Personal Log  #755

August 3, 2016  -  August 7, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 10/02/2016

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Summer Filming.  Hooray!  I'm seeing things settle down now.  Getting married and moving was a much a higher priority than providing educational material for Prius.  It just happened to be a good time for more personal activities anyway.  Interest in gen-3 Prius dropped significantly and real-world data from gen-4 Prius would be available for awhile.  That left even more of an opportunity for the plug-in model.  Lots of time gave me the chance to relax & plan.  Today, I put that plan into action.  I bought a new video camera and had been experimenting with it.  The imagine stabilization it provided along with a new method of mounting it in the car meant capturing even higher quality footage.  I also tried out a newer OBD-II reader.  But sadly, that didn't resolve the buffering issue due to the want to capture so much data.  Anywho, it was a beautiful Summer morning.  The temperature was extremely comfortable and traffic light.  I still had to contend with all the stoplights and hills on that new commute route, but it was a nice drive nonetheless.  The footage came out great too, both the instrument display as well as the road activity.  I'll combine, render, and publish that... hopefully soon.  I also filmed the commute from work too... arriving at home with equally pleasing results.  Yeah!  It's great having such comprehensive captures like that available, especially when we all know the comparisons which will come when Prius Prime is rolled out.  Prius PHV performs much better than what people claim.  This helps to prove it.


Topic Drift.  Seeing the bigger picture as a result of topic drift, that's constructive discussion tangents, can be revealing... as I pointed out today:  Drift can be revealing though.  In this case, we're seeing a pattern emerge.  The "5 seat" complaints are beginning to resemble the "full size" complaints.  Full-Size prospective buyers would post their disappointment about not fitting comfortably in a mid-size car.  The advice was always to consider the purchase of a full-size hybrid instead.  How is this any different?  If you have a full-size family, why are you considering the purchase of a mid-size car?  And for that matter, why are you insisting that those of us who don't need that room should tradeoff back seat comfort/convenience (buckets with center-console are nicer) to accommodate a middle position that won't ever be used?  This is why consideration of the bigger picture is so important.  Focusing on just a single offering makes points like that easy to overlook.


Mid-Engine Corvette.  This has been a high-performance vehicle with low-performance results.  Efficiency has been disregarded since it's inception.  Thankfully, upcoming efficiency standards will force a change.  Moving the engine back will not only open up the opportunity to introduce motors and a battery-pack, it will also improve handling.  Notice how a majority of the truly high-performance guzzlers didn't have an engine in the front?  This change seems long overdue.  How will enthusiasts respond to the news announced today?  Think about how well a Tesla Model S performs.  That's a family car.  Shouldn't a sports car like Corvette be able to accelerate like that too?

8-06-2016 Constructive Discussion.  The challenge to have it continues.  In response to an on-going thread about Prius Prime, I posted:

Then consider yourself informed now.  The internet is loaded with intentionally misleading information.  There's is also a lot of speculation that turns into "fact" simply through the act of passing it along.  Squashing that as soon as detected is what some of us make an effort to do.

The case with Prius Prime is especially noteworthy... because Toyota is attempting to expand the market by reaching new customers through the reputation of Prius, but not taking a cannibalizing approach.  Just think if they made it too much like Prius.  There wouldn't be any growth. Buyers would simply shift from a 55 MPG hybrid to a 120 MPGe plug-in hybrid.  That's not the desired outcome.

It upsets & dismays some supporters of Prius that such an approach would be taken.  That's to be expected.  Diversification means appealing to another group, not just more of the same.

Gen-1 offerings of plug-in vehicles consisted primarily of conquest sales which depended heavily upon tax-credit & HOV incentives.  The expectation by our readers is for that trend to continue with Gen-2 offerings.  After all, gas is cheap and business-sustaining high-volume production of large-capacity battery-packs is still years away.

Toyota is attempting to try something different, hoping to gain new interest as a result.  Delivering a configuration with seemingly too little capacity and making too great of a cargo tradeoff is what many enthusiasts & antagonists focus on... rather than recognizing the goal of growth... and what it takes to achieve that.

The topic of profitability isn't interesting to most people.  That prevents constructive discussion.  Risk taking is often perceived as making a mistake.  That prevents constructive discussion.  Historical choices are often referred later to as obvious.  That also prevents constructive discussion.

In other words, there is much to discuss and it is quite a challenge when there isn't even clarity about what was said and what goals are.


Driving Recharge Mode.  Much like the brain-dead advice of "more is better" with the EV dismissal, there's that of recharging the battery-pack using gas.  Overall efficiency is completely disregarded.  The don't think about how the engine & motors are being used, they just assume outcome.  This is that "know your audience" problem I have to deal with on a regular basis in blogs & forums.  They don't understand the perspective of ordinary consumers.  That fundamental oversight messes up discussions.  They build a mental image of the situation that's inaccurate.  I find that so annoying.  My efforts to convey clarity typically don't go well either.  Lack of a business background on their part means engineering is the only consideration.  There's no balance.  Normally, that's bad.  But in the case of trying to figure out driving recharge mode, you'd think they'd figure it out.  That's all about engineering.  Unfortunately, assumptions are made rather than calculations.  Long story short, the use of the engine to recharge the battery requires gas.  That's viewed upon as wasteful.  Why?  Prius Prime should deliver around 55 MPG from hybrid driving.  My Prius PHV delivers over 50 MPG that way.  So what if the penalty for recharging the battery-pack caused around 10 MPG to be lost.  45 MPG is still great.  The resulting end of your highway cruise with a full capacity is fantastic.  The driving to follow will be in EV, where it is most beneficial.  Overall efficiency will be higher because of that.  It's basically the hybrid system taken to a new level.  How come these engineering-oriented people can't see that?

8-06-2016 Intended Audience.  Here's more from another antagonist: "Could it be that Toyota rally screwed up the hatchback and the Prime?"  I jumped on that immediately:

Wow!  That reminds me a lot of the anecdotal comment made last year, when the production of Prius PHV ended.  Many of the comments were just plain wrong too.  Having virtually no data to work with and disregarding certain facts is a dead giveaway the discussion is not constructive... 

Start with the inventory shortage.  Availability of the gen-4 Prius was severely hampered by a third-party supplier suffering from a major fire at a production facility.  Without those needed parts, there's simply no way to deliver the vehicle.  That's not speculation.  That's not rocket science.  That's not spin.  It's basic business fundamentals.  No parts.  No product.

Next is the reality of a very confusing market. To expect the gen-4 Prius to be an instant success upon rollout is not realistic. Consumers are becoming overwhelmed by all the information now being spread. Look no further than the auto-show circuit this Spring. Notice the wide variety of green choices being promoted? How the heck is an ordinary person supposed to figure out that mess quickly?

The most telling though is the comparisons to Volt capacity. Since when is it appropriate to compare EV miles to a vehicle struggling with sales? Prius was always the basis of comparison due to its strong demand. That's not the outcome from GM's offering. Why in the world would you say Toyota should follow the same course when it hasn't been successful?

As for the supposed "delay" belief, since when does a rollout early-summer make any sense? That's when production ends for retooling and clearance takes place. Having a rollout occur then simply makes no sense. The cycle has been for that to take place at the close of the calendar year. Think about how long it takes to begin production, then ship the vehicles here.

Remember, the goal is to appeal to the masses. That means delivering an affordable vehicle which won't stir excitement among enthusiasts. Prius Prime will be an entry-level choice for plug-in hybrids... a very compelling one, different enough to stand out, but the technology not intimidating.

Expecting more reveals a misunderstanding of intended audience.


First Review.  Price isn't available, yet people complained about that having been left out of the review.  The review itself stated Volt had a "3rd rear seat" without any disclaimer of it not offering any space for legs.  There's a double cupholder instead.  How is that considered proper seating?  Ugh.  Needless to say, there is very little to work with still.  This first basically only revealed the observed EV miles.  The total was 28.  That's way over the initial estimate of 22.  But then again, the pack is 8.8 kWh.  The pack from Hyundai is 8.9 kWh, yet it got a rating of 31 in its domestic market.  So, my original comments about Toyota targeting double (from 20 to 40 km) is dead on.  25 miles is looking pretty realistic.  Looking to the comments, the first posted was advice to just buy a Volt instead.  It was the same brain-dead advice you could expect to hear... more EV is better.  I pointed out that mistake with:  Prius Prime will offer some improvements over Volt.  Most significant will be the vapor-injected heat-pump, which should provide much more efficient electric heating in the winter.  Efficiency in hybrid mode will be notably higher (expected mid 50's rather than low 40's).  And the head room for the rear seating will be greater (expected 37.4 inches rather than 35.8 inches).  I don't believe Volt offers a driving recharge mode either.


Fence Sitters.  I saw this coming: "There's nothing about the prime that suggests anyone will switch to it from a gas guzzler, at least until gas goes back over $4.  It's a completely niche vehicle with 4 seats, and little storage.  That's the reason for all the negativity, nothing about the lift back is exciting non prius drivers, and prime offers nothing more."  This is where the smaller battery-pack and high-efficiency hybrid system comes into play.  Toyota isn't repeating GM's mistake.  Remember how Volt remained a niche product, regardless of how much arguing there was that it was intended for the mainstream?  It's why I kept asking the "Who?" question so often.  That was a sincere effort to recognize & understand audience.  The experience from that tells me there is far more than nothing.  There is just enough to entice, but without going overboard... the mistake.  More is not a good thing.  Too much is bad.  GM learned that the hard way.  Toyota is attempting to avoid it.  That's difficult to see though.  I attempt to provide some clarity though:  You're over-thinking the situation... a very common problem with online discussions.  Some people are simply looking for an entry-level plug-in vehicle.  They're the ones with a some extra $$$ to get something nice that doesn't necessarily have to be 100% practical.  I encounter that type of interest on a regular basis now with that new grocery store so close that offers the free charging spots.  In other words, Toyota is going after those fence-sitters... who are more abundant than you think.


Understanding Change.  Coming from a person well known for doing everything in his power to keep conclusions from being draw so discussion won't end, I wasn't the least surprised to read: "I don't understand this.  Plug-ins are strategic products.  Toyota certainly has said publicly they expect to lose billions on the mirai, and bleeding will last at least a decade.  Why would they need to be profitable in the next 5 years with the Prime.  Certainly the market has much higher competition than when toyota initialy announced their first gen prius plug-in."  He knows all too well what the situation is.  How many times can the same facts & concerns be posted?  Anywho, I addressed it this way this time:  Thinking the competition is only other plug-in vehicles sets the bar horribly low, pushing mainstream expectations out to the next generation.  Why that perspective?  Why such a pessimistic outlook?  Traditional vehicles are absolutely crushing sales of plug-in vehicles.  Simply watching that continue while also remaining dependent upon tax-credits for the next 5 years is absurd.  To overcome this, mainstream volume must be reached in the next few years, by mid-cycle.  It simply makes no sense taking a niche approach now that the battery-tech has finally reached a point of being affordable and offering enough energy-density to compete with other vehicles in the dealer's lot and on the showroom floor.


Right Now.  We're seeing a lot of interesting perspectives emerge: "Definitely I welcome Toyota back to the game with the Prius Prime, but there is lots of competition in blended right now."  Most of vague and give the impression Toyota had given up, rather than just waiting for the technology to be realistic for the masses.  That implies they weren't doing any research & development in the meantime, which just plain isn't true.  But you know how it is.  The "overnight" success is always the result of decades of unnoticed effort.  A bit annoyed, I kept it brief:  Right now is a red herring.  Consider the entire product cycle.  The generation being rolled out must be able to sustain profitable sales for 5 to 6 years.


More Miles.  It doesn't take much to imagine how often stuff like this comes up: "If folks have a choice for purchasing more EV miles versus less - chances are their dollars will vote for more miles - ah la volt.  GM has kept their price reasonable, yet uped the ev range by 18 miles (gm secured a very low production cost per kWh from their battery supplier).  Time will tell."  Today's response was:  That seems reasonable; however, the market doesn't concur.  Volt is not the "leap frog" solution it had been hoped to be.  The second-generation is floundering like the first.  The recent spike of 2,406 sales for July is likely due to model-year clearance pricing.  If that could be sustained, it would meet the half mark for mainstream minimum (60K annual).  That quantity is very important, since it positions the vehicle to be able to sustain profitable sales without tax-credit dependency.  The clock is ticking.  Toyota is delivering a package with greater potential to reach that sustaining level in time.  The smaller EV range doesn't stir much excitement from the enthusiast perspective, but it should be much easier for dealers to embrace... who play a pivotal roll it the sales process.  Also, keep in mind how consumers don't purchase the largest capacity available.  We see that with phones, tablets, and computers.  More memory is clearly beneficial, but not required.  The same is true for Prius Prime.


Try.  How would you respond to this: "I'm just not seeing the vision Toyota is seeing in the Prime.  Who knows, maybe it'll be a big hit.  I'm excited."  It doesn't really tell us much.  The vague references are both negative & positive.  It gives the impression of missed opportunity, but they suggests a great potential.  I asked:  How is "big hit" defined?  What is considered "vision" for a plug-in?  Most people feel pushing limits is how sales are achieved.  Why?  In reality, high-volume volume acceptance from the masses comes from making a product affordable.  In other words, it won't offer amazing capacity.  Notice how the most popular sellers, Camry and Corolla, are just good all-around vehicles.  They really don't have any standout traits, yet they sell in great quantity.  Positioning to capture a new market is quite a challenge.  None of the plug-in offerings so far have reached the mainstream yet.  Toyota is giving a new approach a try.


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