Prius Personal Log  #1142

May 5, 2022  -  May 9, 2022

Last Updated:  Sun. 9/18/2022

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Timing Opportunity.  Everyone is looking at the battery situation for the AWD model of bZ4X from a Toyota perspective.  Never considering what it means for a battery-supplier is a warning-flag that situation is not being taken seriously.  You can't just ignore all the players involved.  Dismissal of influencing factors is exactly what Volt failed.  All enthusiasts cared about was their own priorities.  I see the situation as a great opportunity based on timing.  The final patent on LFP expired just 2 weeks ago.  That makes it in CATL's best interest to secure contracts to supply.  It's entirely possible they reached out to Toyota with a deal too good to resist.  Think about how Tesla pounced on that, where over half of production is now using LFP batteries.  Heck, we see Ford now toying with that idea as well.  Knowing Toyota's relationship with China and how much Chinese business has been yearning for the chance to get more of their product into the United States, it's not too far fetched to see the supply contract.  It is possible CATL had excess capacity with NCM due to the market shift.  But you'd think a few of the many, many automakers in China would gladly use those well-proven cells.  Getting their foot in the door with Toyota on something offering long-term potential would be a deal too good to pass of CATL's part... especially in this diverse market here.  After all, there will be new owners exactly like me seeking the opportunity to provide real-world data.  Living in Minnesota, that's something to really look forward to.  The timing should be great too.  There's 4.5 months remaining for the full tax-credits and 6 months before daily temperatures drop below what states south of here ever routinely experience.  Needless to say, this year will be an interesting one for many.

5-08-2022 Researching Chemistry.  We still don't know what exactly will be supplied by CATL for the AWD systems in the United States.  It is reasonable to continue thoughts about the possibility of LFP cells being provided.  After all, that is the direction we see the market shifting too.  Their longer life and more robust nature has proven an effective offset to shorter range.  Though from the upset enthusiasts have exclaimed, you wouldn't know it.  On one hand we see Tesla purchases happily welcoming LFP, on the other hand their are non-owners attempting to downplay those strengths.  Notice the audience difference?  I see the same thing about to play out with Toyota.  Anywho, for the record, here's what I have been able to find.  These are the specifications for bZ4X, the AWD model: 

  Total capacity is 72.8kWh
  Pack voltage is 355.2V
  Pack contains 96 A cells
  Capacity of each cell is 205Ah
  Voltage of each cell is 3.7V

Note that LFP cells from CATL have a maximum continuous charge rate of 1C.


ICE Implode?  The denial runs deep with some.  It makes me wonder how many don't fundamentally understand how plug-in hybrids work.  After all, that is how the EREV nonsense got so out of hand.  Those Volt enthusiasts didn't actually understand how their own plug-in hybrid operated.  Ugh.  So when I see statements like this, I keep such a lesson-learned from history in mind: "I try to tell you that the experience in integrating electric and combustion power-trains is not transferable to building fully electric vehicles."  He used that to justify his previous statement about the ICE market impoding around 2025.  We already see a contraction.  What does implode actually mean?  For that matter, how is he defining the ICE market?  I didn't care abougt his predictions, I wanted to know why his didn't understand or recognize the transfer having already taken place.  So, I pointed out and asked:  That has been proven false, you are again attempting to generalize.  Toyota took their motor, controller, inverter, battery experience and did indeed do exactly that.  You cannot deliver a robust all-electric system delivering 42 miles of range without having successfully addressed every aspect of EV drive.  We see liquid cooling, pack warming, and heat-pump all working just fine.  As for the concern about volume, that's the next page from the anti-Toyota handbook.  When the "behind" narrative falls apart, shift focus to volume with an accelerated timeline making sure to avoid discussion of any other automaker.  Toyota is well positioned phaseout their traditional vehicles entirely.  In fact, we are seeing that already in progress.  Hybrids with and without plugs can fill the gap while infrastructure struggles to catch up and gas prices really start to hurt.  What will VW in the same situation, a supposed ICE implode around 2025?


Pimped Out.  A writer with a reputation for hating plug-in hybrids was at it again, posting his rheotric within someone else's article.  It's a bad sign when you recognize that pattern.  His campaign is to mislead.  It's sad... and rather obvious: "PHEV is essentially a pimped ICE."  It would be like me placing Leaf and Model 3 into the same category.  Both have very different designs and very different audiences.  Heck, they don't even share the same purpose.  You don't see people purchasing a Leaf hoping to use it for long-distance travel and high-speed charging.  Yet, both work just fine as all-electric vehicles.  The same is true for plug-in hybrids, both use electricity for augmentation.  Some simply boost MPG.  Others provide some miles of pure EV range.  You cannot just dismiss purpose & design like that.  Generalizations tend to be a means of misleading.  That was definitely the intent today.  I fired back at that with:  Claiming "pimped out ICE" is a sad commentary on absence critical thought.  That generalization is confirmation of having no idea how Toyota's design differs from other automakers.  That incorrect assumption is actually quite common.  Many simply don't take the time to research the topic; they just assume the electric-motor & battery-pack are added components.  Toyota's hybrid approach was to eliminate components... like the transmission & starter.  It is an electric vehicle with a gas-engine added, connected via a power-split device.  That is why there are no gears and the gas-engine can be stopped & separated entirely from the wheels for all-electric driving.  I find it quite telling at this point that there are some who profess expertise by don't bother to acknowledge such a fundamental difference.  That design is how PHEV, like Prius Prime and RAV4 Prime, were able to competitively be offered.  It readily supports plugging in.


Pulling Out Ahead.  Arguing semantics is the next stage of loss.  It's a predictable move when the antagonist runs out of material.  In this case, the troll posted: "In other words, they are using customers for R&D.  That might be expected of other companies, but not Toyota.  It is a sign they are feeling pressure from not investing for plug-ins earlier."  His attempt to shift the paradigm from on-going updates to being unprepared is a desperate act to keep exchanges going.  He thrives on attention.  I was willing to provide a little more.  It was just too absurd to miss.  Why would Toyota providing mid-cycle updates be looked upon as anything other being responsive to market need & change?  Ugh.  Anywho, I posted my insight:  You feeling pressure too?  That is rather sloppy.  Rolling out a production vehicle for R&D doesn't make sense, nor does it match what Toyota actually said.  They stated hybrids work the battery harder.  By choosing that platform for rollout first, they would learn how to best refine the tech for battery-only vehicles.  Your portrayal of risk taking to catch up doesn't work.  In other words, it is an accelerating means of advancing the technology.  That's how you pull out ahead of the crowd.


Just 10 Days Ago.  A well-known troll (yes, he actually calls himself that) began a post with this: "Toyota took longer to start..."  Since some of his provoke comments are fairly well thought out, I will respond from time to time.  This one was an obvious feed of the "behind" narrative, but it did provide me with an invite to post information he conveniently omitted.  Yes, I know, that's bait he want me to bite.  That type of background is good for others.  So, I went with it.  After all, I have been posting about this opportunity since late last summer.  The expiration-date for LFP seemed so far off.  But like waiting for anything (for example, delivery of my bZ4X) there is usually a requirement of substantial patience.  This is how I responded:  That's a cherry-picked perspective.  The final patent for LFP expired just 10 days ago.  With that comes easier commitment to newer chemistries. The problem of both premature lock-in and infringement exposure simply made it undesirable to start sooner. After all, that is far from the only piece of the puzzle. In fact, Toyota is better positioned than others with regard to fleet impact from cell shortages. Think about what happens when the balance starts to tip.


Charging C-Rate.  The topic isn't often discussion; yet, it is a fundamental of DC fast-charging.  This comment about it was made today: "2C charging in the bz4x is ~140kW.  2C shouldn't be a challenge even to air cooled batteries."  That had me intrigued.  1C is one hour of time to fill the battery from empty to full based upon its capacity.  That means if you are dealing with 72 kWh for capacity, the fastest speed at a 1C rate would be 72 kW.  That's h0ow that 140 kW was speculated.  For the FWD model, that matches up fairly well.  You can push a little more to 150 kW.  For the AWD, we witnessed 87 kW.  That keeps us at the 1C expectation, where 100 kW really is a max that you will only briefly see.  That's what I see as realistic.  Others don't... since I keep wondering about LFP being used.  That is a 1C max.  The quote favors a different chemistry, like NCA, which can indeed be pushed faster.  But then again, here's some food for thought that doesn't even require any chemistry background.  It's just math:  That video we saw of the AWD 4X fast-charging had an uncertain starting point.  Since the display said 0% but was actually fully depleted and the charge itself took only 61 kWh, we clearly weren't getting the full experience.  Supposedly, usable capacity is 65.6 kWh.  Doing the math, that missing 4.6 kWh would represent 14 more miles of driving (EPA 3.09 mi/kwh combined rating).  In other words, the entire graph needs to be shifted over by 6.3%... which would explain why it took a few minutes longer to reach 80% than expected. Not having final software updates for charge-rate and SOC-measure, since it was a pre-production model, seems more and more likely as we look into the detail.


Pay Attention.  Some people don't.  Claims like this make you wonder: "VW and Mercedes both have a lot more experience in producing fully electric cars than Toyota has at the moment."  I can see how that conclusion is draw.  All you have to do is do some scratch-the-surface research of what's happening this very moment.  No history.  No big picture.  No depth.  This is what I had to say about that:  In other words, you haven't been paying attention.  An entire decade ago, Toyota rolled out Prius PHV.  So what if it had a top all-electric speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).   The point was to find a means of squeezing affordable EV driving. 5 years later, Toyota did with its successor.  Prius Prime raised the all-electric speed to 135 km/h (84 mph) and lowered cost, while at the same time introduced a heat-pump.  Since then, RAV4 Prime was rolled out, which introduced liquid-cooling.  All that has worked without any notice, so well that detractors do everything they can to divert attention elsewhere.  They don't want others to discover the all-electric success Toyota already has.  That experience is why bZ4X drives so well and sets the stage so nicely for an affordable offering to follow, like a bZ3X.  Claim whatever you want about volume, it won't change the reality that Toyota is already producing millions of motors, controllers and invertors for electric driving.  So what if those components are currently being used in hybrids. It's not like the rest of the industry isn't also constrained by battery production.  Pay attention to those all-electric miles drivers of Prime vehicles are already enjoying.


Nothing Surprising.  There was a webpage provided by Toyota with various facts about bZ4X.  This was one of the quotes: "As temperatures decrease below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, charging time will increase significantly."  That was nothing new.  We have known that for over a decide.  I have seen the warmer for Prius Prime achieve over 10°C (50°F) in the dead of winter, here in Minnesota.  50°C (122°F) is pre-warm temperature for SuperCharging.  This is just basic chemistry presented to a new audience.  A warm battery is required for charging.  That was followed by: "Drive battery level and condition, charger specifications and DC charging more than twice per day also can negatively affect charging time."  This is the opposite side of temperature, one much more difficult to address.  If you are already dealing with a super-heated battery and the vehicle is getting baked in the hot sun, how do you both cool the battery then prevent charging from raising the temperature?  You have to slow down the charge-rate.  But this was one big one: "DC charging may not work on AWD bz4x when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit."  None of that is out of the ordinary.  It has always been true of lithium chemistry.  Electrical resistance rises dramatically when its temperature is below freezing.  Nothing surprising; yet, I have a feeling some will make a big deal out of the information.


Who?  You gotta like statements like this: "But do not wait for Toyota, they are so far behind the rest of the car industry, only a miracle can save them."  It's that same old problem of audience.  Comments like that may appeal to the online crowd, but they make no difference out in the world of showroom shoppers.  Think about how far hearsay takes a person.  Without any depth, you have a purchase either driven by emotion or one that ignores the rhetoric.  I replied to that nonsense with:  Who are you trying to convince?  Those doing reviews of bZ4X have overwhelmingly said Toyota's technology is already well refined.  Concerns related to battery type & supply are a desperate effort to distract from what people are confirming when they get behind the wheel.  It is a panic reaction from those pushing the "behind" narrative.  Consumers use critical-thinking.  Rhetoric online related to status means nothing to those looking for solid facts.  They want evidence showing hardware & software are proven.  Limitations of range & speed have nothing to do with reliability... no matter how much distraction is posted in blog comments.  Of course, the very idea of "behind" in markets with a blatant absence of supporting infrastructure means nothing anyway.  Know your audience.


Unwilling To Listen.  A voice of logic & reason is not how you end a hopeless debate with someone obsessed.  The response to my comment posted about smaller battery capacities was not well received for that very reason.  The guy went on a long rant that if such a situation was true, why was RAV4 so popular?  I was amused.  He clearly wasn't paying attention to any other part of the market.  That problem of being blinded by what you favor is quite common.  He simpy doesn't care about smaller vehicles.  So, I put that to the test by responded back with nothing but these 2 words: "Corolla Cross".  His response to that was exactly as anticipated, anedoctal.  You don't see a paradigm-shift by doing nothing but quote a single statistic.  There was no context, no forward looking expectation, no recognition of market change.  It was just an outright dismissal based on year-end sales.  Corolla Cross wasn't even introduced until late last year and the hybrid model hasn't been rolled out yet.  Like countless others, he is an enthusiast fixated on one particular audience.  It's not even worth arguing.  He's unwilling to listen.


Capacities & Choice.  You know when a seemingly constructive observation includes an insult, there will not be a constructive reply to whatever you post in return.  For example: "I believe the general public perceives 300 miles as minimally acceptable range, which means the "Busy Forks" will be a niche product and not a significant agent of the electrification movement."  That use of "busy forks" is a blatant effort to distract, a dead giveaway the situation is not being taken seriously.  No one has a problem with ID.4 or EV6, yet for some reason the Toyota letter & number name must be taken issue with.  Ugh.  Anywho, I knew all too well the 300-mile claim was utter nonsense.  We went through all this years ago with 200-mile targets.  If that was considered the mass-acceptance threshold then, why isn't it now?  It's not like people are driving more.  In fact, many are driving less due to being able to work from home.  That increases the benefit of being able to plug in every night at home.  Few miles means even greater chances of always starting with a full battery first thing every morning.  What drives the point home though (I know, bad pun) is the how we are starting to see more models with smaller capacities.  The reduced size equates to a lower price from fewer cells and higher efficiency due to the lower weight.  It can be a win-win for the customer.  As energy-density increases, we'll see the option become more common too.  Having a platform able to provide such flexibility is a win for the business.  Anywho, this is how I replied:  There are models of popular BEV with much smaller battery capacities... like the 58 kWh models of Hyundai Ioniq 5 and the 52 kWh models of VW ID.4 and the 54 kWh model of Kia EV6.  Then there's ID.3 that is offered in two smaller capacities, 58 kWh and 45 kWh.  Nissan Leaf stands out even more the larger pack be 59 kWh and its smaller at just 39 kWh.  Mazda MX-30 is rather strange at 30 kWh, yet people are buying it.  As for whether or not bZ4X becomes a top-seller, that doesn't matter.  In fact, I wouldn't expect it.  Toyota's core consumer will be targeted with the smaller model, bZ3X.  Put another way, that claim of single-minded falls apart when the rest of their planned offerings are rolled out.  What I like most from your post though is the absence of detail, despite professing there is detail.  Reviewers just plain don't agree.  Look at how many say how well refined the ride is.  All that experience from the other plug-in models over the past 10 years taught Toyota how to improve their tech... prior to their first dedicated-platform BEV.  In short, the "it does look" really doesn't.


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