Personal Log #772
October 28, 2016 - November 1, 2016
Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2016
page #771 page #773 BOOK INDEX
No Lithium Support. Getting disgusted by so much greenwashing is easy. After reading a large collection of comments from the past 2 days on a discussion topic about Toyota finally endorsing lithium batteries, I sounded off. On that blog website, which attracts a wide variety of participants, it was time well spent. I doubt those with such a false impression of what has actually taken place will be swayed. You never know until you try. So, I did: It never ceases to amaze me how blinded some people have been to Toyota's advancements. Because an EV hasn't been offered, they assume nothing was being done. In reality, Toyota rolled out their first plug-in hybrid (Prius PHV) and their first hybrid (Prius 7+) using lithium batteries. They then switched over the regular Prius (all gen-4 models, except the base) to use lithium. That's obvious commitment to advancing the battery tech. Those improvements to the chemistry, the reduction of cost, and the increase in production volume all contribute to progress forward... none of which Toyota gets any credit for. Instead, people just distract by concentrating entirely on hydrogen. It's really sad that some don't under how FCV (fuel cell vehicles) share quite a bit of EV (electric-only vehicle) components. Think about the low cost Prius Prime is rolling out with. That motor & controller knowledge gained from of other Toyota research & development will benefit it directly. Think about the industry-leading electric heater Prius Prime will use. That vapor-injected heat-pump is a clear effort to improve efficiency of EV travel. Prius Prime will also offer a CHAdeMO charging option in Japan, a feature clearly beneficial to future EV offerings. In other words, saying Toyota hasn't been doing anything until now is a big disservice to the plug-in community. They've been there all along, working hard at things that go unnoticed... cost-reduction, high-volume production, and electric-efficiency.
Retraction Requested. I ended up sharing my frustration on the big Prius forum. That much misleading isn't good. Someone actually sent them an email requesting the article be retracted for containing so much incorrect & confusing content. It's too late, of course. That turns into propaganda material very quickly. We ended up discovering that the writer was part of a firm from outside of the country who writes & sells for publications. So naturally, they divert responsibility to those who purchase & print it. No accountability. Ugh. That means all we can do is raise awareness. Definitely don't trust without verifying. There's a lot of garbage out there. Here's my frustration express in print... This is the second article from this source to write something misleading about Prius Prime: "Toyota Prius Prime: How EV Both Impresses And Disappoints At The Same Time". Last week, it was a comparison to Volt. Only thing is, the title mentioned Prius Prime. The article itself was about the regular model. Mix-ups can happen for a variety of reasons. But with today's article, there's no excuse. It started with outdated claims of 122 MPGe and 22 miles. That seemed innocent enough, until I encountered about claim with: "stuck in the middle of nowhere without a charge". The writer was clueless and had spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in response. To make matters worse, another publication has already picked up the article. I was left scratching my head, wondering what the heck the writer was thinking. Even with mention of having an engine, the concept of a plug-in hybrid is not understood... as the result is the spread of misleading information. Read what's written carefully and share your impressions. Notice no mention of the MPG rating? The conclusion of "Best scenario is to only drive it around small cities and not think of driving it around back roads or on expressways." will leave you feeling troubled.
VW eGolf. Did you know this troubled diesel automaker actually offers a small, low-volume electric-only vehicle? There is indeed an EV from VW. It's the Golf with a plug. Sales are barely enough to even qualify as a niche. But hey, that's better than nothing. They need to gain experience somehow. Anywho, I actually saw one today. That was quite a surprise. Traditional vehicles with a motor & battery instead of an engine & tank don't exactly stand out. I may have seen it some other time around town. There's no way to know though. This time was easy. It was plugged in. That's a dead giveaway. It would have been nice to see the owner and say "Hi!" That didn't work out. Oh well. At least I got to see it. What will VW's first serious offering be? For that matter, how long will it take? Even when an automaker is supposedly committed, that's no guarantee of mainstream success. With cost high and production limited, good intentions only go so far.
Horrifying Discovery. Propaganda spreading has begun. Intention is difficult to determine, since some people become unknowing participants by passing along greenwash material. Source is not. The second article about Prius Prime, from what started as a seemingly clueless news source, was published today. Sure enough, it was what had been feared. The first was last week, stating it was about "Prius Prime" in the title, but was actually about the regular model without a plug. That made no sense whatsoever, since it was a comparison to Volt. How could anyone not read that and end up walking away misinformed? It was greenwashing. I know that intention quite well now, since this one had lots of incorrect information. It had the following: "Toyota has not release any testing results yet but is aiming to get a combined rating of 120 MPGe in EV mode, or hybrid fuel economy mode. A maximum electric range of up to 22 miles, and 84mph top speed." That's quite outdated. You'd think it was a mistake, that the writer simply did research well. However, the "yet" implies they recently checked. Clearly, that wasn't the case. The update came weeks ago. To make matters worse, you get the impression the writer actually test drove the vehicle. How would you interpret: "You need to have a very steady foot to reach 22 miles on batteries." That sure looks like a claim from experience to me. It contradicts what testers has been saying too. Reviewers state after driving that you can drop the pedal all the way to the floor and most drives have delivered more than 25 miles. What really got me though was: "Least that a driver wants is to be stuck in the middle of nowhere without a charge." I had to reread the paragraph containing that several times to determine the "before lettings this EV’s out on the streets" the "still too limited" conclusion that the writer was absolutely clueless. I found a reference to Volt buried in the middle of the article. It was highlighted as giving "better reliability" due to it offering "53 miles on batteries". I find that horrifying. He actually had no idea how a plug-in hybrid works. He thought it was just a short-range EV. Wow! It makes you wonder how much of that greenwashing will be spread. Searching online, I found a secondary publish of that same article on a totally different website.
Road Trip Photos. To start out this year on a fun note, we jumped in the Prius and headed out to Wyoming. With the temperature below freezing and the route a straight highway drive through South Dakota from Minnesota, I was intrigued. The speed limit is 80 mph. The expectation was to do that a majority of the way. But with it being Winter, there would be spots of snow & ice to deal with. Fortunately, it wasn't bad at all. In fact, we even had a chance to go on a side trip. We drove from the plains (where the coal is excavated from pit-mines) to the edge of the Rocky Mountains. You can see some of the snow-caps in the photos I took at a scenic rest. Those are where locals go camping & hiking. It's quite beautiful. I definitely prefer the lush green & blue of home though. Anywho, I captured the moment with a few snapshots at a stop along the way... photo album 190
Charge-Mode Thoughts. There are many. This new feature has some scratching their heads. I was a surprised by that, as I stated: I'm surprised no one has mentioned that we already have a "charge mode", one that replenishes battery-capacity more aggressively than HV mode. It's been a basic part of how Prius PHV operates. It's quiet. It's smooth. And apparently, it's easy to overlook. Toyota has simply allowed it to be used more for Prime. Coupled with a more efficient gas-engine and refined software, why not? To observe the charge-mode currently available, just drop the pedal down hard with a cold engine. Notice what happens over the course of the next few minutes? It's especially interesting if you try this scenario, a situation I attentively observed knowing the circumstances would be quite informative... Turn onto a highway entrance ramp with the gas-engine completely cold (not used for many hours). Drop the pedal to the floor and hold it there. With the EV depleted entirely, I watched the entire HV capacity be consumed in those next few seconds to provide as much electric power as possible to accelerate the Prius to 70 mph. SOC dropped to the 18% minimum, then shortly afterward, began to climb. Within only a few minutes, the entire HV capacity (the 23.5% maximum) had already been restored. That's a recharge-rate clearly faster than while driving in HV mode. It's obviously not as efficient. But if all you're doing is cruising along a highway for a long distance anyway, why not keep charging beyond the HV threshold? Having that EV capacity available later could be a very efficient use of that electricity. Of course, some owners won't understand when to best use that electricity from gas rather than from plugging it. But how is that any different from an owner of a regular Prius attempting to maximize EV use? Used well, there's a efficiency gain. Used poorly, there's an efficiency penalty.
Big Change. We're witnessing the death of diesel for passenger cars here. It's extending beyond VW vehicles. Mercedes abandoned a new rollout. The market was always small and is rapidly shrinking. Hyundai is targeting buyback owners too. They need to get beyond their MPG depiction. (The lawsuit for their inflated numbers was settled for $41.2 million.) Attracting new customers could be an effective means of doing that. For plug-in hybrids, Prime is getting ignored. The Volt owners are at it again, doing everything they can to focus on the regular models instead. It blows my mind that they are going out of their way to make sure the no-plug Prius is used as a basis of comparison. I suspect some of that intentional misleading comes from the recent Consumer Reports rating. Prius was recommended. Volt was downgraded. That stings. There's nothing a Prius owner can say to make it better either. The enthusiasts get angry and lash out... at their usual scapegoat. Ugh. Oh well. At least there is progress in the environmental concerns overall. China is seriously considering a shift of incentives over to clean hybrids, away from plug-in vehicles. The reason is simple... a large quantity of PZEV-rated hybrids will emit less pollution than a smaller number of electric-only and plug-in hybrid vehicles. It's far easier to sell more than don't require a plug, no new infrastructure needed. Having the bulk of electricity coming from coal doesn't help either. The big picture puts the choice heavily in favor of Toyota. It's very difficult to deny how impression gen-4 Prius results are.
Greenwash, definition. I got called out: "I'm not sure your use of greenwash is accurate. Greenwashing is giving
the appearance of being environmentally minded, while downplaying the damage
done to the environment." That made be reflect upon the
Interesting. Back then, there wasn't even such a term. I guess I used it with incorrect context. We called the effort to hold back and mislead about the technology "undermining".
All those years ago, the concept of "green" itself was different. People focused almost entirely on MPG. It was all about using less gas... regardless of how much you'd try to emphasize the reduction of smog-related emissions. You'd get downplay at best. The topic of carbon-related emissions was outright dismissed.
Now, the idea of "green" is just the collective effort to "be like Prius". The overwhelming success of the Toyota technology it uses leaves the spotlight on Prius. The other hybrid offerings simply don't get the same recognition. So, we just lump together the advantages of reduced consumption & emissions into a single acknowledgement.
Even more interesting is how "EV efficiency" is now coming into play for Prime... with will also be a trait of Prius. Being able to squeeze out so much from that size battery will get the "greenwash" treatment too. Look at how a few have already made the claim that 25 miles won't be easy to achieve and try to downplay the advantage of having a vapor-injected heat-pump.
How do we more accurately portray all those benefits? Ordinary consumers simply don't have the background to even know what to look for. It's very easy to deceive an audience like that. Calling "greenwash" is the environmental equivalent of raising a red flag.
Greenwash, uniqueness. This comment about our history
discussion caught my attention:
"They said people liked the uniqueness of the Prius because it held them
out as greener-than-thou." How could I not react to that? I
That's a good example of effective greenwashing. Way back, Prius was the only midsize hatchback available here. So, it was unique anyway. The practical nature of the shape simply made the decision to try the hybrid easier. Attempts to conceal that advantage over competing sedans were spun by giving the greener choice a stigma. In other words, they didn't like the message, so they went after the messengers.
Notice how none of the advanced tech for the driver ever gets mentioned? People didn't buy Prius just for "green" alone. So, no amount of smug claims can conceal the detail of what really happened back then. So, there's no reason to think it will now either.
Prime is a balance of design. The choice to deliver 25 miles of EV was well thought out. Accepting size, cost, and weight tradeoffs wasn't realistic. You don't configure a vehicle for the masses that appeals to enthusiasts. Those are mutually exclusive audiences. Their preferences differ too much. So, don't get purchase advice for ordinary consumers from them.
Ask yourself, do mainstream buyers even care about being green? The market right now shows a strong desire for "good enough" efficiency. That means any appeal to eliminate gas use basically falls on deaf ears. That doesn't mean they won't be willing to spend a little bit on EV driving though. An affordable plug-in hybrid (that's profitable for the automaker without tax-credit subsidies) appears to be the ideal solution.
Toyota is giving it a try with Prime. The initial rollout won't be as fast as traditional vehicles or as widely spread, but the ramp up could following that introduction purchases could be quite impressive.
Availability History, patience. I ended the long post describing the history with: "In other words, patience." Upgrades are difficult to understand at times. But each wait and resulting improvement was well worth it. Rarely do you hear about steps backward. Not everyone will be happy though, since change will inevitably disappoint some. That need for being patient makes it harder to deal with. Uncertainty presents challenges. That's why I do my best to point out what may not be obvious. Knowledge of history is especially difficult to acquire. How would you study the past for Prius? There are few sources that are comprehensive and almost none that are easy to follow. There's so much material too. With so many years of history and the distortion associated with looking back, rather than reading about the events in the "as it happened" context, how would you do it? Fortunately, a need with patience is having something to do in the meantime. Why not read a massive collection of blogs that were written as the history played out, from the perspective of day to day observations? Hmm. :)
Availability History, priceless. Think about all the unanswered questions we have. Even as well-informed online participants seeking out information, we simply don't know yet. Would you really want newbies learning about the system based on anecdotal observation, rather than basing results on a good understanding of the basics? That's a recipe for disaster. Driving conditions vary far too much for generalizations. Letting us identify a solid working knowledge first, then come up with a simple way to share that, is priceless.