Personal Log  #1123

January 22 2022  -  January 25, 2022

Last Updated:  Sat. 3/26/2022

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Cost Reduction.  That discussion from back in September really got a few worked up.  This title was the bait: "Lexus EV conspiracy theories".  It attracted a bunch of antagonists who enjoy their role on the big Prius forum.  They provoke by twisting facts, omitting detail, and asking the same questions over and over as if they were new.  Each time, it is the same old nonsense.  So, I pretty much ignore their posts.  Others do jump into the discussion at times, often having no idea of the game that's being played.  Basically, the forum is there for their amusement.  I find that terribly harmful.  Those who come to learn get more than what they bargained for.  So, I try to help out.  This was such a post today: "But Toyota is, as John said, just gathering customer data.  I don't know that much about the IQ - it never made it to Australia - but in the case of the UX300e, the critical data being gathered is the answer to the question,  "Will people pay a lot of money for a terrible car when cheaper alternatives are available that are better by every possible metric? "  Back when the thread was first started, we had no answer.  Now, we do.  Knowing that post was a what-about, since those assessments are subjective and the measures selective, I challenged the question at hand with that of the thread's purpose by providing:  2,987 were purchased in Europe from when rollout began to year-end (about 9 months of sales).  The speculated purpose is indeed being fulfilled.  Gathering data from real-world operation has taken place.  Confirmation that all is established before taking the next step is priceless... and very much the Toyota way.  Remember, they were the ones who pioneered and has been a leader on continuous improvement.  Last week, news from Toyota's development center was that battery-cost from UX300e to bZ4X will be reduced by 40%.


bZ Sedan.  The 2022 Beijing Auto Show takes place April 21-30.  That's during Earth Day... a perfect time to reveal the next bZ vehicle.  Not much is known about it yet, except having a target price of under CNY 200,000 (EUR 27,672 / USD 31,467) in the base configuration.  Rollout the end of this year in China is anticipated.  There's lots of speculation, but rumors like this tend to have some truth to them.  We know more vehicles are coming and that Toyota is building a brand for their new dedicated BEV platforms.  So, seeing a continuous cycle of rollout plans makes sense.  After all, we have already been shown 5 models and there are 7 to deliver by 2025.  As for a sedan being next, that is sensible.  There were so many complaints about hybrids looking strange.  Toyota rolled out some so invisible, people didn't even realize there were hybrid models.  With a mix of bZ and conversions, all resembling something with ties to traditional types, this will be an awakening.  In this case, rear seating will come as a surprise.  Without an engine, the front of the vehicle shrinks and the interior grows.  Legroom in back is where that shift will be noticed.  A sedan exactly like this will draw attention to that.  That is now 3 months away and bZ4X production starts in a little over 1 month.  Sweet!


64 kWh.  Another reference I have seen a lot in bZ4X articles is a reference to 64 kWh being the battery-capacity.  Huh?  That was been quite random.  There's no pattern, other than it comes when the 71.4 kWh and 72.8 kWh capacities are not included.  When you do the math, that is a 9% difference... which could be a buffer.  That's the right size.  Since we don't know the chemistry and using the entire capacity, that makes sense.  Usable capacity for an iron-base lithium chemistry is an unknown though.  Absence of nickel & cobalt allows charging to 100% without consequence, but you still want a buffer of some sort at the low end.  If efficiency is around 3.5 miles/kWh, the range estimate would calculate to 224 miles.  That makes sense for real-world expectations.  Seeing higher is realistic, since that is extremely common with my Prius Prime.  But with a heavier, less aerodynamic vehicle (though with a BEV optimized system & platform) it would happen less often.  On the European scale, estimated best efficiencies are:  Tesla Model 3 = 154 Wh/km;  Tesla Model Y = 171 Wh/km;  VW ID.4 = 182 Wh/km;  Hyundai Ioniq 5 = 187 Wh/km;  Nissan Ariya = 188 Wh/km;  Ford Mach E = 197 Wh/km.  For bZ4X, the estimate is 188 Wh/km.  That translates to 425 km combined in mild weather (no A/C or Heater).  That comes to 264 miles from the European measure (WLTP), which tends to be about 12% optimistic.  For the American measure (EPA), that translates to about 235 miles.  Needless to say, I have nothing better to do at this moment than run numbers.  Interestingly, the calculations now match up with my original guestimate of 232 miles rather well.  Whatever the case, there is a lot of waiting to do still.  So, I search for sources revealing tidbits of information.  Perhaps somewhere in all that there will be some numbers to validate with.


Cheaped Out.  In an alternate reality: "It's useless below about 20 degrees F.  Most true EV's also have an electric resistance heater, but Toyota cheaped out."  That was such a bizarre attack on Toyota, replying took some thought.  Was the person really that clueless or just another willing to outright lie.  There are some who hate Toyota so much, they will indeed lie.  The reason why tends to come down to either having been disenchanted from being poorly informed or they are in denial that the slow approach is keeping up... and this shows the possibility of winning.  If you were under the impression that the BEV you have been endorsing were actually playing catch up, how would you respond?  I have had my Prius Prime for almost 5 years now.  That 2017 model first rolled out in late 2016.  It had a heat-pump.  That is years before Tesla.  Learning that may have angered the person.  Who knows.  What is clear though is the lack of research.  Spreading disinformation isn't the answer.  Ugh.  So, I do my best to counter that:  Quite the opposite, using a heat-pump is the more expensive option.  Because it is more efficient, the result is more EV range.  And it is most definitely useful below 20 degrees.  I waited 30 minutes in the drive-they line last night for Cane's chicken.  It was only 16 degrees outside.  The engine never started the entire wait & drive.  I was quite comfortable.


Cold Charging.  Ever since detail about bZ4X was revealed last summer, I have been seeing references to charge-time expectations quote as both "30 minutes" and "less than an hour".  To me, that implies there is more at play than the basic information we get from articles really tells us.  It hit me today that this could be a reference to cold-temperature charging, a hint that it will be slower.  Other automakers exclude that, not wanting to point out that a cold battery will recharge slower.  It comes as quite a surprise for new owners.  You can tell them repeatedly about pre-conditioning, that there is a heater to warm the pack, but it just doesn't sink in what it is for.  I suspect many will associate that with efficiency benefit.  The fact that it also enables faster charging as DC fast-chargers almost certainly never crosses their mind.  Why would it?  Put another way, if the pack is warm, you'll get that charge to 80% in 30 minutes.  If not, it will take less than an hour.


Total Electric.  This came about from that falling behind question: "I'm not sure we will or even should become a total electric vehicle country!"  This was my contribution with the hope of stirring some more discussion on the topic:  It is easy to see a mix of technologies.  Ironically, BEV enthusiasts dead-set against fuel-cells are starting to come to the realization that hydrogen has practical uses on the commercial side.  Being able to store as much renewable energy as possible locally is an interesting twist when it is used to power DC fast-chargers.  Think about how some claim our grid isn't capable of supporting total electric.  It wouldn't have to be if we decentralize using off-grid storage via hydrogen & batteries.


Falling Behind?  This is what it is like when someone without hostile intent asks a question: "Iowa City, Iowa transit is adding new electric buses that go 300 miles on a charge.  Teslas go 300-400 miles on a charge.  Approximately 250 for the Chevy Bolt vehicle.  Meanwhile, my Prime gets maybe 20 miles on a charge.  Makes me wonder if Toyota is falling behind the technology curve of electric mileage?"  It wasn't a provoke.  It wasn't a mislead.  It was a genuine want-to-know post.  True curiosity!  What a concept.  I had this to say about that:  It is a matter of priorities.  Notice how Toyota has stated their BEV expectation repeatedly as a 90% capacity retention after 10 years?  For mainstream consumers, focus is on affordable batteries which favor longevity.  To get that, a tradeoff of range is required.  Knowing that, take a look at what happened with Tesla recently.  The base Model 3 switched to that other chemistry, known as LFP.  That dropped range to 272 miles, falling out of the 300-400 trend many expected to become the norm.  Increasing presence of DC fast-chargers changes the equation too.  Why carry around unneeded capacity when you can instead have a more durable battery capable of many more charging cycles?  It is a paradigm-shift many BEV enthusiasts didn't see coming.  In fact, the revelation of LFP ended up being quite a sucker-punch for some.  With regard to the PHEV market, seeing more DC fast-chargers is an enabler.  We'll have to wait for Prius Prime to finally get an upgrade.  But at that point, it will be easier to get landlords & employers to provide Level-2 charging.  At home, the thought of plugging into an ordinary 120-volt outlet for overnight recharges will become a no-brainer... so obviously beneficial, consideration of 240-volt won't be scary or uncertain anymore.  In short, Toyota has carefully studied the market and has the patience to wait while quietly positioning their pieces for when the game begins.  Hybrid, PHEV and BEV will all serve a purpose to win.


As Expected.  At this point, the enthusiast becomes frustrated.  That can't comprehend what you take issue with.  GM made a promise and they will deliver.  Ugh.  Contrary to evidence around them, the act of denial becomes blind hope.  In other words, they start to believe their own hype.  It becomes a vague spew of spin to shot the messenger: "Okay now your speaking pure nonsense again.  Your arguing for the sake of arguing.  My X, Y, Z metrics are very well known for the Lyriq and Hummer EV.  Open your eyes and look!  They are doing this today!  Look.  Look.  Look.  Stop sticking your head in the sand.  GM will have over 30 EV's on the market within the next few years those X, Y, Z metrics will be different for every vehicle and every target consumer and price point."  As I have said countless times in the past, these are individuals who have no background with economics, accounting, or marketing.  The antagonist is someone with a solid understanding of engineering who is totally baffled by resistance related to business.  Seeing that emerge again is rather fascinating, since it is so predictable.  I expected the response I got.  You confront someone with the bigger picture, asking for detail they obviously haven't considered, they will get defensive.  My purpose is to know my audience.  Understanding what enthusiast mindset is prior to bZ4X and the market it will enter is vital.  We're at a significant point, where the technology is just starting to stir interest of ordinary consumers.  They will see DC fast-chargers, perhaps only noticing detail for the first time... wondering how it works.  I have seen that for years with public Level-2 chargers.  The basic metrics of X for range, Y for price, and Z for miles/time simply aren't enough.  People finally want to know how it actually works and how much the costs are.  Why this guy can't see that is beyond me.  You don't sell a product by hoping for the best.  Ugh.  Like usual, I kept my response to end a discussion with someone clearly not getting it with a single sentence.  In this case, it was:  Replies like that are why Two-Mode, Voltec gen-1, Voltec gen-2, and Bolt went nowhere.


Recruiting Enablers.  I got more of the same in response to asking about clear messaging, highlighted by this: "GM's message is an EV for everybody."  It is that feel good, no need to question, consumer appeal.  You are told what you should know.  It is the kind of marketing done when there is no real competition, when you are basically just promoting a next-gen design.  In other words, we are seeing hype again.  That's what GM was good at.  All they have to do is recruit enablers by providing ambiguous information.  This encounter was with one of them, completely unaware of his own messaging.  Ugh.  I replied, expecting nothing more than the same nonsense as years ago.  Read these blogs for insight on what is to come.  In the meantime:  There it is, history repeating.  Those same "who cares" and "irrelevant" and "nothing to do" dismissals are exactly ​what we saw back then. Even follow up with a vague X, Y and Z rather than specifics matches that pattern.  What does "good range" and "affordable price" actually mean?  Think about what is about to happen with the industry.  The supposed "race" with plug-ins was really nothing but qualifying runs.  Sales of BEV to ordinary consumers directly against other choices... sharing the same showroom floor... have not begun.  Heck, we don't even have a single standard for DC fast-charging here yet.  It's why messaging... whether that is specifically with regard to Ultium branding or the variety of chemistries (LFP, NCA, NMC, etc.)... is so important.  Automakers are only now lining up for the true race.  How will each appeal to their audience?


Message Clarity.  We went from almost total silence, which is quite normal in the dead of Winter, to the mess known as GM.  Yup, that confused & uncertain messaging has begun again.  It's history repeating.  Ugh.  This is what I got after the previous post about chemistry being agnostic: "Simply GM is going to offer a car with X range for Y price that will charge Z miles in 10 minutes.  And that is all the consumer will care about."  From his comments prior to that summary, it was obvious he was unaware of GM's past.  I was more than happy to provide some background info:  The biggest complaint about Volt... by far... was GM's marketing for it.  They were all over the place.  What goals was it trying to achieve?  Who was it for?  Between the confusion & uncertainty, people never really got to understanding the technology itself.  The opportunity wasted was enormous.  Bolt was even worse. It basically wasn't marketed at all.  Promotion started as a direct competitor to Tesla, an affordable package capable many of the traits EV enthusiasts desired.  When that fell apart, so did the promoting.  It just basically floundered in place, never gaining any attention from GM vehicle owners.  Now, we see Ultium being presented with range & performance as the focus.  GM is following the footsteps of Tesla, choosing to deliver what mainstream consumers see as expensive toys.  The promise of 20 plug-ins by 2023 has vanished.  GM's messaging is anything but "X range for Y price that will charge Z miles in 10 minutes".  Think about it.  You see VW and Hyundai/Kia already delivering something specifically for middle-market... with ID.3 and ID.3 and Ioniq and Kona and Niro.  Heck, we even see Toyota aiming for the same thing bZ4 and bZ3 and bZ2.  The message is clear.  They are pursuing BEV tech that's affordable & reliable.  Supposedly, that is what GM was doing too, starting with Bolt.  But we all knew that would end, since Bolt was outdated & unprofitable.  Fine, but what does Lyric, Hummer, and Silverado convey about Ultium?  Start by telling us what "X" and "Y" and "Z" should be.  What values do consumers want to see?  No actual numbers is just history repeating.  No clear messaging.


Chemistry Agnostic.  There is an interesting new topic being discussed today.  It is about a Chinese company partnering with a mystery automaker in the United States to produce 200 GWh of LFP batteries.  Being a joint-venture, it seems a likely path for a large automaker here who already has a presence in China.  We probably won't find out who for awhile, but that doesn't matter.  Being able to discuss different chemistries is key.  For far too long, that aspect of BEV growth has been basically ignored entirely.  Focus has been on ramping up volume, not whether or not the state of battery-tech is ready for that or not... which is how this mention came about: "However GM's Ultium system is chemistry agnostic.  LFP might certainly be an option for it's lower cost EV's in North America."  I was intrigued, since there really isn't an ideal for packaging and messaging is obviously a problem for GM.  So, I replied to that with:  Chemistry agnostic is great, but that would dilute & confuse "Ultium" branding.  Rather than a unified marketing message of expectations, you end up with varying traits and only packaging in common.  Think about how LFP differs in terms of charging & longevity.  Being able to promote a much better warranty (due to cycle-life being so much better) is a really big deal.  Customer expectation of always being able to charge to 100% without penalty is a big deal too.  It comes with a lower cost as well.  The tradeoff of range due to the lower energy-density will be a non-issue for customers who don't drive long distances or have ready access to DC fast-chargers.  This is what is drawing lots of appeal for LFP, while at the same time making some second-guess their commitment chemistries dependent upon nickel & cobalt.  It is the "premature lock-in" dilemma playing out right before our eyes.


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