Personal Log  #751

June 24, 2016  -  July 8, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 7/24/2016

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Prius Prime Is Better, official FAQ.  It's nice when truly constructive questions pop up in a discussion.  In this case, it was to ask what information had been released about charging times from Toyota.  Turns out, some people find it challenging to actually find that.  After all, online searches return an overwhelming number of links.  The act of determining which has what you need and if that source can be trusted isn't easy.  Fortunately, I save detail like that.  You never know when it could be handy to have readily available.  In this case, I was able to share...  This is Toyota's official FAQ on recharge time for Prius Prime:  Prius Prime's battery can be charged in 5.5 hours by plugging the included charge cable into a standard household outlet.  When using a public charging station (240V), Prius Prime can be fully charged in just under 2.5 hours.


Prius Prime Is Better, tangents.  Inevitably, someone will derail the topic by mentioning fuel-cell vehicles.  It's annoying, but understandable.  I just simply respond with some perspective to get the discussion back on track:  Effective greenwashing has led many to believe fuel-cell and electric-only vehicles are mutually exclusive.  In reality, they will coexist.  It is a means of getting uninformed readers to undermine discussion threads and discredit Toyota.  Ultimately, the goal is to divert attention and prevent awareness of cost & profit importance.  Prius Prime taking advantage of Toyota's new production approach aged keeping the pack relatively small helps to establish it as a high-volume vehicle capable of actually competing directly with the true competition without tax-credits traditional vehicles.  What other plug-in hybrid is positioned for that?


Prius Prime Is Better, real-world data.  Being an entirely new topic to discuss, it was easy to draw interest.  An effective way of rallying the troops is to interject real-world data.  So, I did:  12.0 miles exactly for EV on the commute home yesterday.  All were consecutive.  I simply drove and stopped when 0.1 miles of range was left and shut off the Prius for a summary photo.  It said 11.9 miles had been traveled with just electricity.  I had 2 quick jaunts on the highway at 55 mph and there were 2 big hills to climb.  No big deal... and twice the distance claimed.  Overall efficiency for the round-trip, with a recharge at work, was 145 MPG.  That's great for 39.9 miles of driving with the Prius PHV.  Just think what the Prius Prime will be able to do on that same route driven the same way.


Prius Prime Is Better, comparing.  I rarely start new threads.  But when you see this title on an article, then discover why, you must: "3 Reasons Toyota Expects the Prius Prime to Be a Huge Success".  The reasoning was greenwash material.  I was frustrated:  It's pretty easy to mislead about past hybrid system characteristics with an audience unfamiliar with the history.  We've seen this type of misleading in the past with the regular model of Prius.  So, it was pretty much inevitable when the next generation of plug-in model rolled out.  It started with this statement about Prius PHV (the first generation of plug-in hybrid): "It's hard to argue with Toyota executives on this point.  The first Prius plug-in was rated by the EPA at 11 EV miles, but a look at reveals it could only go 6 miles on electric power alone."  That's blatant misleading.  The capacity of plug-supplied electricity clearly isn't consumed entirely at the 6-mile mark in the EPA testing cycle.  That topic was beaten to death over the first few years following rollout.  Greenwash attempts were plentiful, but all fell short when actual kWh capacity was considered.  There really is 11 miles of EV available.  Driving without a hard-acceleration, like the EPA test has, easily confirms that.  The next was frustrating to read: "Imagine finding a Level 2 (240v) charger and hanging out for 1.5 hours every time you wanted to get the old Prius PHEV fully charged.  It sounds ridiculous when you only get 6 electric miles out of the deal, but that's how long it took on a 240v connection.  On a standard household outlet (110v), it would take between three and four hours to fill the battery."  Not only was there that same misleading point about EV range, it also included an outright lie.  On a standard household outlet, it only takes 2.5 hours to fully recharge.  That attempt to claim it's 3 to 4 hours is so wrong and blatantly incorrect, I can't help but to get angered from reading it.  Sadly, the reasons for those statements was to convince us that Prius Prime (the second generation of plug-in hybrid) will be much more successful.  That's not the slightest bit constructive. Omitting vital detail and including information that is clearly not right really frustrates, to say the least.  Why do some people do that?


July Sales.  What a sad situation.  June was a mess for the industry anyway.  The approach of year-end model clearance puts uncertainly on the market.  Slowed sales of everything due to economic pressure adds to that.  The shockingly low price for a gallon of gas makes it even worse.  Why even consider a hybrid?  Fortunately, Toyota really did as some of us had anticipated.  The expiration of NiMH patents allowed for new opportunity.  That's what provided such a low cost difference for RAV4.  The AWD XLE model has a $28,570 MSRP.  The hybrid version of the XLE model has a $29,270 MSRP.  That's only $700 more.  Talking about a sweet deal.  It explains the 3,751 sales, despite so many factors working against that type of success.  Toyota is clearly capitalizing on the demand for small SUVs.  We haven't seen growth for the new Prius either.  Sales are basically flat, all things considered.  One glimmer of hope is the buybacks of VW cheater diesels present a strong probability for contributing to hybrid growth.  It's hard to image owners who took pride in high MPG going back to guzzlers.  Why not restore some pride by purchasing a hybrid as a replacement vehicle?


Meritless Claims, part 2.  I followed up right away, with a separate post to emphasize how meritless I found the claim to be.  It's really annoying to get brainless cheerleading like that.  It only serves to undermine too.  Rather than providing support for the overall goal of reducing emissions & consumption, it just turns into trying to deliver the best niche product.  What good is that?  It's why I asked: "Who is the market for Volt?"  Knowing GM wasn't targeting ordinary consumers, that their intent to deliver a mainstream vehicle went horribly wrong, made it imperative to get supporters back on track.  They didn't like it at all.  In fact, many hated me as a result.  I didn't care.  Their disregard for the masses ruined their credibility.  When their best efforts were obviously insincere, I was encouraged.  My own efforts would ultimately reveal what needed to be done.  They'd have to suck up their pride and join in to build a partnership.  This was yet another post to that effect:  Isn't the minivan coming from Chrysler part of the old partnership that GM had with the development of Two-Mode plug-in tech… which ultimately led to Volt?  Also, we'll be seeing Hyundai and Mitsubishi rolling out plug-in hybrids.  Then, there's BMW now and Nissan planning serial-extenders.


Meritless Claims, part 1.  I was absolutely delighted upon reading this today: "I think GM has a significant edge over the other manufacturers with their Voltec system."  Nothing has come from claims like that in the past.  They has a little merit to them back then too.  But since then, the cost, efficiency, and appeal has proven that's not the case.  We're seeing other automakers strive to reach the goal GM couldn't as well.  I really wanted to know what edge that poster was talking about.  So, I asked:  Ford, Toyota, and Honda all have plug-in hybrid systems.  What makes GM's stand out?


$14.7 Billion.  It looks like VW is in far more trouble than anticipated.  That expectation of around $10 Billion ended up being just the consumer part.  Paying for repair or replacement is very important, but there is also the damage to the environment that has already taken place to consider.  Money will needed for that too.  It will come in the form of federal & state penalties, which will be reinvested into betterment programs.  An obvious gain from this money will be funding to expand the public recharging infrastructure.  Now that diesel for consumer vehicles is essentially dead, there is growing interest in the alternative... plugging in.  So, that makes sense.  I'm still in dismay that the death was so painful.  All those greenwashing efforts made it easy to see diesel was struggling already.  But when you've got a plug-in hybrid like my Prius PHV, delivering efficiency quite a bit higher and emissions undeniably lower, where's the competition?  There was no aspect of challenge already and the second-generation was destined to devastate.  Needless to say, we are saying goodbye to that clutter of compression-engines being used for commuting in favor of ever-increasing electricity use.


Strange Comments.  This one certainly stirred some posting: "What was Toyota thinking?"  It came from someone shopping for a plug-in vehicle, but then ended up buying a regular Prius.  Huh?  If he was so excited about the consideration of a Prius Prime, why didn't he get something else from the disappointment of not enough EV capacity?  It makes no sense at all to choose 0 miles.  22 is far more than none at all.  I wanted to know more upon seeing an explanation of how it should have been more like a Volt, but then hearing how he purchased a Prius anyway.  My guess is brand loyalty kept him from choosing GM.  That strong sense of not choosing another automaker is what Volt has struggled so much lately.  It doesn't appeal to GM's own customers, so they just purchase a Malibu or Cruze instead.  I responded to that with:  They saw how Volt has failed to gain market, despite gen-2 improvements and greater range, then decided to take a different approach.  The topic has been beaten to death already.  You want to appeal to ordinary consumers, you cannot cater to EV enthusiasts.  This isn't rocket science; it's just routine business.  Sustaining sales in high-volume at a profit without government incentives requires a thoughtful balance of all involved.  Looking at the situation from just a consumer perspective will leave you wondering.  There's much more to the equation.  Think about everything it takes to actually produce & sell a vehicle that way.  You purchased a gen-4 Prius, rather than something with a plug.  Why?


Incentive Problem, part 3.  Posts on the daily blog for Volt are pretty much dead.  They just chat about this & that now.  The days of attack, belittle, and insult are gone.  Yeah!  Like with most gen-2 rollouts, it's either a make or break situation.  The uncertainty & discomfort is what stimulates discussions prior to the big day.  Afterward, much changes.  In this case, no more of the rhetoric.  Heck, there isn't even any propaganda anymore either.  They've pretty much all moved on to electric-only vehicles.  No engine at all is what they really wanted all along anyway.  Volt was really just a "stop gap" that couldn't be agreed upon for range, price, and audience.  Prius Prime, on the other hand, has a much clearer purpose.  Yes, there are a few "vastly superior" troublemakers, but some have actually turned.  We're seeing antagonists of the past admitting that it will likely outsell Volt by a wide margin.  Despite the smaller range, the remarkable reliability along with the fantastic depleted efficiency makes a compelling draw that many will not be able to resist.  When you see former attitudes fade away prior to rollout, that's a very good sign.  It means effort to focus on the incentive problem now should be fairly effective.


Incentive Problem, part 2.  This is what I ended up posting on the big Prius forum:  That logic is clouded by audience identification.  You are focused solely on the consumer perspective, which in itself is problematic.  That's not the only barrier to overcome though. Another must be fulfilled to achieve sales growth.  How profitable do you believe the other automakers platforms are?  Prius has been around much longer, upgraded aggressively for COST reduction.  The resulting PRICE will provide far more incentive for dealers & salespeople to actually carry & sell the car.  That's absolutely vital to attract the other audience.  Those other automakers don't have that much of an advantage.  This is a major concern the Volt enthusiasts dismissed for years.  They now realize how wrong it was to not acknowledge such a business fundamental.  No matter how appealing a technology may be to prospective buyers, it won't be purchased in large numbers if it is difficult to acquire.  Sales have suffered as a result.  The plug-in owners group here addresses complaints routinely about how much of a problem is simply trying to find vehicles for purchase.  The pig-headed individuals here who complained about Toyota halting he rollout of Prius PHV have grown silent as they learned of this incentive problem.  It's not a just matter of the automaker producing & offering inventory.  Dealers have to actually want to carry them on the lot.  Salespeople must have the desire to show them to customers.  That interest comes about when COST is reduced enough to earn the dealer a decent profit and the salesperson an appealing commission.  That may mean PRICE doesn't come down much.  But it should be easier to see how much more likely a purchase will be.


Incentive Problem, part 1.  This conclusion came from an antagonist absolutely obsessed with keeping discussions active.  Drawing a conclusion early with weak evidence is a way to stir new responses.  It certainly worked on me: "...but the rest of the competition has battery packs close to the size of the Prime, which leaves the Prime about the same price as them."  Seeing that, I was pleased about him giving up on the square-foot arguments, but frustrated for a new reason.  His insistence on more being better was rather desperate.  If the dimensions are accommodating, it makes no sense.  The most simple of examples kept getting dismissed though: length.  No sedan can carry a long object of any substance.  Have you seen how small pass-throughs actually are?  There's just a tiny hole in an clumsy location.  My frustration offer becomes opportunity.  I see the benefit of pushing the incentive problem into everyday discussion on the big Prius forum.  Doing that on the daily blog for Volt with gen-1 was a disaster.  They attacked me relentlessly, claiming a well-engineered vehicle would sell itself.  They expressed no concern about dealer or salespeople incentive.  That problem has since come back to haunt them.  Sales of gen-2 are struggling the very same way.  They though an even more refined system without compromise is all that it would take.  In fact, some still mock the tradeoffs Toyota will be making with Prius Prime.  I'll start by addressing those on the bit Prius forum about the problem.


Compliance Vehicles.  We get long, elaborate posts sometimes.  The conclusions are often what set me off.  In this case, it was the use of the term "compliance" vehicle.  I wanted to know what that actually meant to him, especially since the definition has changed over the years.  It had become a means of identifying token efforts, where the automaker makes just a minimum to satisfy some type of compliance criteria.  Only problem is, we had no idea for what or for who or how many anymore.  The term is so generic now, it is used to belittle & degrade rather than actually be informative.  So, I asked and got this: "A car designed primarily with the goal of meeting legal mandates to sell EVs, rather than as a good car.  Which is evident in some of the packaging compromises that Toyota made when designing the Prime, rather than redesigning the unibody to maintain most of the versatility of the Liftback."  Notice how no detail was provided... nothing whatsoever.  Heck, it wasn't even specified what "good" means.  I find that quite irritating.  It's the rhetoric we have to deal with on a regular based.  Not responding allows it to become propaganda.  Obviously, I wasn't going to just watch that happen.  This was my response, which almost immediately got 3 likes:  Toyota did retain *most* of the design!  You still get the great new handling of the improved suspension.  You still get the great emissions & efficiency from the hybrid system.  You still get the same head & leg room of the hybrid model.  You still get a cargo area much larger than competing sedans.  Expecting no tradeoffs whatsoever is neither constructive nor realistic.


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