Personal Log #769
October 15, 2016 - October 21, 2016
Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2016
page #768 page #770 BOOK INDEX
Public Charger Concerns. The situation is quite
complex.. and that's just location! Taking into account how they
should be used makes it even more difficult to deal with. This is a
big deal. Very little progress has been made so far too. The
past few years lacked enough owners to get any type of uniform message
formulated. We are very much in the early stages still. Think
about how long it has taken for those Volt enthusiasts to come to the
realization that the size wanted to actually match need. Heck, some
continue to question the conclusion drawn. Anywho, it was this that
stirred my response: "My other concern about charging stations is how
many would truly be needed if everyone was driving EVs." It came
from that website which abandoned Volt in favor of Bolt, discussing the
problem VW now faces with investment into electrification infrastructure
required by the diesel settlement. My reply was:
That's one of the uncertainties about plug-in vehicles holding back acceptance. How many? How much? How soon? Fundamental conflicts of intent are raising concern. What is the purpose?
If you have a 200-mile capacity, what benefit is there plugging in at a grocery store, coffee shop, restaurant, theater, or mall? Those destinations are almost certainly within range, so there's no point to recharging. A plug-in hybrid with just enough range to cover a daily commute is an entirely different matter. The gain from recharging at one of those destinations traveled to after work could be enormous.
Think about the CHAdeMO option available for Prius Prime in Japan. You arrive at a grocery store with the battery close to or already depleted. During your stop to shop, that rapid recharge would be enough to get you back home using that freshly provided electricity. The point of plugging in is obvious.
In other words, that "right size" approach has a draw those long-range EVs don't... especially when you take the lower cost into consideration. Toyota used this analogy to describe the situation: "When you go for a run, you don't carry a gallon jug of Gatorade."
Ordinary consumers will see it that way too. Isn't the point of have such a large battery to avoid having to plug in while you're out and about?
Encouraging Articles. It's nice reading articles with points like this: "Yes, the Volt has much more electric range, but you'll pay for it. The Volt's entry point is $33,220, while the Prime starts at $27,100." Glossing over detail in the past was a big problem. Of course, some still don't mention that the 5th seat is legless, only for a small child or an adult willing to straddle the middle and share space with the 2 other passengers in back. New highlights are getting attention too: "And on MPGe, how far an electrified vehicle can go using the same amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline, the Prime bests the $42,400 all-electric BMW i3, with a 133 MPGe rating vs. the i3's 124 MPGe." The efficiency of EV was completely disregarded until recently. That's unheard of for gas-engine comparisons. Why was electric-motor consumption just blown off as unimportant? My guess is nothing to compare with. Offerings were so scarce, the assumption was just that a bigger battery was better. The new MPGe rating reveals that's not the case. This makes reading the comments on such encouraging articles very interesting. Those who understand are really making an effort to make sure others do too.
Extreme Examples. It annoys me to now end when
someone posts an exaggeration as if it was the norm. When it's an
attempt to greenwash, calling them on it is pretty easy and without
consequence. When it comes from an attempt to be serious, but really
being clueless, that's an different situation entirely. You really
don't know how they'll respond, but what to clarify the misleading
information they just posted. This was such an example: "However if you mean it is -30°C
outside with 10cm of snow and ice on the windshield, it won't clear it."
Reading actively engaged posts in an discussion about electric heating is
exciting. Entirely new topics like that are quite refreshing; however,
incorrect portrayal can lead to misconceptions. So, I jumped in:
Ugh. Living in Minnesota since for the past 39 years, I'm well aware of winter driving extremes. The odds of it being both -22°F outside and getting 4" of snow at the same time is pretty much never. Snow flakes don't form when it's that cold. You get a light coating of thin ice crystals, at best.
A far more realistic example... which I will experience firsthand in 3 months... is the Prius sitting outside all day with the high temperature of -1°F. That happens every year. Warm-up takes about 10 minutes with the engine starting up right away. Defrost usually isn't needed, since I vent prior to stopping. It's just get in, make sure the seat-heater is on high, then drive away.
With the Prime, windows will certainly be clear already. In addition to the heated seat, the steering wheel will provide warmth too. Driving away will be comfortable. Heck, even the battery-pack will feel the improvement. Those extreme cold days will take a bizarre twist. What a great feature to draw interest.
As for dealing with 4 inches, no one would ever run there vehicle long enough to attempt to melt off such a thick amount. Even my idiot neighbor who would idle her diesel for 45 minutes before leaving for work would brush the windows off quick with that much snow. Of course, there are those who just sweep a tiny viewing hole and drive away with a drift on the car still. But that's only when the temperature is much warmer. Between 20°F and 32°F is when we get the really heavy dumps.
Long story short, the new vapor-injected heat-pump has
much to offer.
Blog Changes. Notice how my blogs continue to evolve? They've become longer and delve into new topics with lots of detail, despite not having real-world data available yet. That comes from the posts online. The comments in reviews and on forums are advancing into the world of electrification well. Topics of discussion nearly impossible with gen-1 offerings are now surprisingly easy with the gen-2 arrivals. Speculation has given way to specifications. That's huge. The improvement is quite significant. Rather than having to deal with rhetoric, we are seeing some thought given to operational detail. True, there's still the mindless "more is better" mentality. But that will be easy to squash when Prius Prime owners begin posting their experiences. The MPG results will finally shift the conversations over to KWH and GALLONS instead. That's long overdue. The senseless greenwashing of the past from Volt enthusiasts was so harmful. They'll held back progress just for the sake of pride. Thank goodness the kick in the butt from other automakers brought that to an end. Tesla, Toyota, and BMW sure brought about a big dose of reality. Now we have VW scrambling to overcome their diesel disaster by turning to battery technology. It's about dang time... and I'm quite pleased to be able to document this history as it changes.
Dumb Questions. This is a definite sign of progress: "OK, thought of a (maybe) dumb question. Is
there a standard for the plug configuration on the car to enable the use of
all public charging stations?" It's absolutely fantastic getting
a new member diving into discussions like that. There's a lot of
information to share. It's difficult to know where to start and what
level of detail should be provided. I gave it this attempt:
Level-2 is that standard (ordinary 240-volt charging) for public chargers. Leaf has a connector for it, but also offers CHAdeMO (like Prime in Japan). Tesla has an adapter available for it. CCS is the other high-speed type. Since both require higher voltage lines and deliver more amps, they are much less common. Level-2 is quite capable and the backward-compatible plug is an obvious benefit. That's why most of the automakers offer that.
Level-1 is supported by the normal household outlet in your garage. Most people will simply use that 120-volt connection for the slower charging overnight. The size of the battery-pack accommodates it well, a fact overlooked when considering the capacity. You just plug & play.
Prius PHV (Toyota's first plug-in hybrid) offered a great opportunity for real-world study. The limited rollout into select areas spread across just enough owners to figure out what really was needed. That's vital information when attempting to deliver a configuration capable of competing directly with traditional offering. That meant keeping costs low, but not sacrificing ability.
Watch for reports from new owners about how well Toyota targeted Prime. And of course, keep asking questions. There's nothing dumb when it comes to entering an entirely new market. People have to start the discovery process somehow.
Way Back. I got a kick out of reading this: "Deja
vu. Remember this thread? Prius PHV: Optimization strategy with
lessons learned from the prototypes." He was looking back through
his own posts many years ago, when Prius PHV was being rolled out. We
were discussing operational approach. People discussed the pro & cons
of wanting a charge button. The prototypes were configured for data
collection. Toyota wanted a massive amount of real-world experience
documented. Turns out, that was so effective, they continued doing
that following the initial rollout. Since it was mid-cycle anyway,
what was the rush? Why not restrict availability to a limited market
for the sake of advancing market research? You learn far more from
sticking with a controlled scope than to just open up to a wider new
audience. Those better informed niches can reveal what's difficult to
gain from the uninformed. In fact, that's why I pushed so hard with
the enthusiasts. The knowledge gained from their resistance was
priceless. Anywho, this is how I replied: I have no doubt that high priority of best use for the
gas engine continued. Prius isn't going to sacrifice overall efficiency
simply for the sake of offering more EV... unlike what others have done. The approach is to seek out a balance, despite the wide variety of uses
it must fulfill. The expectation is that we'll see outstanding
performance from charge-mode in some cases (like highway cruising), where
we'll promote the use. In others, we'll discourage. But even when it's not
as good of a return, it will still be clearly better than what a traditional
vehicle offers. It is interesting reading those old posts. That
serves as a great remember of what market expectations were and how they've
Tax-Credit Timing. Questions are emerging. Many are random. Those asking don't have idea what to look for. It's an entirely new topic for most. You'll hear different responses for different supporters too... since there's some conflict of interest involved. GM's predicament is the big one. Pushing Bolt means sacrificing Volt. It's a simple reality of only having a limited number available. And once the tax-credits run out, that automaker is sunk. So, the inevitable expiration is a really big deal. That's what contributed to Toyota holding off on Prius PHV and Nissan being ok with reduced sales until gen-2 rolls out. Think about purpose. The subsidy is intended to help the automaker achieve high-volume production quickly, so cost will be reduced to a competitive & profitable level. Sooner is definitely better. Toyota is well aware of that too. They could seriously ramp up production of Prime in a year or two, taking advantage of timing once the quantity limited approaches. Nearing that means speed to market become vital. The trigger switches the money payout from a count to a timer. In other words, once the 200,000 limit is reached, the automaker will have 1 year of reduced tax-credits to take advantage of. Being well positioned to deliver a large quantity at that point rewards both business & consumer. I summarized that in this response: Toyota has around 155,000 credits left, before the phaseout is triggered. Then it's a 50% reduction for 2 quarters. Then again (down to 25%) for another 2. So, sometime within this generation, the credits will be used up. GM, Nissan, and Tesla's will all be gone around then too. In other words, within the next few years the entire market will shift somehow.
Diesel's Demise. What a mess. The expectation at this point is for close to 100% buyback. There's simply no way to deliver a fix. Anything you do to cleanse emission will impair performance. It's that simple. Nothing can be done to save diesel. Why bother anyway? It makes no sense pushing a 40 MPG technology when plug-in hybrids that easily deliver twice that are rolling out. The clatter of diesel for supposedly cleaner driving is now a memory of the past. VW is forced to all but entirely abandon efforts. With BMW pushing the plug, the rest of the industry doesn't even matter. That domestic competitor (in Germany) is really ramping up efforts and government incentives to do so are growing. Heck, even the certification process for sales here is much more complicated. Loss standards & testing of the past are long gone. Diesel for passenger cars is basically dead as a result. It's simple not worth it.
Starting Over. We're seeing more than just a generational hand-over this time. With the emergence of Prime has come far more than just questions of how the hybrid system has been improved. Operational differences from the introduction of a clutch complicates matters greatly. There's simply no way to realistically anticipate behavior. Heck, even knowledge of the previous plug-in model (Prius PHV) doesn't directly apply. We're trying to figure out a paradigm-shift without having any way to research or even any data available. All we know is that Toyota studied the market intensely and strived to deliver the best balance of price & performance. That's obviously making discussions extremely difficult. We can't just tell people to be patient either. The level of excitement is quite intense. Some are seeing the perfect fit. Some see an epic failure. It's quite bizarre starting over like this. I can't wait to contribute real-world data. That certainly will help discussions take on a constructive tone. Right now, we're all over the place attempting to help those curious to learn more about what the technology has to offer.