Personal Log  #746

May 14, 2016  -  May 23, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 7/24/2016

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Exploring Options.  Hopefully, this will stir some constructive messages to be posted:  It will have been 19 years for Prius since introduction.  Prime will provide a means of the trying something new, finding out what this new "battery centric" market will buy.  You want practical?  You want a 5th seat?  You want a plug-in hybrid?  Purchase a Prime version of Camry.  Think about the full-size market.  What will other automakers offer?  The business must expand.  Sales will come from a variety of buyers.  The configuration of Prime is an effort to explore options.


Downplaying Chargers.  This is a very real growing problem: "Installing a 240v outlet and buying a L2 EVSE is easy for the consumer when they contract out the work.  The cost is relatively low compared to the cost of a new vehicle."  Those deeply involved with the EV market forget what it's like to be part of the mainstream.  That ordinary consumer perspective is lost.  It's really unfortunate.  The reminders of that doesn't always go over well either.  Today's attempt may or may not.  I'm really not sure what the response to this will be:  Know your audience.  Mainstream consumers will not in any way consider that easy.  It's an expense with a very uncertain price (house wiring varies dramatically) and requires the effort to choose which 240-volt charger to actually purchase.  That option will not interest KISS buyers.  Think about how difficult just the decision of which vehicle to buy is.  The last thing we want to do is add an intimidation factor by introducing plug complexity.  We have much to do to get ordinary people interested in L2 charging.  It's just not realistic for the masses yet.  That's the reality of the situation now.  Hopefully with Gen-3 offerings, the audience would have changed.  Currently, we're stuck with the idea of plugging being far too new still.  Starting with 120-volt is a simplicity Toyota plans to take advantage of.  Think about how routine daily plugging in was 5 years ago.  People would go days between charging their phones. Not anymore, the big screens and data services drain the battery quickly.  Plugging in not only has become an ordinary thing to do each night, many people now are taking advantage of wireless pads to recharge during the day too.  Patience.


Who?  I decided to ask that question of GM about Toyota, clearly showing favorites are not being played.  To make that point stand out, I made it in the form of a rant:  Why have Volt sales been such a struggle?  What makes the particular capacity of 53 miles a draw?  Why have both enthusiasts and GM itself moved attention to Bolt instead?  There are an abundant number of simple excuses available as answers to those questions.  We've seen countless debates over the years.  All provide reasoning.  None reach beyond enthusiasts though.  Appeal to ordinary consumers isn't a matter of logic.  For that matter, it isn't a decision based upon emotion either.  There's a very real problem of stirring interest.  Desire from dealers to offer plug-in choices is extremely low.  Why?  Not even being able to overcome that hurdle means the customer base will remain enthusiasts only.  For a mainstream consumer to even consider a purchase, the vehicle must be readily available.  Seeing it on the showroom floor, then being able to immediately go for a test-drive is priceless.  That's how sales to ordinary people happen.  This thread claiming DOA doesn't address that.  Why is such a fundamental principle like that still being overlooked?  Toyota's decision to deliver a system "only" offering 22 miles actually addresses the issue.  You'll get full EV performance that's easy to understand, but won't have to bother discussing EV support.  With a pack that size, there's simply no need for a level-2 charger at home.  Salespeople can simply point out that faster charging is available, but the 120-volt outlet in their garage is already enough.  Nothing else needs to be said.  Intimidation, Anxiety, Uncertainty, Skepticism, Concern... they are all dealt with entirely.  It's a no-worry sales pitch the customer won't have any reason to question.  Prime won't be a plug-in model of Prius either.  There are obvious stand-out features, extras no available with Prius.  That makes it even more of a draw.  True, that will obviously compel some interested in Prius to purchase a Prime instead.  However, Prime will also stir interest in some who aren't interested in Prius.  It's complimentary product, rather than competing.  I wonder why some people don't see those qualities of Prime.  My guess is they are quick to judge, unaware of all the factors actually at play.  Since many were not paying close attention to the market until recently, that seems a reason thought.  After all, if you aren't interested in a purchase soon, why would you participate in discussions?  You'd have to be a supporter of the technology... which means you aren't an ordinary consumer.  Who is the market for Prime?


42 Miles.  I had a lot of driving around to do.  So, I figured... why not do some "stacking" last night.  That's something I had only done while on vacation, when there's no opportunity to plug the Prius in.  It's something not encouraged, since not doing it properly will cause MPG to drop.  The technique is simple, you push the EV button whenever you are slowing down.  The purpose is simple, to recharge the battery pack.  That same recharging would happen anyway, regardless of whether or not you take advantage of the button.  The difference is, the electricity generated while still in HV mode is later consumed in HV mode.  While in EV mode, the electricity is saved for when you designate it should be used.  That comes in handy if you know for certain you will be in a situation that is best served by EV.  If not, you actually miss out from the opportunity to have the engine join in.  Consequently, overall efficiency will be lower.  Remember, Prius PHV is a plug-in hybrid.  The engine is there for a reason... to reduce emissions & consumption.  It's goal is not to eliminate gas use entirely.  Only-Electric has tradeoffs.  Balance is better.  That's why Toyota only reports EV miles driven as EV values.  The HV values include electric-only driving.  (We've been calling that "stealth" mode for the past 15.5 years.)  Anywho, that's what I did today.  The results certainly were interesting.  From the 2 charges for the day, the result was 88 MPG.  Total distance traveled was 86.8 miles.  EV miles was 42.  For HV, it was 43.  You add those up, it only comes to 85.  The reason is simple, Toyota truncates the value.  That EV was literally only 100 feet or so short of the incrementing.  I was carefully watching the odometer.  But I wanted to reach my garage with 0.1 EV still remaining, I could take photos without outside glare.  Also, my camera was in the house.  Needless to say, 42 is well above the expected 22 miles.  That's 21 miles of EV between plugging in.  It confirms design can deliver, it used well.  Of course, the 88 MPG speaks for itself anyway.  Heck, even with mindless driving, an average of 70 MPG would still be far better than any traditional hybrid could deliver.


Get Over It!  His choice to make it personal, calling me out but not wanting to accept the facts presented left me at the podium.  So, I kept on posting:  Another thing you are refusing to acknowledge is the fact that Volt's audience has changed.  It was originally marketed as a mainstream vehicle, something for families of all types.  As the years progressed, the market changed.  It became a specialty vehicle, targeting a more narrow audience... one that 4 seats is fine for... which is why my "lambasting" ended.  Toyota is targeting that 4-seat audience with Prime right from the start.  It's a vehicle different from Prius, not just a plug-in model as PHV was.  Heck, Toyota even stated it was for the grown up family, who's children are not older.  Those children will be driving sometimes, no longer in a carseat or bringing along a friend to squeeze in back.  That comfort and the extra tech-features are not what you'll find in a regular Prius.  Again, I tired of getting labeled as hypocritical by omitting detail which shows that's not actually the case.  Things change.  Look at how different the audience is no compared to back when the gen-1 vehicles were first rolled out.  Get over it!


Acceptance.  He fired back, attempting a counter-attack by implying I was being hypocritical: "As for refusing to acknowledge change, that is a very interesting charge from the person who lambasted GM for making a 4 seater, yet applauds it when Toyota does it."  I found his cherry-picking an dead-giveaway.  After having been through this very thing with him several times already, it was quite clear he wasn't going to accept anything presented.  So, I just posted what I felt others would learn from this exchange:  Ironically, I changed my stance and you continue to refuse to acknowledge why.  I accepted the 4-seat reasoning, then moved on to leg & head room. Portraying me a s hypocritical for actually accepting the arguments of others is not constructive.  I changed.  Why can't you accept that?  Why stay stuck in the past?  The misrepresentation does not advance discussions.  You learn something, then accept the change.


Anti-Hybrid.  My frustration hit a tipping point.  I'm tired of this particular individual.  He's an EV owner (a purist) who turned antagonist  This is what pushed me too far: "The reason Tesla, and other EVs will continue to grow market share while hybrids remain stagnant is hybrids are a one trick pony.  The only unique advantage they have is fuel efficiency."  Post after post has been denial, contradiction, and pessimism.  I let him have it, intentionally making it personal:  Your dismissal of hybrids in favor of EV never ceases to fascinate.  You simply refuse to acknowledge change.  Toyota just rolled out a much-improved Prius and will be rolling out a new plug-in model later this year.  That alone is a wake-up to the market.  They just entered the small SUV hybrid market too.  What about that?  Then there's the fact that VW diesel owners thrive on efficiency (and supposedly being clean) who will looking for replacement vehicles.  We have new players joining in too.  Hyundai, Chrysler, Mitsubishi all offering new hybrid market choices.  There is also the economic factor of EV providing an endorsement effect for hybrids.  Those who still believed rechargeable batteries weren't good enough for automotive use will finally see they are.  In other words, stop being so anti-hybrid. You're not doing any good by disregarding so much recent change.


2,000,000 Problems.  This is a really big oops.... or was it?  Supposedly, there was a clerical error of some sort that resulted in the window-stickers for the 2016 model-year of 3 large GM vehicles to state MPG incorrectly.  The mistake showed much greater efficiency than the vehicle actually delivered.  In other words, customers didn't get what they paid for.  That left a number of watchdogs suspicious.  How could that have happened?  It was especially perplexing by the fact that nothing had changed between the 2015 and 2016 production.  Things just plain didn't add up.  Well, turns out, the previous years were wrong too.  So, whether or not the resulting information was intentionally wrong or it was accidental really doesn't matter anymore.  There are roughly 2 million customers who will be expecting some form of compensation.  Think about how many gallons just a few MPG difference makes when you're driving a monster-size guzzler.  That's a lot of problems to deal with.


Surprise.  What comes to mind when you read this: "Ordering sight unseen can be a surprise."  I was intrigued.  What did he actually mean?  Unfortunately, my post didn't result in anything.  It was essentially ignored.  Knowing the poster well, I knew that point made was received.  He didn't have anything noteworthy.  It was just a gut reaction.  People often do that.  It's often the nature of online comments.  Constructive exchanges are much more of a challenge.  Though, I continue to try:  Nowadays, a great deal of research can be done online.  Heck, consider how much video footage is available, filmed by owners, supporters, and enthusiasts.  There's a wealth of articles & reviews that are easy to find too.  I would think just about everything, except what the test-drive experience reveals, can be learned unseen (not in person).  Of course, even knowledge of some aspects like acceleration, handling, and comfort can be obtained vicariously.  What would you anticipate as potentially a surprise factor?

5-15-2016 Gas Prices.  They are really low.  We're seeing a struggle with sales of clean & efficient vehicles as a result.  A recent article published stirred a new discussion.  I took advantage of that opportunity to climb up on the soapbox:

The business choice of not rolling out Prius PHV further, limiting it to just the 15 initial states, then ending production without any word of future plans caused quite a stir.  Some people absolutely refused to accept the reality that a much-improved successor would follow, labeling Toyota as unwilling to support anything with a plug.  Their greenwashing efforts, based on nothing but anecdotal evidence, was relentless.  It was a sign of industry change and the inability to deal with it.  They made up excuses to feel better.

Since then, we have got confirmation that there was indeed a much-improved successor on the way.  The conclusions drawn based on just observations of the automaker alone were proven incorrect.  The problem was as stated, the market has changed.  That new audience would be even more difficult to reach.  This article about some hybrid owners switching back to traditional vehicles highlights the problem isn't just how to get people out of traditional vehicles.  There's a step backwards occurring.

Personally, I'm really annoyed that so many Volt enthusiasts fought against me, claiming traditional vehicles were not the competition.  They were wrong, very wrong.  So much time & effort was wasted trying to prove they wouldn't impair sales.  They claimed battery technology would improve to such a degree, sales would grow.  Nothing else mattered.  They'd dismiss evidence to the contrary.  Heavy dependence on tax-credit subsidies and the hope of higher gas prices was what they focused on.

They why I focused on Toyota's goal of cost-competitiveness.  They never gave into GM's approach of striving to deliver more EV by making tradeoffs.  Wandering too far from the purchase priorities of mainstream consumers means a struggle to sell... which is exactly what we've seen with Volt.  Low gas prices and the effect that has had on the hybrid market make that rather obvious.

Think about how Toyota was able to share the Prius platform with Prime to keep cost low.  How much battery-capacity could be added without raising the floor and having to find a location for the charger without using the middle seat?  You wouldn't get much, but we've all seen how much of a space penalty there is for offering a lot more.

Toyota's choice to use a little more space, but require major inconvenience is what we'll be getting.  It will be something to entice buyers to take a closer look.  That little bit of compromise provides a reinforcing effect, reminding the owner of their choice to not just succumb to low gas prices.  It's basically a tiny ego stroke... which is exactly what Prius has provided for the past 16 years.

Something new was needed in this market now facing a saturation issue.  Traditional vehicles offering interior features that had once been exclusive to Prius means offering a new draw.  22 miles of EV is just enough to satisfy without increasing cost substantially.  It's just enough to make those considering the purchase of a traditional vehicle to take a closer look.


New Approach.  The topic of style is interesting.  It hasn't been given much attention in the past.  Prius was so different, it stood out.  That was the end of discussion.  No depth ever came about.  Style posts were brief, drawing conclusions with very little consideration.  The reveal of Prime has changed that.  Rather than just a plug-in model coming about as a package option, Toyota took the next step.  That's a cost-reduction not taken advantage of.  But this plan for national rollout is 5 years later.  The market has changed quite a bit since the first generation.  This second generation will offer new twists, which bring about new comments like: "I can't get excited by the carbon fibre or curved rear window, but who knows, maybe that will attract..."  New is what we want, as I explained:  Toyota wants to draw in buyers outside of the usual Prius interest.  Making Prime different enough to stand out, yet still deliver on the Prius fundamentals, is the point.  With a goal of phasing out traditional vehicles, you can't just keep following the traditional approach.  This isn't a matter of conquest sales from other automated.  It's trying to figure out how to get Toyota's own traditional customers to now choose their hybrids.


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