Prius Personal Log  #1122

January 15, 2022  -  January 22, 2022

Last Updated:  Sat. 3/26/2022

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C'mon.  This reply to my post about the trap resulted in: "LOL.  You gotta be kidding me.  You think Cadillac should use the heavier, cheaper battery with less performance?  C'mon."  That attitude and misalignment with market realities has peaked my attention.  History is repeating, yet again.  Well aware of the pattern, I posted:  GM has a reputation for mixed messages.  It is a crippling, self-deprecating history that goes back to Two-Mode.  GM was promising to deliver a fast & powerful system that would somehow out-Prius the Prius by also being even more efficient.  It is engineering by press-release & hype, portraying technology advancements as if there is no such thing as an engineering tradeoff.  That effort failed; then it was renewed with Volt.  Same problem, you can't have it both ways.  Emphasis on performance meant a less efficient system.  Each generation of battery/motor tech gets better, but there is always some type of tradeoff.  In this case, we have the premiere vehicle for Ultium batteries sending the message of fast & powerful, again emphasizing performance.  How does that fit into the promise of 20 new EVs?  Remember 3 years ago when GM's propaganda of "at least 20 new all-electric vehicles that will launch by 2023" started?  How exactly will that be fulfilled without a battery that doesn't use expensive elements which limits routine charging to 80% and impedes the number of charging cycles?  It simply doesn't make sense if this was a chemistry for the masses.  Words from an enthusiast mocking the alternative, calling it a "heavier cheaper battery with less performance" won't make any difference to a customer looking for an affordable vehicle for daily travel.  Watching GM repeat the same pattern of failure is quite remarkable.  Ask yourself what "Ultium" is supposed to deliver and who is supposed to appeal to.


The Trap, Again.  The comment made about Cadillac Lyriq was an interesting twist: "This [deep understanding of the American car market and what people want] is the key, and something that Tesla needs to work on.  Cars are not appliances."  It recognizes an audience outside of the masses, in the realm of luxury or enthusiast rather than mainstream.  My response to that was:  That is indeed key.  Back in the early plug-in days, I asked this question hundreds of times: "Who is the market for Volt?"  As it became undeniable Volt was just a conquest vehicle and Bolt was also targeting non-GM owners, it changed to "Know your audience."  The point is, GM's realignment to deliver Lyriq, Hummer, Silverado and eventually Equinox as BEV variants actually address that targeting mismatch.  Nothing from Volt or Bolt swayed loyal GM customers to embrace plugging in, nor did they even send the message of commitment to plug-ins.  These vehicles will.  GM still has a reputation challenge to overcome.  It's ironic how relentless the attacks were on Toyota to portray a resistance narrative, only to now look back upon it as taking their time to prove their EV tech and stir interest.  RAV4 Prime did exactly what Volt supporters hoped a model of Equinox with Voltec would achieve.  Seeing GM basically have to start over again, since clearly Bolt didn't appeal at all to their own SUV shoppers, creates a lot of pressure to get everything perfect.  Lyriq selling out of the first production allocation in just a matter of minutes tends to indicate GM will get very useful real-world data to help figure out how to target their own audience, those shopping the showroom floor looking to replace their aged GM with a new one.  Starting with a luxury model from Cadillac provides a level of control better than from Chevy.  So, it actually makes sense... which brings us to your point of projection.  That draw which resulted in orders ending just 19 minutes after they began for a vehicle starting at $60K very much supports the "Cars are not appliances" nature of their audience.  Unfortunately, that sets the trap for yet another "over promise, under deliver" situation.  It will be interesting.


Ultium Cells.  Production of GM's new battery with a new platform is about to begin.  It will be an expensive first offering, just a limited production of 1,500 vehicles.  This is the Cadillac Lyriq, that BEV which sold out online in just 19 minutes.  Detail were provided today.  I focused on: "Ultium Cells (GM-LG Chem joint venture) NCMA (nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum) chemistry."  Seeing that reveal of nickel & cobalt was a bit of a surprise.  I was really hoping GM somehow overcame their obsession with power to instead focus on something robust.  After all, we were told a large variety of BEV were coming by next year.  This was back when it was revealed that Bolt would never be profitable, despite planned upgrades... which were indeed rolled out... but with an expensive recall to follow.  So, look forward instead.  What does this new brand have to offer?  After all, the promise was rather vague beyond just a model count of 20 by 2023.  I posted this in response to learning of the battery composition:  That chemistry gives reason for pause.  While those new cells may deliver on several promises, they still use problematic material. Both nickel & cobalt are what the rest of the industry is trying to not use anymore.  The political & environmental issues related to both elements will become a liability.  Tradeoff for performance & energy-density means an expensive battery that requires more to recycle too.  Is it really worth it?  For Cadillac Lyric, it will probably be fine.  It's a luxury vehicle that will only be produced in low volume.  That's not the case for Chevy pickups.  It is easy to assume the 400-mile range for Silverado EV as competitive appeal over F-150 Lightning's 300-mile range.  But when it comes to trucks, how tough it is means a lot.  Focus will be on how the cells handle heavy load.  The reason LFP chemistry has gained so much interest is elimination of nickel & cobalt makes cells more durable.  As the market advances, the challenge of selling EVs will become more difficult.  Simply pushing range & power won't work for some.  It will be interesting to see how fanboys respond to GM's next move.  With mainstream consumers so poorly informed, things like battery warranty are going to become far more important than it was for early-adopters.  That means Ultium needs to be presented well, especially with so much attention on GM resulting from Bolt's battery.  In short, there's a lot riding on this particular rollout... more so than it would initially appear.


Similar Miles.  We had an EV owners meeting tonight.  55 people attended, all via Zoom.  Online discussion is quite challenging.  We broke into 12 groups for a little bit, then got together and had exchanges about the topic suggested in the chat.  What caught many of with intrigue was having a state legislator in our group.  He was Democrat and knew a lot about what Republicans had been doing to undermine & obstruct efforts our group endorse.  We persist nonetheless.  Being armed with good information is key.  A study had been sponsored in that regard.  Those in the house wanted to know how the state of Minnesota actually consumed gas.  Specifically, it was unknown who drove more miles.  Was it those who live in rural areas or those in urban/suburban?  That's a really big deal.  Knowing were to put DC fast-chargers is vital.  There is only so much money that will be available to fund sites.  Whomever benefited more would get more.  Turns out, the results are a wash.  Rural living tends to mean you do fewer trips, but they are longer.  That makes sense.  We have friends who do exactly that.  You go into town for a big day of shopping, to stock up with gracias and whatever other supplies you need.  We do exactly the opposite, as the study confirmed.  Driving is frequent, but the trips are very short.  I got coffee for my wife and I some mornings.  The round-trip is less than 2 miles, which is entirely with electricity.  Picking up something fresh for lunch or dinner happens then too.  If it is a nice day, I'll get something to grill.  Why bother shopping ahead when you can get exactly what you want in exactly the portion needed?  It's fresh and we avoid waste.  Knowing all that, does it help with the decision of where to put DC fast-chargers?  You could see both driving situations taking advantage of their errand to recharge.


Quiet, Very Quiet.  It is interesting how plug-in news went from almost non-stop to almost dead.  This time of year is usually subdued anyway.  With chip shortages, workers getting sick, high turnover, and the wait for better batteries, expectations from automakers are unremarkably quiet.  That's why the attacks on Toyota were so relentless.  Enthusiasts had nothing better to do while waiting and it served as a great distraction from their own woes.  That narrative about Toyota was insightful.  We knew of the upcoming bZ brand almost 3 years ago.  We knew of a BEV product-line of some sort even further back.  But with battery-tech still challenged, infrastructure terribly lacking, and the absence of a DCFC standard, what was there to gain from rushing to market.  After all, if you look at the specifications for Bolt, it makes you wonder how well it could actually sell.  Why would GM resume production for a vehicle only capable of 50 kW fast-charging?  Think about how hypocritical that statement is.  While I was endorsing that as a standard, they were attacking me for thinking such a slow speed made sense.  Ugh.  Of course, that explains some of the silence.  Troublemakers are starting to realize their ambitions in the past don't measure up to expectations now... which would be fine if this was a progressive improvement with a clear target.  There's no goal whatsoever though.  What is required for sustainable & profitable sales has yet to be identified.  Obsession with speed & power kept enthusiasts from becoming supporters.  They don't recognize the differenced between want & need.  This quiet, very quiet time online seems to confirm a rethink.  That doesn't mean anything constructive will emerge.  In fact, the result is usually new rhetoric.  You never know though.  Eventually, enthusiasts lose the spotlight.  Remember how that daily blog for Volt died?


Appears Ahead.  This statement got me curious: "Tesla's battery tech appears to be ahead."  I asked how.  The reply back was: "Total kWh manufactured and battery technology as it relates to range and performance."  Since the word "performance" is meaningless without context and more is not necessarily better, I followed up by asking:  That is rather arbitrary criteria.  Why aren't cost & lifespan included?  What about the elimination of elements that are politically & environmentally problematic?  How come recyclability isn't included?  What about lower internal resistance and being fire retardant?  How come reduction of buffer capacity isn't important?


Missing The Point.  I got a reply to my need for increased variety.  I was a long-winded rant adding FUD about LFP and dismissing DCFC as unrelated.  Then it turned to: "As for GM, Toyota, Ford, VW, Mercedes, BMW, and many other automotive OEMs, some of them will be sunk by disruption by 2030.  Bankrupt.  They aren't moving fast enough to keep up..."  It never ceases to amaze me how many don't really understand what bankrupt actually means.  They don't seem to remember GM having gone through that at all or what the outcome was.  Of course, it doesn't matter when the follow is this: "Number of models is irrelevant.  It's total sales, margins, and success in displacing ICEVs that matter..."  That type of short-sightedness is the very problem.  You can't just push a limited product forever, expecting it to be both competitive and continually grow.  Adding to the apparent absence of any critical thought was "...Model 3 is a premium sedan." and "...Model Y is a premium crossover."  It was acknowledgement of only reaching particular market segments.  How bizarre.  What in the world does this person expect Tesla to actually sell?  CyberTruck continues to be delayed and that too will be a premium offering for a limited audience.  Not wanting to sell ordinary vehicles to mainstream consumers means continuing to be a niche.  You cannot "bankrupt" others by not reaching their customers.  That doesn't make any sense; yet, there are many who argue that anyway.  I keep my responses short upon discovering how narrow-minded their view really is.  Today, it was a post saying:  That completely misses the point about both messaging & diversity... basic elements of sustainable business.


Tesla Messaging.  When you follow a blog owned by a Tesla investor, it should be much of a surprise to see an article with this title: "Tesla Pivots On Battery Tech And It Starts A Major Trend".  Ugh.  That trend was well underway long before Tesla joined in.  The spin is remarkable, but the fanboy replies are even better: "It is conceivable that cycle life is superior with LFP packs, but Tesla hasn't said so to the general public."  That was buried within a long-winded post.  I homed in on that right away, recognizing what was being carefully avoided by pointing out and asking:  Countless studies praise longevity as a strength of LFP.  There is no doubt cycle life is superior.  Downplay of "perfectly adequate" sums up the situation.  If Tesla were to say something, they would be inviting the Osborne Effect.  4680 represents a step forward, an undeniable manufacturing advancement, but it isn't the best choice for what Tesla really needs.  LFP offers both longer life and lower cost.  Ordinary consumers see that as a priority, not what Tesla specializes in.  It is a shift enthusiasts hadn't anticipated.  Whether Tesla says anything or not, the challenge to become mainstream remains.  That means ubiquitous DC fast-charging availability for a BEV directly competitive with traditional vehicles.  You tell us Chinese & Western automakers face an accelerated Tesla product ramp.  What exactly is should we expect?  The wide variety of BEV choices coming for other automakers is making Tesla look more and more like a one-hit-wonder.  Model 3/Y targets the enthusiast market.  CyberTruck targets the pickup market.  There is nothing resembling ID.3 or Ioniq 5.  In other words, Tesla needs to say something.  There is no messaging.  With CCS the standard in Europe, there is a growing expectation of Tesla addressing its own product gap.  Is the addition of LFP a move to finally address the need for increased variety?


Patience.  Today, there was an exchange of post related to remote start.  It originated from when temperatures are well below the heat-pump threshold.  An owner of a RAV4 Prime expected the feature to work under all circumstances, calling the failure a significant fault Toyota should fix.  Since I debug user problems from an engineering perspective, I ask questions.  My goal is to uncover the true problem.  Users like to suggest a solution.  Improvements don't happen it you simply carry over the same behavior over to a new platform.  That's how opportunity is missed.  Sadly, most don't have the patience for that.  They don't want to look ahead and intentionally introduce change.  That's not me.  I seek out change that will result in improved results... even if it means upsetting the status quo... and at times, especially if it upsets the status quo.  In this case, it looked upon the situation as a teaching moment.  Hopefully, there will be something learned from the back & forth of posts.  Here's what I said in that regard:  Significant fault comes from assuming the only solution available is the antiquated approach of simply forcing the cabin-heater to run.  That's not how progress is made, especially when it comes to Toyota.  To innovate... which is how competition is overcome... you have to ask what problem it is you are trying to solve.  Knowing that, you can seek better options.  In this case, running the cabin-heater is a terrible choice.  Warming all the air inside is a waste of energy.  You want to warm your body, not the vehicle.  Toyota already has a solution at the ready.  It will be introduced starting March 1st this year, when production of bZ4X begins.  That will be the first of the Toyota vehicles with a warming system designed specifically for your feet & legs.  Between that, the heated seats, and heating steering-wheel, you have direct rapid warming rather than having to rely entirely upon cabin-warming.  It's so fast, there is no point for remote start.


Shared View.  I argue with some who have a very narrow scope, like those who are in full support of BEV and strongly opposed to PHEV.  That means there will be times when the topic is selective enough that it will garnish agreement from the both of us.  Today, such a shared view emerged.  It was with regard to the approach some oil companies are experimenting with to make fast-charging available at existing gas-stations.  Since not much profit is made from the sale of gas itself, adapting c-store locations to include charging seems a viable long-term win.  After all, distribution of gas requires delivery services.  That's not true for electricity.  So even if less money can be made from the charging itself, there is less overhead.  The added time it required for "filling up" would mean a much better chance of people coming into the store and purchasing something while they wait.  My observations in that regard are what I posted about today:  In my area... the first California-Rule state in the Midwest... you can see signs of preparation for the shift already.  Our neighborhood gas-station just got an interior upgrade, despite being only a few years old.  There is a parking area that would easily accommodate a row of DC fast-chargers.  Being able to hang out there for 20 minutes and slice of pizza while charging would very easy.  Down the street, there is another new gas-station.  That one has a Starbucks attached, with an unexpectedly large parking area conveniently next to it.  Same thing, you could easily envision a row of DC fast-chargers there.


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