Prius Personal Log  #1119

December 31, 2021  -  January 4, 2022

Last Updated:  Sat. 3/26/2022

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Ford F-150 Lightning.  Detail was released today.  We will see 2 configurations for range 230 miles (standard) and 300 miles (extended).  That is capacity of 98 kWh and 131 kWh, respectively.  Prices will be... Pro: $39,974... XLT: $52,974... Lariat: $67,474... Platinum: $90,874.  That was roughly what was expected.  It puts bZ4X into perspective.  Those saying at least 300 miles is required apparently haven't seen the same studies as Ford.  It is interesting how my initial back-of-the-envelope calculation was that 232 miles would become a reasonable expectation.  Anywho, it sounds like a nice system.  While Ford scrambles to double initial production output, I am quite curious how the market will respond.  We know GM will follow-up with hype.  There's the startup Rivian and Tesla though.  Ordinary consumers have no idea what is about to arrive, but I do wonder more about those placing orders.  Comments online posted from new RAV4 Prime owners provide a lot of perspective about adopting new technology without understanding how to support it.  There's a lot of discovery involved initially.  Both Level-2 at-home and DC fast-charging are commonly recognized yet, so detail is rather elusive.  People simply have no idea what to look for... which brings us back to how Ford is approach it with F-150.  Basically, they are just selling you the next pickup to support your lifestyle.  The usual off-road & towing is augmented by lots of on-board power for accessories.  It's quite nice.  They just present the technology as a next natural step forward, as if it was the obvious purchase choice.  I like that.  Hopefully, lots of others will too... you know, their own loyal customers.  Ford is targeting the right audience.


Average Prices.  Defense of the expensive BEV has repeatedly come in just a single form lately, the claim that average sale prices are higher.  Turns out, the devil in the detail.  It isn't just the misleading from not using median either.  This time, it is the cherry-picking of data.  If you only sight pandemic timing, those numbers skew reality quite a bit.  That type of distortion resulting from a shortage should be looked upon as temporary.  Supplies were impacted dramatically from several origins, most obvious should be the chip shortage.  Regardless as to why and for how long, the actual number is what really stands out: "At the end of 2021, a typical new vehicle cost $45,000, up about $8,000 from December 2020, according to industry data."  Think about what that really means.  It is an excuse to say BEV will be expensive, but they are totally worth it.  The messaging is to focus attention elsewhere... rather than address the fact that automakers focused on expensive design.  The die-hard supporters of BEV don't want to face the reality of cheap plug-in vehicles.  You get all the benefits of the BEV still, even from a short-range model with far less power.  It is still much more reliable, far better for the environment, and has the reliability advantages of simplicity.  There's also the convenience of charging at home.  All that makes them difficult to promote... since nothing really stands out.  Rather than revolutionary, they are revealed to be evolutionary... when pricing is kept affordable.  Think about the upset of 150 kW speed for recharges and 250 miles for range becoming the norm.  That is "average" is all about.  Without pushing extremes, that is a hard sell though.  Enthusiasts not only don't know how to appeal to consumers in that manner, they simply don't want to.  That is the "dull & boring" which Toyota thrives.  Some clearly don't like what it really means to change the status quo.


Couldn't Care Less.  My comment got called out with: "I think a lot of folks said the same thing about cell phones and home computers.  If Tesla can get FSD to work, it's a game changer."  Coming from a background with 40 years of closely watching computer technology evolve, it is quite obvious FSD (Full Self-Driving) has a long way to go still.  Even for humans, the drive anywhere can be a difficult.  There are so many factors involved, finding a means of delivering a robust system that's affordable will take a very long time still.  After all, it took Intel how many decades to reach their affordable goal?  People like to skip over the countless years of effort, all those milestones achieved to finally even see a glimmer of a finish-line on the horizon.  I pointed that out as my response:  That overlooks the duration.  Every technology of that new-paradigm nature eventually becomes standard.  It takes a lot of time though and the point was whether a majority are willing to pay a premium for it now, while it is still in the early stages.  The answer to that is a resounding no.  That's why Tesla's challenge to offer an affordable choice is such a problem.  That supposed "game changer" doesn't work with a vehicle stripped of extras.  FSD simply isn't necessary for travel.  Getting from point A to point B is quite realistic without any self-driving.  We saw the same "game changer" problem with Volt.  As nice as that plug-in hybrid was, the technology was delivered in a cumbersome format with a very expensive price-tag.  Sales beyond conquest or fleet were almost nonexistent.  A decade later, we now see potential for an affordable plug-in hybrid, something appealing to the masses.  Toyota is positioning Corolla Cross hybrid for the possibility of fulfilling that role.  It is a highly desirable format... small SUV... with a very competitive starting price on a platform able to hold a large battery-pack.  No where in that equation for the "nicely under $30,000" segment is there a priority for FSD, a big slice of the overall market Tesla cannot continue to ignore.


It's Happening Again.  To see that mindset of "vastly superior" emerge again is rather unexpected.  I had really hoped Tesla fanboys would evolve into true supporters, finding a way of overcoming the stigma of owning an expensive all-electric vehicle.  They know the masses cannot afford such an offering.  It's too good to be true.  That large & power of a car for everyday travel by someone just wanting simple transportation doesn't make sense.  Aren't they paying attention to what is truly happening in China?  Perhaps not.  There is so much propaganda, it is very easy to become dismissive.  Nonetheless, stuff like this needs to be called out: "The competition can't compete on tech or charging infrastructure, their opportunity to challenge Tesla is price.  The completion's product may be inferior, but expect them to lead the market to affordable pricing."  So, I did:  That borders on smug without context.  What exactly can't they compete with and what makes others inferior?  Remember, the industry has a history of false leaders.  Think about what is needed to appeal to the masses.  Most couldn't care less about FSD.  Paying a premium for something they clearly isn't required isn't in their budget.  Balance of range, speed and power is a big deal too.  The difference between want & need is quite profound when comparing early-adopter purchases to that of an ordinary consumer.


One Hit Wonder.  Like with a number of encounters of the past, you bump into someone who has no idea what you are talking about: "I am sure you truly tried your best to explain what you were trying to say. But I m still trying to find the thesis statement of the essay."  That was in response to my business mention.  No one ever challenges Tesla in this manner.  They just assume growth will just magically happen.  Somehow, that giant & expensive pickup will sell just like Model 3/Y.  That doesn't make sense.  What are they basing such an assessment on?  It is an extremely polarizing look without any to merit competitiveness.  Think about how much Ford investing in F-150 Lightning and how GM is already going nuts trying to figure out how to compete.  Somehow, Tesla will magically come in and trump that.  How?  Anywho, I called it like I see it.  There is still nothing for mainstream choice, pointing out why this is so complex of an issue:  Basically, we are witnessing a one-hit-wonder.  Tesla nailed it in several categories, doing the right stuff the right way at the right time.  The magic returning in a sequel is questionable though... hence the questions.  Since there is literally nothing to address in terms of an affordable (nicely under $30,000) vehicle, I asked about SuperCharger next steps.  What are they?  That's an especially interesting topic since it involves more than just automakers.  VW's forced investment to establish Electrify America adds to the situation.  We see others (like ChargePoint, EVgo, Blink, etc.) seeking to find their own next step in the same category.  What will Tesla focus on to make their SuperChargers more compelling?  The long-term outlook for any DCFC provider is quite uncertain.  Somehow, profit must be made.  How will customers be drawn to routinely use those stations?  Will it be speed or pricing or number of spots?  What about opening up Tesla chargers to non-Tesla vehicles?  See how the "cheapest" becomes quite a conundrum when stepping back and looking at other influencing factors?  Breaking out of that one-hit-wonder trap is really difficult.  Expectations are changing now that people are becoming familiar with the technology.


Business Over Engineering.  What takes precedence is not a reality enthusiasts like to hear.  They know engineering so well, that obsession blinds.  No matter how much you point how vital business is, the advice is brushed aside as unimportant.  I did it again today, but this time I am targeting Tesla... since the question was asked about it... the new problem with historical reference:  We have seen this history play out already.  Watching it repeat is troubling.  Remember Volt?  It was well-engineered technology poorly rolled out.  With overkill specs in a body unappealing to the masses we see a parallel to what Model 3/Y represents now.  There's simply nothing for ordinary consumers in such a powerful sedan.  They want SUV choices.  That's where the profit is being made, so naturally the industry is now favoring that body style.  Heck, even the smaller size are selling well.  Notice how the best-selling vehicle ever... Corolla, which has hit the 50 million count... is now available as a SUV?  The interior, handling and power are all familiar to those who already own a Corolla. In other words, it's just another "dull & boring" vehicle from Toyota that will sell well to the masses.  Adding a plug to the hybrid model is a no-brainer.  That's what Tesla must face.  It is no longer a matter of just appealing to the EV segment of the market.  It isn't just about what legacy automakers will offer for BEV competition in the short-term.  We will see the smaller models coming into play a few years from now as well... hence "the cheapest Tesla" getting more attention.  Interesting new twists (though, those paying attention saw this coming) like LFP chemistry alter anticipated next steps.  The much lower cost and elimination of cobalt & nickel make a very appealing choice for affordable BEV.  That puts Tesla in an awkward position in terms of ever-increasing range expectations... hence attention turning toward SuperCharger growth.  It's a complicated situation which online rhetoric is ill-prepared to address... a paradigm-shift in a different direction than they had hoped for.  The influence of business over engineering... primarily profit... have far more of an impact that enthusiasts want to acknowledge.


New Year, New Problems.  It is undeniable that the early-adopter stage of BEV rollout has come to a close.  The long-contested tax-credit extension/replacement is basically dead as it had been envisioned.  Whatever government funding that will take place next will end up being a complete redesign of approach.  Nothing that was approved was acceptable.  Looking beyond the vehicle itself... which is vital at this new stage... is to focus on infrastructure growth.  That isn't getting much attention though.  True, there will be funding, but the detail of how that money should be spent is a big unknown still.  To provoke discussion of that nature, I used an article highlighting the cheapest Tesla (currently, that $44,990 here in the United States.)  It asked this question: "With plenty of automakers being able to undercut Tesla in pricing, how does Tesla hold up today?"  That was my invite.  This is what I said up on the soapbox, the first comment posted:  What I find most intriguing about Tesla is the growing problem with the SuperCharger network.  It has been absolutely fantastic for EV promotion.  It proved viability beyond any doubt. The technology is quite realistic; however, that is from an early-adopter perspective.  When there was lots of low-hanging fruit, opportunity looked endless.  That's changing now.  Use the SuperCharger map for the United States.  Zoom way out.  Look at the list of locations, then consider the detail for each.  Notice the abundance of 72 kW and 120 kW speeds listed?  Next look at the Electrify America map for the United States.  There are far fewer, but there is quite a mix of 50 kW, 150 kW and 350 kW chargers.  Knowing that legacy automakers are homing in on 150 kW and that they are avoiding the proprietary trap by using CCS, it begs the question of how Tesla will move forward.  What will be their plan for the masses?  It's a very big deal for sales in the non-enthusiast realm.  That highly competitive market will favor DCFC convenience.  What will Tesla SuperCharger expansion offer?  What speeds?  What plug type?


KISS Approach.  That approach of "Keep It Simple, Stupid" is always a topic of great debate.  Enthusiasts get lost from their own exposure, losing perspective of newbies as their own knowledge grows.  It makes teaching the technology to a new audience quite difficult, especially when their is a resistance to change.  So, stuff like this take awhile to work out the detail for: "With the rate of $0.25/kWh in my area, I already know any BEV will cost more to operate than my current Prius Prime.  But I still want to learn all the granularity on the cost of owning and operating a BEV.  One day, I may convince myself that despite the higher cost of owning and operating a BEV, I will make that switch."  To complicate matters, the situation is a moving target but he isn't treating it as such.  I responded with:  It will be interesting to see what comes about with regard to that data.  Understanding efficiency and related cost is a complicated topic.  Based on my experience (software engineer for 30 years), most users will never figure out granularity or even seek that detail. They will simply follow platform changes as evidence of the majority shifting becomes apparent. That's why I focus so much on infrastructure instead. We need lots of DCFC stations and the slow (50 kW) are just fine, though the faster (150 kW) would be nice.  Seeing growth in the number of 50 kW stations is most realistic due to cost.  The state of Minnesota has already laid out plans for funding and those are the targeted DCFC speed.  Lots of them will help the shift come about.  The locations that are frequently visited will get the next round of funding, to add more stations and faster speed.  Think about the need to educate with 50 kW stations.  There isn't any curve.  You'd get a solid 50 kW all the way through.  There would be no impact to other stations either, since capacity to the location is often limited which can cause a slowdown... yet another charging factor rarely addressed.  The point is you have to start somewhere.  This is just like the challenges we had to address for hybrids... lots of influencing factors, many of which people were completely unaware of.  That's the nature of technology rollout, hence leveraging my own career experience with audience.


Raising Awareness.  I got called out by a friend: "We're talking about an Ioniq 5 and you show a charge curve of a Model 3.  You should know charge curves differ between models so it's a bit disingenuous to show a charge curve for one EV and assume it applies to all."  He may have simply been volleying the topic back to me to help keep the discussion going.  This is something rarely addressed anywhere, especially on a thread asking about the choice between keeping his Prius Prime or replacing it with an Ioniq 5.  I hit the ball back to him with:  My point was to introduce the subject of charging drop, which is exactly what that sample showed... followed by the advice to seek detail.  There's nothing disingenuous about pointing out an influencing factor.  In this case, the sample you provided confirms that drop. Once you get somewhere past 50%, using the faster station (350 kW max instead of 150 kW max) doesn't appear to make any difference.  Think about how many Prius owners assumed the gas tank indicator was linear.  We routinely have to deal with assumptions.  This is another source of confusion and potential disenchantment.  Coming from a Prius Prime, the assumption that there isn't a drop until just prior to reaching full is realistic.  BEV differ quite a bit from PHEV, hence the effort to raise awareness on a thread asking about differences.  Ironically, the "applies to all" is actually the case.  There is indeed a big drop somewhere around when SOC reaches half.


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