Prius Personal Log  #1151

June 18, 2022  -  June 24, 2022

Last Updated:  Mon. 9/19/2022

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6-24-2022

Growing Fear.  The trolls are hard at work.  They see the recent recall as an invitation to attack Toyota.  As a result, we are getting more off-topic provokes, like: "Here's a turd you can polish."  It was a graph of an AWD charging-session.  He's been milking that for all it's worth.  No one ever really bites.  It's really just meant to reinforce the narrative.  Today though, I jumped on that.  After all, it was an actual invite for me to reply.  So, I did:  Looks like you are afraid to face the reality of chemistry differences.  The FWD model closely resembles the charging-curve of ID.4 which no one here seems to have any problem with.  That reveals a supplier difference, not some shortcoming of design as you repeatedly attempt to spin.  We also know Toyota already has a working 800v system.  What probably scares you most is if the AWD model here actually does have a better chemistry.  Anything delivering improvement battery-life is a problem for those pushing the "behind" narrative.  We know for a fact that LFP delivers much improved longevity and just happens to be a popular choice from the very provider Toyota is using for the AWD model here.  In other words, it is easy to see growing fear from your post.

6-24-2022 Enthusiast Outcry.  Absence of substance with regard to ordinary consumers is something that continues to put enthusiasts in a difficult position.  They bring it on themselves.  This recall is a perfect example.  Today, it was: "Sounds like a rush job!"  That was blatant trolling.  No substance.  No relevance.  Just insults.  It invites me to climb up onto my soapbox.  I take full advantage of that situation too.  This is what I posted after they had exhausted all trolling opportunity:

We don't actually know what is involved.  Trying to lighten weight of the wheels using new stems & nuts, along with too much or too little torque, could be the cause.  It's not like we haven't already seen those weight reduction efforts taking place. At the same time, we see Toyota pushing well beyond Prius with their plug-in hybrid SUV and this all-electric SUV.

Gotta love how people just jump to conclusions without any detail.  Of course, facts tend to be disregarded anyway.  The narrative that this vehicle is really just a BYD rebrand, no part of it built by Toyota, suddenly falls apart by the recall.  All those individuals passing along that already debunked claim have abruptly gone silent.  It would be hypocritical to say anything now.

Of course, negative publicity raising awareness of a new product has proven time and time again to have an aspect of benefit.  In fact, if the manufacturer handles the situation well they get kudos.  Look no further than GM with Bolt for an example of exactly how not to handle a recall.  Rather than jumping on the situation immediately, regardless of media backlash, they danced around the issue.

We also see undeniable evidence of Toyota taking risk.  Splitting their battery supply between 2 very different providers flies in the face of the "kicking & screaming" narrative.  The chemistries are quite different between Panasonic and CATL cells.  In fact, what we have seen so far from CATL resembles behavior of LFP.  If that turns out to be the case, it puts Toyota in an advantageous position... the reward for taking risk.

Think about this recall.  None of it has anything to do with the EV system itself.  In fact, a fix like swapping out stems & nuts is as simple as it gets.  Follow that up with some type of good will (like a ChargePoint gift-card) would be Toyota taking advantage of having the spotlight.

6-24-2022

Death of Journalism.  Anyone can publish content on the internet.  We see articles with lengthy read-times.  It doesn't mean their has been a rise in quality though.  In fact, there is really just more of the same.  Problem is, with more that length comes fewer comparisons.  People will just latch onto a source and call it good.  That makes it easy for narratives emerging from poorly informed writing.  If the writer doesn't bother to check facts or even do in-depth research, they are just passing along garbage.  For example: "The Japanese automaker proclaimed that the RAV4-sized ute would get around 300 miles of range. When the bZ4X arrived in the US, however, the front-wheel drive version only got 252 miles of EPA-estimated range... Compared to other crossovers in the segment, it's solidly in the middle of the pack, with nowhere near the promised longer range."  That was never true.  I remember the reveal.  The potential to deliver as much as 400 km upon rollout.  That was just a rough estimate based upon WLTP driving criteria (the European measure).  There was never anything with regard to 300 miles from Toyota, no promise like that.  I did the translation among those very first posts back then.  My quick back-of-the-envelope estimate came to 232 miles for EPA.  The write set the tone of that article by posting fictitious information.  My guess is he got his "facts" from some untrustworthy source.  That happens a lot.  Journalism is falling apart, dying a slow and unnoticed death.

6-23-2022

Wheels Could Fall Off.  Out of an excess of safety, Toyota issued a recall.  There is potential for the problem based on finding from a few early models.  Likely, these were review vehicles driven really hard.  Toyota discovered a handful of wheels becoming loose.  No accident was reported.  It appeared to be entirely the result of inspection.  Exactly what should be happening is taking place.  The internet was a buzz yesterday.  Absence of detail didn't matter.  There was no critical thought either.  My impression was a new stem or nut in combination with the wrong torque specs were used.  You try a newer, lighter metal there could indeed be a problem.  Fortunately, that would be an easy fix.  Parts could be shipped quickly and labor would be minor.  Providing a loaner vehicle in the meantime would be the challenge, while confirmation of fix is taking place.  To no surprise, the person who continued to push the false claim of bZ4X really just being a BYD rebrand abruptly changed his stance.  Suddenly, the vehicle is a Toyota after all.  The temptation to "What about?" this situation is overwhelming.  Reality is, a problem was found and responded to right away.  Only 258 bZ4X have been delivered to North America so far.  Despite that, I expected the biggest outcry to come from here.  The 2,200 in Europe will likely get addressed quickly & quietly.  Using Toyota as a scapegoat will continue.  Ugh.

6-23-2022 Reply To Author.  I was encouraged to post a comment in the article itself, so the author and all his readers would get the same detail I had just conveyed to our group.  Here's the comment I posted:

The claimed rating of 26 kWh/100mi for 2023 Toyota bZ4X Limited FWD, which calculates to 3.85 mi/kWh, is not correct.

These are the official EPA numbers:
  125 MPGe city = 3.71 mi/kWh
  103 MPGe highway = 3.06 mi/kWh
  114 MPGe combined = 3.38 mi/kWh

The "28.5 kWh/100mi" observation for mixed driving, which calculates to 3.5 mi/kWh, clearly does not fall short.

6-22-2022 Underwhelming.  Gotta like the click-bait article titles: "TESTED: 2023 Toyota bZ4X Falls Short of EPA Range Estimate".  The link for the webpage itself named: "tested-2023-toyota-bz4x-returns-underwhelming-real-world-range.html"  That set the stage for an interesting read.  Here's what I found: "After charging its battery pack back to full, we calculated an Edmunds consumption rate of 28.5 kWh/100 miles.  Compared to its EPA consumption estimate of 26 kWh/100 miles, our bZ4X was less efficient by 9.6%."  That struck me as odd.  So, I did some calculations and a few searches.  My suspicion was confirmed.  It was a load of rubbish.  In the post providing the link, I responded with:

Note their claimed shortcoming of -9.6% is incorrect.

Their "28.5 kWh/100mi" observation calculates to 3.5 mi/kWh... which is not the rating for 2023 Toyota bZ4X Limited FWD.  They claimed a rating of 26 kWh/100mi... which is 3.85 mi/kWh.  That is just plain wrong, as these official EPA numbers confirm:

125 MPGe city = 3.71 mi/kWh
103 MPGe highway = 3.06 mi/kWh
114 MPGe combined = 3.38 mi/kWh

In other words, their observation is the opposite... it exceeds the rating.

In fact, from their mixed driving we see bZ4X did quite well.

6-21-2022

Error Code.  We found out the owner with the first ever reported bZ4X problem apparently had trouble with their 12-volt battery.  That would have been an easy component to blame.  After all, strange stuff happens when it gets low.  But not wanting to influence the discussion much and to stay in a state of heightened awareness, I remained quiet.  After all, you don't want to jump in with an answer too soon.  It would prevent others from participating and may give the owner a false sense of hope.  With the visit to the dealer scheduled already, the wait was short anyway.  She posted.  We all breathed a sigh of relief.  This is how I responded upon getting the news:  Sadly, seeing a new owner post trouble with their 12-volt battery was a common theme from hybrid purchases.  Sitting on a ship, then in port, then in transport, then at the dealer is a looooong time with only minimal driving and a bunch of prep time.  That battery gets drained.  It's good to know the error-code was simple to resolve.

6-21-2022

Real-World Data.  Hooray!  We got this from a bZ4X owner today: "During the course of a 64-mile mixed driving test circuit through Copenhagen and into the surrounding countryside, our all-wheel drive test car averaged 3.57 miles/kWh, which would mean a real-world range of 254 miles, with the A/C on and my leaden foot at the controls."  That is awesome.  It is exactly the type of experience I hope to share.  Efficiency observed being more than the rating is quite typical.  But you never really know and certainly should plan on it.  Who knows if I will get a chance to actually try the A/C with mine until next year.  That necessity is 3 months remaining here, at most.  Of course, being in Minnesota, I will be able to provide a wealth of cold-weather data... the real-world kind, complete with detailed video.  I'm really looking forward to that.

6-20-2022

What If It Was?  I got this in response to my speculation: "As an AWD owner I REALLY HOPE THEY'RE LIFEPO4 THAT WOULD BE DANK!  But it only says 'lithium ion' everywhere I've checked for specs."  We'll eventually find out.  Here was my volley back in the discussion:  A confirmation would be to find out what the default/recommended charge level is.  LFP requires 100% from time to time to calibrate.  Since voltage variance is so minor, sticking to 80% as with the NMC and NCA chemistries isn't enough.  Tesla ended up being rather coy about the situation, not wanting to upset the delicate balance already in place.  LFP is a rethink, especially since it breaks the supposed benefit of vertical integration.  Tesla is known for delivering more range and faster charging; trading that for longevity is out of character... a Toyota trait.  It's easy to see the appeal of eliminating dependence on nickel & cobalt though.  Anywho, that necessity to charge to 100% would be a tell-tale sign.

6-18-2022

Inaccurate Advice.  There's no excuse for blindly forwarding an article link.  Take 3 seconds to verify the date of when it was published.  Knowing how quickly the technology is evolving, it is far to easy to stumble across something that is no longer accurate.  In this case, the purpose was to provide advice for new owners.  That's fine if the content of whatever you share is kept up to date.  Today, it wasn't.  I was quite annoyed.  No reason to blame anyone though.  My purpose is to seek out teaching moments, then exploit that opportunity to convey as much helpful info as possible.  In this instance, I started simple:  Outdated articles like this will increasingly be a problem.  That happened a lot back in the hybrid days.  Now, we face similar incorrect understandings & advice for BEV.  Notice how it recommends to avoid charging to 100% to avoid strain?  That is exactly what you should be doing if your battery uses LFP chemistry, since it does not experience stress and 100% and that full recharge is needed to maintain SOC calibration.  Notice how that October 2021 article refers back to an April 2019 article?  It makes the outdated advice even worse by supporting with facts no longer relevant for some.  Adding to the confusion are vague references treating all BEV as if they were the same.

6-18-2022 Rock and a Hard Place.  Evolving technology runs into this predicament on a regular basis... at what point do you switch to something newer and how?  Tesla had promoted its new battery form-factor for years, the 4680.  It was finally revealed on "battery day", then nothing happened.  Years later, it is finally starting to roll out, but the form-factor benefit is questionable since in the meantime LFP has become as dominant choice.  Last August, first hints of pretty much a sucker-punch to that effect emerged.  Sure enough, it did indeed happen in September.  Potential buyers were suddenly faced with a surprise decision.  Which chemistry?  Tesla was rather subtle with their approach.  Benefit wasn't really explained, but you got confirmation of significant difference in the form of a recommendation for charging to 100% on a regular basis.  Speed for DC fast-charging was not all that different though.  Tesla likely just decided to call the longevity benefit a loss, worth the tradeoff to be able to use a chemistry which costs less and didn't have nickel & cobalt dependencies.  9 months later, the LFP model is a strong seller.

That's what puts this comment from a Toyota supporter yesterday into such an intriguing perspective: "I would be curious to know what the reaction would have been if Toyota had delayed the AWD bZ4X in North America until Panasonic could supply all models?!  Seems like Toyota were in between a rock and a hard place - delay the AWD model and be criticized or launch a model that has had less testing than Panasonic models and face criticism over charging speed!  Not an issue for those of us in Europe!"  It's not like Toyota hasn't ever stopped to rethink a prior decision.  Back before the "gig economy" emerged, that decision to eliminate the middle-rear seat in Prius Prime made sense.  Owners of Prius in the past no longer had the need to transport children and were now looking for a little bit of an interior step up.  It made sense to bump Prius upward to make way for potential Corolla & Camry plug-in hybrids.  That first Prime was to explore consumer preference.  We got a robust battery for a competitive cost at the tradeoff of cargo space, a non-issue for when you are no longer carrying children in back... just drop the seats.  Is the change a good one?

All those various factors bring us to today.  The current hold instructing dealers to delay delivery until a coordinated launch event has seemed to have become a 90-day pause.  Knowing the chip-shortage is becoming a huge nightmare and that production will be halted at several plants in Japan there is obviously going to lead to waiting anyway.  That provides ample opportunity to consider the same thing Tesla did.  It still looks like LFP cells are being used by the AWD.  If cells were NMC or NCA, there wouldn't be much of a reason for slower charging.  That longevity research & planning is well established.  Think about the market in China where LFP is already well established, slower charging is too.  We don't hear of any ultra-fast efforts similar to the obsession here.  That first DC fast-charging review of the AWD here certainly caught the world's attention.  What would be the tradeoff of an OTA (Over-The-Air) update allowing faster charges?  Why not analyze new data first?  After all, the circumstances are quite different now than when we first heard about longevity priority (UX300e) with common battery chemistry used here.  LFP is quite different.

There is so much to address at this critical juncture, most of which gets completely ignored by online rhetoric.  In fact, regardless of what happens, they will have their own twist on the facts.  Distortion from those that have a lot to lose is a realistic expectation.  Toyota has become both antithesis & scapegoat for enthusiasts.  To deal with that entire realm of misleading, confusion, and lack of awareness, I posted:

Lots of questions...

There is no doubt enthusiasts won't be happy with Toyota no matter what happens.  By taking such a different approach and not sharing priorities, it serves no purpose addressing wants of someone who would never be a customer anyway.  That means we should ask, what is really the rock and hard place?

CATL has something new to offer, something actual customers may deem a priority.  Think about how much CATL wants to grow and the potential a different chemistry could offer.  What we have seen so far certainly resembles LFP chemistry, something that wasn't available to Panasonic due to patent protection.  Is that type of tradeoff worth it though?  Take the risk?  Wait for what?

Charging speed presents an interesting problem.  It will never really be fast enough.  We already see the push for 150 kW as a base not being widely accepted.  Some see more as necessary, but refuse to acknowledge cost of infrastructure to support it.  When they criticize, was difference does it make?

What if it turns out that alternate chemistry really is LFP type?  Following some refinements to increase charging speed, would that "not an issue" situation become a situation?  Europe could find itself with less durable batteries.  Then what?

 

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