Personal Log #753
July 16, 2016 - July 23, 2016
Last Updated: Tues. 6/27/2017
page #752 page #754 BOOK INDEX
Think About It. This sure got me going: "Yes - i get it .... the whole incremental philosophy - perhaps the reason why incremental is frustrating - is because the plugin Mitsu SUV is so staggeringly popular worldwide. That project (a sort-of 'hail Mary' pass - as they say in football) shows the huge benefit of pushing boundaries far beyond incremental ... you end up owning the market - ah la genII prius." I enjoyed replying: What if Toyota actually did more than anyone has yet to notice? There hasn't been a close inspection of the 8.8 kWh battery-pack. Perhaps the seemingly clumsy size & shape for Prius Prime is actually an effort to speed up "Prime" rollouts. Think about it. With battery-pack production refined for rapid volume increase along with accompanying cost reduction, would it be a surprise to find out that same equipment also works with RAV4 hybrid? Think about it. Toyota would have collected extremely valuable real-world operational data in the meantime. That would greatly reduce risk as well as make it easier to market. That's an approach to reach the masses. Think about it.
Exactly What We Want.
I really enjoyed responding to this today: "Imagine if Toyota hadn't cut corners, spend all that R&D money on converting a Prius into a Prime (using a Prius and its GVWR and replace cargo weight with battery weight) and go straight into R & D a proper 5 seat PHEV with flat trunk floors, they would have save millions and give its target audiences exactly what we want instead of second guessing and hoping we would accept a 4 seat Prius with a raised floor."
Prius PHV delivered exactly what we want. Clearly, the lesson of what had been learned in the past still isn't well understood yet.
Toyota observed the third-party augmentation efforts and monitored results closely. We knew a top electric-only speed of 100 km/h (62.1 mph) was realistic. We knew the traction-motor could deliver more if the battery possessed more power. We knew enough room existed in the cargo-area to hold increased capacity. Enhancement to the existing hybrid system is what people were demanding... and that's what was delivered.
Turns out, the consumers shifted priorities. Fallout from the early plug-in vehicles made that obvious. Sales struggled. Some of us noticed and were thankful Toyota halted rollout plans, choosing to further study usage in established markets instead. Others made up their own excuses based on anecdotal evidence... most of which have now been disproven. Using that time to stay true to the affordable goal.
You claim 5 seats and a flat floor is vital. How can you just dismiss what we get in the effort to achieve balance and affordability? Think about what the first 2 years of sales will reveal. That feedback is priceless. When the mid-cycle update comes and higher energy-density is available, will Toyota lower the floor or use that extra space to offer more EV miles? So far, the overwhelming request is more EV miles... not a flat floor.
Additionally, how do you know that consumers won't prefer the faster 3.3 kWh charging rate? Being able to replenish the battery-pack in a shorter amount time is very nice. Getting more electricity from plugging in while at the grocery is a really big deal. You can't just disregard such an advantage. To achieve that though, space under the middle back seat was needed for the larger hardware.
In other words, how do you know exactly what we want?
Lastly, how do you know Toyota isn't developing a dedicated plug-in hybrid? After all, they mentioned it in the past and even showed a prototype model.
The Catch. Don't you love how people complain, yet don't actually consider what they are asking for? We keep hearing from a small group of people online who really wish Toyota had retained 5 seats and didn't raise the floor in the cargo area for Prius. How exactly would that have been achieved without costs becoming too high? What about the compromises it would require, like lower depleted efficiency and the loss of higher speed recharging? There's issues of complexity too. Keeping it simple tends to contribute to reliability. That also opens up opportunity for reusability. It never ceases to amaze me how some people never consider detail like that. They just respond with emotion, not thinking through what is actually required. Ugh. Needless to say, that's what the whole debacle with gen-1 Volt was all about. There was a surprisingly large group of people who had no concern for how or when or why. They just insisted their way was best. More ugh. Needless to say, we have new examples of the same problem emerging. This time though, I don't believe the situation will get so far out of hand. The niche will remain a niche. It was the promises of mainstream that were unrealistic. That isn't the case with this, as I pointed out: CT6 phev is what many here complaining really want... larger battery-pack that's flattened, much more electric capacity, and seating for 5 adults. The catch is, it will be extremely expensive... not in any way affordable to this audience.
Paradigm Shift. Change is slow. People are quick to dismiss. Not much consideration is given. It makes the acceptance of a technology a matter of perception, rather than any particular date you can pinpoint. That's how the "overnight success" comes about. Someone will work on something for a decade or two, the all of a sudden they get a massive amount of attention. Few cared all those years before. It's unfortunate. That's what is about to happen with the plug-in hybrid technology. It will go from obscure to "ready" in a remarkably short amount of time. We can see Toyota preparing for it. The 200-mile EV offerings simply aren't realistic yet. And of course, we haven't seen any sign of gen-2 Volt sales reaching that mainstream level yet. It's never quick anyway. But a key to success is being affordable. Just look around. We've had smart-phones and solid-state drives for years. When did the masses finally embrace them? Why did that happen? Once the hardware has proven reliable, you still have to wait for cost to come down. Ordinary consumers don't look for maximum capacity either. Even notice that? They are perfectly content getting something in the "enough" category. They aren't like enthusiasts who absolutely insist on the best & most available. People in general simply want a good buy. To be brief and stir new discussion online, I posted all those thoughts into this summary: Anyone else notice the recent paradigm shift? There are no longer any posts related to the technology itself anymore. That's a profound change. We have collectively moved on to the next stage.
Diversification. Some people just don't get it: "I think inadequate seat capacity is a more essential disincentive than the option of heated seats to up gas mileage or power conservation or to accommodate the cold of a passenger that cannot be present, although I can imagine for some childless couples or singles the relative luxury or alternate technology (and those in northern climates with urgent heater needs) are more critical issues than basic practicality of what I imagine is the majority demographic for the Prius." Getting stuck in a mindset is nothing new. People tend to seek out similarities. In fact, that's what attracts Prius owners to participate online in a forum dedicated to Prius. So naturally, posts counter to the status quo will get challenged. The differences in Prius Prime are causing more of a sour than with generation upgrades. That's likely not a problem. When gen-3 rolled out, a majority of the gen-2 owners didn't engage in discussions anymore. Aspects of the driving experience varied too much. They couldn't relate. It wasn't a bad thing though. Gen-4 is most likely going to do the same thing. We didn't see that with Prius PHV, but a large part of that was due to the extremely limited availability. Prius Prime won't be like that. It wasn't configured to appeal to potential Gen-4 buyers either. It is a true effort to diversify. Some obviously won't like that. I do. I look forward to the new audience. I look forward to more owners replacing their guzzler with a choice that offers a plug, then becomes an impressively efficient hybrid after that electricity is used up. These were my thoughts on the topic: Prius Prime targets a different audience. The point is to grow the market. That means appealing to a new demographic, rather than the existing. That assumption of it being intended to get current Prius owners to upgrade is quite understandable, but not what Toyota has conveyed. Their purpose is the expand hybrid system use, not cannibalize their own sales. Remember, the overall goal is to phaseout traditional vehicles. Doing that requires delivering diverse choices, not just providing a larger battery with plug option.
Change Considerations. What do you think of this: "The 5 passenger hatchback/sedan is ubiquitous and expected- especially when the standard is set in previous iterations. It seems a bad compromise to limit seating to 4 in a car that has a history..." How important is that history? Think about the cars from 20 years ago. They weren't that wide. They weren't that tall. Sure, everyone knew someone with a larger vehicle. But those weren't plentiful during the 80's or 90's. Many of us grew up with smaller vehicles. Remember how small Camry actually was? I bet you don't. You likely remember the bench seat though. What a pain. If the passenger & driver were different sizes, someone had to make a sacrifice. There were no seat-heaters back then. Heck, where did you put your beverage? Of course, you didn't have a phone then and certainly didn't need to plug it in for recharging. I like the idea of individual seating in back with a center console. The middle seat was always narrow and less comfortable anyway. I sounded off about the situation now with: Sounds like the arguments long ago for keeping a bench seat in front... and you know how that went. Some people wouldn't give up what the buckets brought for anything nowadays. For example, think about how much of a deal breaker it is for some to not have a heated seat. You really think cold seats in back is preferred? That's an important consideration when you are using electricity to warm the car too. Would you really want to crank the heater when all that's necessary is just turning on a seat warmer? That's an easily avoided large draw on the battery-pack.
Small Steps. Comments like this make you think: "Ultimately we don't want to lose space, we like the PiP - it was the step in the right direction in terms of versatility and EV awareness." What was the intended reaction to that? Should I point out that we don't really "lose" anything, since there is a gain of affordability & capacity. Will that idea of trading something for something else make a difference? Are there certain absolutes which are not negotiable? If so, why? This is why there are updates. We get both generation & mid-cycle changes. Some are true upgrades. Others are adjustments to the market to meet changing expectations. Gauging how much to do is a very real problem. That's why taking small steps is so appealing... to the business. Some consumers disagree, wanting more right away instead. I stated my observations: Don't overlook the fact that 4 seats was too. Awareness of Prius Prime was stirred by the prototype revealing such a difference. It demonstrates change and helps to gauge interest. Toyota took advantage of that opportunity. It's brilliant move prior to rollout. Well played. Also, don't forget that mid-cycle updates were nothing but minor tweaks and some cosmetic alterations with traditional vehicles. Most people completely miss the paradigm-shift coming from vehicles taking advantage of battery-packs. They get mid-cycle updates offering much more. We could see the 5th seat return then. We could also see either a lowering of the floor or an increase in EV miles. That's another effort to seek balance. The initial Prius Prime sales will provide wisdom about what the market will actually desire. Remember, Prius PHV initial rollout did the same thing. The market claimed they wanted an augmented hybrid. But as the plug-in market struggled with sales, it became clear what they really didn't want that. Toyota took note and used that knowledge to build Prius Prime. Don't forget, Prius PHV itself was a mid-cycle update. True, the system was designed from the start to handle augmentation, but battery cost and battery density didn't make it practical. In fact, we're only seeing that just now in 2016. Small steps irritate some. Others see the importance when trying to appeal to the masses.
$2.21 per gallon. That's the national average now. The prediction is that gas here will drop below $2 in a few days... since the cost for a barrel of oil just dropped. It's amazing how cheap it has become. The boom was taken advantage of... pushing supply well beyond demand. Traditional suppliers kept pumping oil at the same rate they had been for years. The new sources here in the United States, as well as Canada, continued to introduce new supply. The market became saturated. Pushing high-profit guzzlers became very easy. Oddly, that has brought about an end to the monster-size SUV offerings. There isn't a stigma downsizing to a smaller SUV anymore. So, that's what people are doing in large numbers. Unfortunately, there are likely some who are replacing their cars with them too. Fortunately, Toyota saw this coming. I'm seeing a surprising number of hybrid RAV4 now. Having taken advantage of the low cost for NiMH batteries, the design choice is proving wise. It's becoming a "right place at the right time" situation. Why not upgrade from traditional to hybrid for just $800? That decision is an easy one... which clearly many customers are choosing. Cool.
47 MPG. We took the kayaks to the lake. It was a beautiful Summer day. Spending it outside on the water was perfect. That 30-mile round trip with such a massive load on the roof wouldn't exactly be efficient. Adding a detour to pick up pizza on the way home would only make the situation worse. Yet, we did it anyway. The warm season is too short for such an opportunity on the weekend to be missed. To our surprise, MPG didn't take much of a hit. The result for all that driving with the awkward cargo was 47. It would have been somewhere around 39 without having plugged in. That's my guess anyway. With the other car, I'd see as low as 36 from dragging so much airflow-interrupting recreational equipment. Of course, even that is still impressive. Many vehicles can't get that at their best. My Prius delivered much more. That sad part is, that park actually has 2 charging-stations right there where we park after launching the kayaks. Unfortunately, they were having some type of electrical issue at the time. So, no plugging in this time. Perhaps in a few weeks we'll get to repeat the experience, but head back home afterward with a full battery. That data sure would be interesting to compare with today's.
Diesel Is Dead. Much worse news emerged this week. The hope of supporters to save the consumer market for diesel completely fell apart as a result. European penalties are now expected. Simply ignoring the environmental damage and impairment of hybrid potential isn't appropriate. Outcome from the United States has stirred the need to enforce fines in some way. To deepen wounds even more, the state of California has deemed the proposed fix for the larger (3.0) diesel engine unacceptable. What even more bad news, how about the information that a research group found the proposed fix for European diesel vehicles actually increases emissions by as much as 25 percent in some cases. Needless to say, there is nothing to look forward to anymore. It's time to give up the fight. With so many plug-in hybrids and electric-only vehicles on the way, why bother? Want even more bad news for diesel, consider what Germany just did. They are now offering $4,000 toward EV purchases. The result has been an abrupt spike in sales of the BMW i3. How about that for declaring diesel for passenger vehicles dead?