Personal Log  #728

January 26, 2016  -  February 3, 2016

Last Updated: Weds. 3/23/2016

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Explosive Reaction, shocking.  Within just 7 minutes of posting, I had already got 9 negative votes on my comment today.  It was on that daily blog for Volt.  Things are really falling apart with respect to sales and that's what the topic was today.  That has been the expectation for awhile.  So much hope had been deferred to gen-2, that they forgot how quickly things fell apart shortly after gen-1 was rolled out.  Shortcomings are very difficult to overcome once the transition from anticipation to on-the-road takes place.  The problem of not matching priorities becomes all too real.  Want cannot compensate for need.  They know it now too.  I was shocked how quickly that was confirmed.  Whoa!


Suggestions.  With the inevitable tax-credit end approaching, we do get a little bit of discussion about it now.  It isn't necessarily constructive, but at least there's something.  I particularly liked this comment: "It doesn't seem fair to essentially punish GM or Tesla for being pioneers in the market."  Naturally, my response didn't exactly get a warm welcome... despite providing an suggestion of a new approach:  It doesn't seem fair to punish automakers striving for maximum penetration either.  If the goal of tax-credits is to help the tech reach as many consumers as possible, why don't automakers get the choice to divide up the subsidies in terms of money rather than quantity?  Everyone who purchases early on is a pioneer.  $3,750 would benefit twice as many people than $7,500.  The recommendation should be to allow current automaker subsidies to end.  Focus new funding on infrastructure instead.  Give new subsidies to those who will struggle to get a level-2 charger installed, those who wouldn't otherwise purchase a vehicle with a plug.  In other words, the current subsidies are just the low-hanging fruit.  What's really not fair is ignoring those who follow.


First 2016 Reports.  It's exciting to read them.  Here's my view of the situation:  Gen-3 still doesn't get reported correctly, after all these years.  There are too many circumstances to keep in mind when trying to kind posts simple.  So, don't expect anything clearer for Gen-4.  That's just the way it is.  Fortunately, being a hybrid like Prius it doesn't matter anyway.  Whether you are in fuel-cut mode or EV doesn't make a whole lot of difference at highway speeds, since the energy flow changes so frequently.  The system is smart enough and flexible enough to exploit even the tiniest of efficiency opportunities.  Gen-3 has a top EV speed of 100 km/h (62.1 mph).  You won't see that unless you have the plug-in model though.  The reason for that is a simple matter of battery power & capacity.  Without plug-supplied electricity, there isn't much of an overall gain.  Without the plug, EV is restricted to 40 km/h (25 mph).  That's only available when the system is fully warmed up, but the advantage is you get more power than Stealth mode (the other EV mode).  That has less power and the system still needs to be warm, but the top speed is 74 km/h (46 mph).  Gen-4 is sad, since I don't have one yet.  It's a new twist.  I was a pioneer in 2000, 2003, 2009, and 2012.  Each time, my purchase was among the first in the country.  This time, I have to wait and live vicariously through others.  Though, I can point out that leaks online indicated a top EV speed with the new generation for the plug increased to 110 km/h (68.35 mph).  We also learned that both mechanical & electrical operation has been made more efficient.  What this means for the regular Gen-4 is interesting to read about through the experiences of new owners.  However, we really need someone with an aftermarket gauge to report actual RPM values.  Anecdotal observations are only the first step.  After all, we don't really know what "EV" truly represents.  With the current plug-in model, miles driven with the engine off (0 RPM) while in HV mode are not counted as EV... despite the fact they are traveled using only electricity and with the engine motionless.  Keep reporting to use what you find.  Thanks.


Diesel Mess.  Remember in the past how businesses did things for good will, taking an extra step simply for the sake of being nice?  True, it did help their bottom-line in the end, but there was a very real up-front monetary cost to the gesture.  They saw value in reputation.  Strengthening that by taking unnecessary effort went a long way.  With VW, we see them fighting the law to get us to accept their "good enough" claim through argument of detail.  It's very clear that spirit of the law was violated.  Whether that was intended or not doesn't matter.  The violation happened.  Now, they are making it worse by fighting instead of trying to negotiate an acceptable compromise.  Being "legal" wouldn't make it right anyway.  Even if they do get Europe to accept weaker standards, that doesn't address the growing emission problem.  Air pollution must be fixed.  Allowing dirty cars to contribute to smog issues is not helpful.  We've had to tolerate that nonsense for far too long.  Diesels just barely met minimum requirements.  Hybrids like Prius are the opposite extreme, earning the highest emission-rating for any fossil-fueled vehicle.  It's sad the problem could get so out of hand.  It's disheartening to see some people defending those actions.


New Rhetoric.  It's not as bad as it sounds, I think.  Seeing this yesterday gives an impression of much worse: "You know when you are talking about Prius' it is all about self righteous indignation."  There's hate from a few Volt owners like that still, thankfully they are far from the norm.  Unfortunately, he went on with: "The only way I could drive the Prius and not want to hit myself in the head with a hammer..."  That's the kind of stuff which contributed to the group-think in the past, allowing greenwashing to flourish.  That led to facts being voted down, where readers simply didn't care anymore.  It was something of amazement to see.  An opinionless statement conveying nothing but information about the topic of discussion would get outright dismissed.  Sadly, we see that on a regular basis with politics.  People have grown use to choosing not to acknowledge what they don't like.  Remember how popular Volt was claimed to be?  Many of those early-adopter sales were achieved with great lease bargains.  When those leases expired, many moved on to other vehicles.  The claimed "conquests" were lost as a result.  It was a short-term victory.  What kind progress was that?  As that technique for drawing sales began to slip, the bargain pricing was shifted over from lease to heavily discounted long-term sales.  That actually did seem better; however, it overlooked profit & tax-credit sacrifices.  In the end, hope was refocused on the gen-2 rollout... which brings us to where we are today.  Gen-2 Volt has been compared over and over to Prius.  The catch is, those reports totally disregarded the new Prius... which has only been available for roughly 2 weeks and in very limited locations.  Thankfully, the very first article actually comparing 2016 to 2016 was published this morning.  Both new generations.  Finally!  It asked: "Which green bestseller is right for you?"  I was intrigued by that title.  Sadly, all it did was say both have improved over their predecessor, gave a little history, then provided a few details.  That was it.  Disappointingly, the same approach as in the past was taken... pretend there's no such thing as a plug-in Prius.  In fact, there was even a bit that of greenwashing with: "The conventional hybrid Prius doesn't plug in at all."  Rereading what was written, this made it worse: "For the first time, the Prius Liftback offers two different battery packs."  Coming from a self-proclaimed green-car website, they should be called out.  That's blatant misleading.  The plug-in model obviously has a different battery-pack.  They've written a number of article about the plug-in Prius.  Heck, they even published one with this as the opening line: "Today, why the next Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid could be a game changer..."  If anything, they're extremely vague.  That's a major contributor to problems.  It's what feeds the rhetoric... which we are now see a ramp up of.


Automaker Pushback.  3 Leaf, 1 Volt, and my Prius PHV shared the plug-in parking area at the ramp today.  Sadly, that's considered impressive.  For a parking facility with an 85 kWh solar-array (which is just plain sweet), only having 6 chargers for the 1,600 parking spots is disheartening.  It's through no fault of their own.  They've been quite supportive.  It's the automotive market.  Interest for plugging in simply isn’t there, especially with gas so cheap now.  Reading today's article about automakers pushing back against MPG increase requirements should be no surprise to anyone.  It's magnitudes easier to sell a guzzler than it is a high-efficiency, low-emission vehicle.  The larger ones with lots of extras return a generous profit.  Since they are so inexpensive (relatively speaking) to operate, deliver great power, and offer generous seating & cargo space, people gladly pay the premium sticker-price.  For the small "economy" cars that offer just a basic profit, automakers produce them because they provide steady income for sales & service.  The "green" vehicles don't fit either category.  Unfortunately, not everyone is in agreement that those vehicles are the competition.  Much of the cooperation disconnect comes from approach.  Which is more effective, a large quantity with small impact from each or a small quantity with large impact from each?  Time and time again, the computer & device markets have shown us that small impact results in greater overall change.  In the automotive industry, look no further than ethanol usage.  Having nearly all of the gas vehicles running on a 10% ethanol mix has resulted in dramatically more ethanol displacing gasoline than the flex vehicles capable of running on an 85% ethanol mix.  Change is difficult, especially for the masses.  Finding ways to work around their natural urge to resist is a challenge, but can be very rewarding.  So, what does that mean for fuel economy standards?  Knowing those are going to be fought, the reality of that pushback must be clandestinely dealt with somehow.  Take the subtle approach.  Hybrids (both with & without plugs) advance battery production.  Their high-volume is a win for electric-only vehicles, even if those remain a niche until energy-density increases enough to deliver range similar to traditional without compromise to interior size or vehicle weight.  That means hybrids have a better chance of getting the industry to actually step away from guzzlers.  It's more of a gentle push while actually achieving a lot; though, the true impact scale won’t be recognized until much later.


Playing Catch-Up.  Most of the problems stemming from the antagonist Volt owners came from their lack of experience.  It was all new to them and they were too naive to believe mistakes of the past could be repeated.  So when the question of electric-only or plug-in hybrid comes up, they really don't have much of a background to support an argument either way.  That's why the struggle with Prius was so intense at times.  They just plain did understand the influences of market acceptance outside of their engineering knowledge.  The logic there were applying didn't correlate with the way people actually behave.  Oh well.  At least we can see progress being made, as slow as it is.  They are indeed catching up.  Too bad so much time was wasted waiting for that.  They made it worse by refusing to accept what was actually happening.  This is what I had to say about the topic today:  With respect to what makes more sense, EV or Plug-in Hybrid, it boils down to when the purchase will be made.  If it's just an individual making the choice for a purchase tomorrow, there are very few options actually available.  With over 17,000,000 of the vehicles sold last year here without plugs, inventory is very slim.  This time next year, the story should be quite different… though, gas will likely still be cheap.  Cost has a huge influence on EVs right now.  If you're willing to pay a higher price, you'll get decent range.  If not, you'll have to be very aware of your driving needs and plan accordingly.  The upcoming range-increase, cost-decrease next-gen models will directly address that.  Until then, buyers must carefully studies the choices.  This time next year should be engaging for plug-in hybrids.  Finally, there will be many more available, new models and a next-gen to draw consumers.  That variety of endorsements from automakers combined with the growing pressure to deal with the upcoming tax-credit expiration for some will push the market too… hopefully, in a helpful way.  Whatever the case, It will make the rollout of affordable 200-mile range EVs a situation the industry has never faced.  Making a purchase even later, who knows?  The problem of not having a place to plug in will likely become a driving factor (pun intended).  There are many properties with challenges preventing easy access to electricity.  Perhaps the end of tax-credit opportunities for automakers will be followed by increased/renewed tax-credits for homeowner & landlords.  A shift of focus at that point would stimulate further growth.  After all, the intent of the current tax-credits is to help automakers become establish. If they squander that money, it's their loss.  Upgrading infrastructure provide benefit too.  In other words, it's complicated.  That complexity will hinder interest.  Consumers will still be strongly attracted to traditional vehicles until simplicity arrives.  The choice will eventually become a no-brainer.  But right now, many don't care about efficiency… or sadly, emissions.  They choose neither.


Understanding, Past & Future.  How would you respond to this: "I still stand by my assertion that most people simply don't understand plug in hybrids, and this will most likely keep them from ever becoming *mainstream*."  My choice was sighting an analogy and pointing out consumer behavior:  Many automakers are betting against that belief, since it has recently become outdated.  Technology improves so rapidly, it makes sense.  After all, the typical consumer expects that.  The computer industry has seen this many times.  Many who missed the early generations have no idea there was even any issue.  For example, USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4.0 connections: both are fast, seamless, and reliable.  The mainstream buyer is clueless to barriers/limitations/issues of the past.  The upcoming next-gen hybrids with plugs will take advantage of high-density, low-cost lithium batteries.  That opens up opportunity which hasn't existed until now.  Another is wireless charging.  The convenience of simply parking over an induction-charger in your garage cannot be understated.  The connection is effortless.  Consumers are becoming comfortable with smart-phone apps too.  Being able to check on the status of their vehicle, along with getting a slew of handy statistics, is both enticing & empowering.  Again, this is something that wasn't available until recent.  Looking at hybrids specifically, the MPG value is all consumers have ever focused on.  They couldn't care less about EV purity.  If the vehicle has an engine, they expect to see a very high number for MPG.  The plug-in hybrids deliver exactly what they expect.  That meeting of expectations is what will draw mainstream interest.


Easy To See.  The hate from that new person became quite undeniable.  Attack posts popped up today.  One started with this: "Again, WTF are you talking about?  Goals?  More nonsense?  There's a surprise!"  It when on with a rant about Prius.  Reading it was amusing.  The expression of frustration was immense.  There was some parroting too.  That's the ultimate.  The person will simply just recite back what they found most aggravating from you.  It confirms you struck a nerve... which wasn't the point, but that does serve as verification that a shortcoming was correctly identified.  When something is incorrect, they'll explain why.  Having nothing whatsoever to respond with speaks for itself.  As for the not knowing what I'm talking about, it's clear the person doesn't have a background in business.  That's to be expected.  Some things you know a lot about, some things you don't.  It's important to know what subject areas you aren't well informed of, then listen.  Posting insults and questioning purpose is most definitely not constructive.  That pattern of behavior is easy to see.  Today, that was epically true.


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