Prius Personal Log  #1156

July 19, 2022  -  July 24, 2022

Last Updated:  Mon. 9/19/2022

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Tradeoff Awareness.  It is quite remarkable how we are starting at the beginning with BEV promotion.  All the early-adopter years did was prove the technology was viable... that's it.  Basics, like how DC fast-charging actually works and the importance of mi/kWh, were dismissed entirely... pushed aside an unimportant.  That attitude came from enthusiasts not caring about what those of the past had learned, very specifically Prius owners.  That lack of attention was a red-flag long ago which no one cared about.  Remember how the Volt enthusiasts didn't care about how much electricity they consumed?  Their only priority was not using gas.  Ugh.  Anywho, nothing was learned from that history and it is repeating again.  The article of this title was an alert to that: "How do I know how much range I actually need in a EV?"  Reading it was confirmation.  Here's the comment I posted in reply to a share:  There is a tradeoff.  Too much means an efficiency penalty.  That extra weight you are always carrying but rarely ever need will cause mi/kWh to drop.  Notice how almost no discussion involving range actually address that?  This article made no mention whatsoever of how efficient the choices are.  Disregarding something so vital is not proper journalism.  It is worse than completely ignoring MPG but saying one vehicle is better at road trips because it has a bigger gas tank.  Every mile driven will consume more electricity when carrying more battery.  That type of waste should be prevented by raising awareness of the tradeoff.


Misleading Titles.  We are seeing them emerge from within: "Chevrolet unveils $45,000 electric Blazer with up to 320 miles of range to take on Ford's popular Mustang Mach-E"  Remember how Ford did that with their hybrid?  They advertised the C-Max against Prius V, leaving out vital information to make it look better.  The exclusion from this example today is that price mentioned is for the base model that delivers 247 miles.  If you want the 320 miles, you will have to pay quite a bit more.  That's a sign of the EV market not addressing the right audience.  It confirms a targeting of EV enthusiasts, not ordinary shoppers.  When a BEV goes head-to-head with an ICE vehicle, then you know we have reached a tipping point.  Right now, we are clearly within the introductory stage.  New vehicles for the early years shouldn't be a surprise.  Our absence of DCFC should make that a subject that cannot be debated, if not outright obvious.  In fact, that is the very reason there is so much focus on range at the moment.  It is sighted as a priority due to the lack of places to recharge.  We still have a long way to go.


The Only Option.  Ugh!  He absolutely refused to even acknowledge my perspective reference: "...facts are facts.  Most people can barely afford one car.  Few can buy a city car and a second car for long trips.  They need one car that can do it all.  The only option is a bigger battery."  It is that same single-mindedness those GM enthusiasts had until the bitter end.  There was only one way to solve the problem  They were convinced they had the right tool for the job.  Nothing else was necessary.  It's the same thing I see at work as a software engineer.  You need to explore options.  Just because you can solve a problem with a specific language or application doesn't mean the is the best way to do it.  I find the argument itself absurd.  Since when must you own the vehicle you use for a long trip?  People borrow & rent vehicles.  How often do you need that ability anyway?  It's like those who insist towing capacity must be available for use at any moment.  Why pay for something you rarely ever need... especially when the requirement can be fulfilled by other means.  That is exactly what I ask when meeting with others at work.  If you plug in more often, you'll still get to your destination with the so-called city car.  Shorter range does not mean you cannot travel.  Long trips are still possible.  That's a fact he didn't like.  There are other options.  I punched back with:  That's not true.  This isn't rocket science.  You just recharge more frequently instead.  With the number of DCFC increasing and new battery choices support more recharge cycles (like LFP), there's no point paying for extra capacity and carrying that extra weight.  Again, a bigger battery is not the only option.


City Car.  Some people don't want to accept the difference of audience: "I'm not saying that won't help, but LFP currently doesn't have the range for most owners.  A car is an expensive purchase, and you can't ask people to buy a "city car" for $30K or more.  It needs to be capable of taking long road trips.  It needs long range to justify the price."  More battery was the only solution, period.  We saw that nightmare play out for Volt, enthusiasts refused to face reality.  Less battery could be better.  Why not offer a smaller pack here, like automakers already do elsewhere.  The immediate cost reduction from fewer cells is obvious, but there is also a resulting efficiency improvement from the reduced weight.  In fact, that is exactly why Toyota targeted a balance for their initial rollout, rather than deal with multiple models right out the gate.  As a matter of fact, that is why VW has plans to introduce the locally built ID.4 with a smaller battery.  2 years after introduction is good timing.  The added benefit comes with an additional cost reduction from no longer having to import, since those will be coming from Tennessee.  Anywho, none of the topic being discussed is new.  We've heard this before.  I pointed that out with a tool reference, addressing the problem with a look from a different perspective:  Echo of the past, enthusiasts reciting rhetoric of claiming not enough.  Making matters worse, that is a single-tool mindset... use a tool for every fix, even if a different tool is required.  Why is the only solution more battery?  That's short-sightedness is how we ended up falling behind.  Notice how Europe & China don't make the same claim?  People there take road trips too. The difference is, they have a build up of infrastructure years ahead of us.  They also have a single plug standard.  In other words, it makes no sense wasting cells to deliver long-range BEV when more right-sized BEV can be delivered instead and just depend upon fast-charging along the way on road trips.  After all, the fastest part of the DC curve is when SOC is low.  No need to push to 80% when plenty of chargers are available.


LFP for Ford.  This quote is good reason to stand up and take notice: "The company intends to add the LFP option to the existing Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NMC) type as soon as in 2023 in the case of the Ford Mustang Mach-E and in early 2024 in the case of the Ford F-150 Lightning."  Those cells will be supplied by the Chinese Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL).  This is becoming far more than just a coincidence.  With the patents having expired less than 3 months ago, it appears to be the industry was waiting for this moment... well, all but Tesla.  The new cells from Tesla are in an awkward state now.  How do you rollout something that was supposed to be revolutionary that ended up evolutionary?  In other words, Tesla is feeling the pain of age & growth.  It was easy to play the game when there were limited players and limited opportunity.  That was a captive audience, one with lots of money.  Selling to ordinary middle-markets consumers is far more difficult and requires a totally different approach.  This is that Innovator's Dilemma we've been talking about for years... with GM, who is also in a similar situation.  Both automakers... Tesla with 4680 and GM with Ultium... now face package & chemistry challenges.  How do you compete with the basics... what CATL is delivering?  Rather than get into those details, I decided to go for the reinforcement message... repeating what I have said countless times:  Toyota established a battery supply partnership with CATL back in 2019.  The cells provided by CATL for the North American AWD model of bZ4X share traits remarkably similar to LFP chemistry.  It shouldn't be a surprise to find out that is indeed what ended up being used.  After all, Toyota's priority has been to focus on longevity... which is a strength of LFP.


Common & Convenient.  A troublemaker from the start, 15 years ago sounded off yesterday with: "They needed to make a Voltec (Chevy Volt) version about 10 years ago.  No plug-in since Volt has ever equaled it, and Equinox-size would have lured more buyers."  He was dead set against that back then and hated me for pushing that very idea.  But as hypocritical as many of the antagonists are, he now looks back with a complete different perspective... one contradictory to his own past.  That's why I took quiet a bit of time to consider how to answer such a reversal.  This was my reply:

When that need comment was made a decade ago, enthusiasts were not happy.  Their logic would be a shift of attention away from Volt would be detrimental to the technology.  That made no sense.  GM's loyal customers wanted SUVs, not a compact hatchback.  Volt looked from the start just a conquest effort due to that absence of interest for spreading the technology.

Ironically, it was Toyota who got labeled the antithesis in the situation, stating their plug-in hybrid technology was a dead end . It proved the opposite with RAV4 Prime becoming exactly what Equinox Voltec could have been.  RAV4 Prime has proven a popular choice.  GM dropped the ball, resting on it laurels.  Fortunately, that PHEV abandonment of diversity didn't result in a loss of BEV support.

Now, we see Equinox as a BEV should do well to attract plug-in shoppers.  Absence of a PHEV option is unfortunate, since our infrastructure is clearly not up to the chore for those who lack level-2 charging access.  Only having level-1 is a challenge with a battery-pack size of at least 60 kWh, but works fine with less than 20 kWh.  That means more missed opportunity for GM.

Keep in mind how many households are dual ownership, both PHEV and BEV.  It's a winning combination until we see DC fast-charging become common & convenient.


Outdated approach.  I turned his reply upside-down: "The biggest reason for a large battery is longevity.  A small battery will be cycled many times more than a large one, which means the battery will not last as long.  A small battery is fine for a scooter."  Once upon a time, that was a logical approach.  Now, it outdated.  Here's why:  It makes no sense using a brute-force method like that to achieve longevity when there is a far better option available now, using different chemistry.  LFP offers more than double the number of cycles.  We're seeing recognition of it too... since the final patent expired less than 3 months ago.  Tesla jumped on that new approach right away.  Ford recently made an announcement that they'll have some models offering LFP as well.  Then there's Toyota, who has been rather subtle, but the traits of the battery in the North America AWD model of bZ4X raise curiosity of it being LFP too.  Think about the benefit of a smaller battery.  It fits better in smaller vehicles.  It is more efficient, since weight is reduced. It cost less too, since there are fewer cells.  There's less of a tradeoff with LFP as well, since it can routinely be charged to 100% without impact to longevity.


Constructive Replies.  From the same post, I got the opposite type of response: "Maybe even more transformative: public L2s in places where people are out and about (malls, restaurants, movie theaters).  Even for traveling, if there's an L2 where you're stopping for lunch it will still give you a good boost."  It's nice seeing comments like that.  I volleyed the discussion back with:  I have been stopping at the local grocery store for years, taking advantage of the L2s.  Even short visits are enough to restore my PHEV back to an all-electric drive the remainder of the trip home.  When I replace that with a BEV this fall, I will continue to use those L2s.  Plugging in tends to stir questions from curious on-lookers.  Eventually, the 16 parks in my county (Dakota, in Minnesota) will be getting DCFC installs.  That came about from early success with some L2 chargers.  The proposal they submitted provides a compelling draw to those locations.  The new stations will have lots of lights and security cameras, sending a message of safety.  It's a long-term approach that makes a lot of sense for attracting those who appreciate the outdoors.  I'm tired of the enthusiast obsession with range & speed.  They don't understand the cost of diminishing returns.  It's reaching a point of overkill, something automakers are coming to terms with for attracting mainstream consumers.  Not everyone needs the largest or fastest. In fact, the extra cost isn't exactly something to brag about.


Obvious Distractions.  My question of "If there are DCFC all over the place, what the heck do you need a huge battery for?" was responded to with a series of obvious distractions.  It was basically just more of the same nonsense, reasons that have nothing to do with what I asked and things that only applied to specific people.  For the typical owner, there was no point.  In fact, I was rather annoyed.  Rather than the usual dropping of bait with the hope I would follow the tangent, there was an entire list of unrelated items.  When an antagonist losing control of their narrative, they get desperate.  Fact is, the effort to have charging-stations available every 50 miles along highways is underway.  At the same time, individual cities are looking into ways to promote EV growth as well.  In my case, 16 of the county parks here have plans proposed for DC fast-charger installs.  That makes for an interesting outlook.  Those parks have a lot to offer.  Being able to stop there for a charge is quite a draw, something I haven't heard others ever mention.  It's yet another problem with the claim that a huge battery is necessary.  Anywho, this is how I replied to that:  Evading focus of the question doesn't change anything.  When the time comes that DCFC are all over the place... where you find several locations in each city... purpose for a huge battery is moot.  The benefit fades away as DCFC become more common.


Equinox BEV.  Surprise!  It is already listed on GM's website, in their "upcoming" section.  I am very, very curious what enthusiasts will have to say about it.  I didn't wait to voice my observations on the topic, stirring the pot for some active dialog.  This is what I posted, with the hope of constructive exchange:  The trend for BEV to offer an entry-level model is already common in Europe.  We will be seeing that here too. For a price of $30K, don't expect a 300-mile range.  Large capacity packs simply don't make sense in a market were vehicles are expensive and there's a push for DC fast-charging to become common.  If there are DCFC all over the place, what the heck do you need a huge battery for?  It turns that "dead weight" argument around... extra weight & cost with a permanent efficiency penalty to deliver rarely used range.  In short, what we learn about an affordable Equinox BEV should be very interesting.


62 kWh Capacity.  Much to the dismay of enthusiasts here, that trend of entry-level capacity choices we already see in Europe is coming here.  Range is below the arbitrary threshold they set.  So now, many of those who attacked Toyota based on supposed too few EV miles available are having to carefully avoid reference to any of their own previous claims.  It's quite a hypocritical corner they backed themselves into.  I'm rather amused.  What did they expect?  Expensive vehicles delivering awesome driving distances between charges don't make sense.  People don't drive that far routinely.  In fact, it is quite rare to have to ever take trips beyond 200 miles.  With the effort to promote DC fast-charger growth, carrying excess capacity like that is contradictory.  Extra cost resulting in an efficiency loss from the extra weight is a very real problem.  So, they are in a bit of a pickle from today's news of a 62 kWh capacity ID.4 on the way.  That production is set to begin this year in the United States and will be a 2023 model with a starting price of $35,000.


Blazer Ads.  The hype from GM is growing already.  To my surprise, I caught the tail-end of a Blazer EV advertisement this evening.  I wasn't paying close attention to the television, so all I saw was the banner as it was concluding.  A quick search on YouTube was all it took to find that ad.  It was a snippet of a 7-minute promotional video GM just released.  I was intrigued to read the comments.  Naturally, there were supporters showering it with praise.  I was curious if I would find any mention of where it would be made.  I had looked that up already.  Production will be in Mexico.  That is already a problem for Detroit workers.  They feel very uncomfortable with the American image of engineering superiority being an import.  Most comments were about how it looked, all complimentary.  Someone asked if it came with a frunk.  For some reason, not having one is a shortcoming.  Ugh.  Turns out, the same reasoning Toyota gave was what GM engineers also provided.  Why waste physical space for under the hood when it can be used for the cabin instead?  There wasn't much else in the +700 comments posted.  I found one asking about heat-pump availability.  No one responded to that.  Ads like this will continue.  GM will promote their EV image.  Whether or not we see actual change of the status quo at their dealerships is the question... as always.  Nothing happened with either Volt or Bolt.  An entire year before the first Blazer rolls out makes you re-evaluate the narrative about Toyota.


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