them two years to get the ID.3's software perfected."  Toyota has been refining their software for an entire decade.  What originated from hybrids turned into the rollout of Prius PHV back in 2012, while at the same time delivering EV drive from their fuel-cell endeavors as well.  But even if you didn't know anything about that, the rollout of Prius Prime in late 2016 should have stirred attention.  It's already well refined software is what contributed to such a drama-free rollout of RAV4 Prime.  None of the antagonists ever want to acknowledge that history.  Toyota was so well prepared in advance, it was a non-event.  The programming simply worked.  No scramble like VW ever happened.  It was years of quietly advancing hybrid technology... you know, Toyota's expertise for continuous improvement.  Their process is highly regarded across multiple industries as the model to follow.  Some of that is the basis upon the hate from others.  Such a different approach shouldn't be so successful.  You know... one size fits all... negative verses position reinforcement...short-term instead of long-term.  The results should speak for themselves.  But with software, not being noticed is better.  It simply works.  You want a reliable almost invisible appliance, not something routinely stirring attention.  I was quite amused by the claim of Toyota's position and responded to it with:  Toyota isn't excelling at software?  Really??  EV operation from Prius Prime has been flawless, so successful RAV4 Prime was introduced without any issue or concern whatsoever.  It has all been working just fine.  Their traditional-body BEV converts have been working just fine too.  For that matter, the EV system in Mirai has been a demonstration of electric-drive expertise as well.  Lots of software that's been refined for many years has gone completely unnoticed.  Think about how many problems the first plug-in hybrid could have had... but didn't.  Way back in 2012 that was rolled out with little excitement and zero praise.  It just worked... which is exactly what Toyota customers want.


What Pivot?  Suddenly discovering Toyota was planning for BEV all along, that the latest claims of a stall instead of a block weren't correct either, has left antagonist without a message.  Their rhetoric depends upon the narrative not changing.  Finding out that Toyota won't be struggling to catch up, that Toyota will have a contender at the starting-line when the race for everyone begins, is a sucker-punch.  They had no idea this was coming.  It's that blindness they have been warned about.  Red-Flags indicating a moving target, that current configurations won't appeal to the upcoming audience, was dismissed each & every time they were pointed out.  So, now we get this: "Next step: get the Toyota dealer networks to buy into the pivot."  That is an indirect admission of failure, their damage-control effort upon discovering no way to save face.  So, they pivot.  It's a reflection of their own stance.  I keep providing the same message, knowing they will just keep digging themselves deeper into a trap:  Demand for RAV4 Prime has demonstrated interest for plug-in vehicles without upsetting the status quo.  What other legacy automaker has such a solid transition plan?  Watch for Corolla Cross to become a scaled down version, expanding the choice of plug-in without business disruption.  The if-we-build approach from other legacy automakers presents quite a gamble.  In fact, the risk is extremely high that they will end up reaching saturation at some point due to lack of choice or losing support from dealers due to lack of commitment.  To achieve growth beyond early-adopters, there much be a variety offered.  Even Tesla is facing this issue.  Without an affordable model (something nicely under $30,000), how will middle-market be changed?  In other words, Toyota's long-term plan is now becoming obvious and naysayers are switching to damage-control efforts.  They now see the big picture and have to pivot.


Solar Roof.  I remember my Gen-3 Prius.  It had a solar roof.  Most people didn't understand that one either.  So hearing there will be a successor to it, one delivering more power, naturally has people confused.  With the prior, it was just enough to keep the fan running while you were gone.  I took a nap in the car once, listening to it cycle from low to high as charge built up.  The result was a vehicle interior that wasn't fiery hot.  It was subtle though, so much so, you didn't notice.  The car was simple comfortable.  The fact that it never got more than just warm was easy to overlook.  This upgraded offering will have a large battery-pack to feed, rather than just a tiny reserve like a capacitor or auxiliary battery.  So rather than the jumping to the assumption that only immediately collected energy will be consumed or it will entirely go toward EV range for later, their could be a bit of both.  In other words, you could have a choice of how that electricity would be used.  Since detail isn't available yet and the option may be limited to specific markets, I kept my reply brief:  You're missing the point.  That 3 to 4 miles worth of electricity could be used for driving, but will mostly be used for cabin/battery conditioning instead.  Think about how nice it would be to come into a vehicle pre warmed or cooled without any negative impact to EV range.


Patience.  Many don't understand good business.  They assume a race to the finish-line is how strong, continuous sales are achieved.  Whoever crosses that line first will enjoy the spoils of victory.  They have no clue that the race they are witnessing is really nothing by a qualifying round.  It is just a securing a position to compete, the chance to demonstrate ability prior to the actual race beginning.  Think about what the tax-credits were supposed to achieve.  It was exactly that, qualification... getting each automaker up to the starting-line... providing subsidies so they could build something worthy of the competition to come.  It was preparation funding to get each on an equal footing.  Some are only now beginning to figure that out.  It's why comments like they are now getting asked: "If the market requires diversity, why doesn't Toyota make some EVs?"  Paying attention only to what was cherry-picked for support of a narrative is a terrible means of collecting information.  That is why I continue to point out what they miss and how jumping to conclusions (declaring a winner so early) can distort reality: Izoa/CH-R and UX300e are available as BEV models already.  It simply did not make any sense to rolling out a dedicated-platform BEV until a next-gen battery was available to take advantage of it.  That's called good business. You leverage your expertise to deliver something competitive.  That meant waiting.  September 21, 2021 is when the patent on LFP expired.  Put another way, some things are worth waiting for.  Patience.


Closer.  This is why I post "know your audience" so frequently: "Toyota is closer to having a decent EV than many people - including I - once thought."  It is not just who the market is expanding to.  It is the enthusiasts themselves.  Many have been greenwashed into believing PHEV is a complete waste of resources.  For some reason, they fail to recognize that the EV drive is the same for the plug-in hybrid as an electric-only vehicle.  Every component is the same... motor... battery... controller... software.  Heck, even the plug is shared hardware.  Basically, the only difference now (since even liquid-cooling has been delivered) is the platform itself.  Rather than converting an existing frame & body, the upcoming "bZ" brand will feature frame & body designed exclusively for BEV.  In other words, all that Toyota has remaining is that final step.  Those countless claims of being 10 years behind were based upon the assumption that Toyota hasn't even started yet.  It's a narrative so entrenched without online dialog, people don't even realize the rhetoric has become normalized.  Or at least they didn't until now.  That closer comment reveals how propaganda takes hold.  Next year will be quite a wake-up call.  Suddenly, Toyota will have a competitive offering.  The fact that they have well-proven technology already will continue to go unnoticed.  All the work with Prime models to adapt & refine will be lost history.  The spin will be that the message of change finally got through and they made a valiant effort to catch up.  Ugh.


The Party.  It's the same old nonsense.  Change is coming and they are off celebrating empty victories.  Some think they are being joined too: "Welcome to the party Toyota."  They don't realize bZ4X will be accompanied by smaller, less powerful vehicles far better configured for the masses.  The large, fast, long-range offerings, most attributed to Tesla, will not be the norm.  At some point, we will have another overseas invasion.  Back in the 70's, that came from China.  Now in the 20's, it will be from China.  Toyota is aware of this.  VW is aware of this.  American's don't want to hear that though.  They want to pretend the shift to electric will come from within.  Somehow, they think GM delivering Lyric & Hummer will change the status quo.  They don't want to acknowledge what happens when a little vehicle gets the electric treatment.  China knows.  That market is quite receptive.  Turns out, California is ready for the same.  The party now will end.  As if overnight, we'll see real change... which mainstream consumers begin to have say.  It will be very, very different from what enthusiasts claimed would happen.  I replied to the welcome with:  The industry is just moving into the stage where mainstream consumers are being addressed.  Legacy automakers are still rolling out first offerings for those non-enthusiast shoppers... VW, GM, Ford. They are all just leaving that early-adopter party, now trying to face reality... which puts Toyota right on time.  Don't forget that Toyota already has a well received EV drive system.  RAV4 Prime proved their experience of the past could be well targeted for the masses.


First Thoughts.  That list of details got me really excited... and made quite an impression.  This are my first thoughts upon seeing all of it:

Woohoo!  The specs are mighty close to what I had estimated.  Guess what I'll be doing on December 15.

That 90% capacity is reasonable confirmation of LFP chemistry, which means a big improvement over the current offerings (NCA/NMC) when audience is taken into account.  Toyota is clearly targeting their own loyal customers.  The robust nature of LFP will be a strong selling point over range/performance of the others.

ID.4 AWD with its 77 kWh battery-pack delivers a 482 km (300 mile) rating WLTP, which translates to 249 miles EPA.  Using that as a basis for estimating bZ4X range, it should be roughly 232 miles EPA.

The 150 kW DCFC is intriguing.  Not only does it top VW for being faster rated for the usual limit, it likely also delivers faster beyond 80%.  Not having a penalty for exceeding that capacity and being far more resilient to heat breaks the status quo for expectations.

Needless to say, I'm excited.  My Prius Prime will be 5 years old by delivery.  Time for me to move on and take advantage of the great resale value it still holds.  Its flawless EV operation has been quite an endorsement for how well thought out Toyota designs really are.


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