Personal Log  #786

January 2, 2017  -  January 7, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017

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Plug-In Prototype.  I had an opportunity way back in the Summer of 2010 to play with a prototype Prius for a few days... a plug-in model.  This was the testing configuration put on the road for use by ordinary people to collect real-world data.  2 full years before the production model was rolled out, some of us were experiencing the dream firsthand.  It was an augmentation of the hybrid system.  Toyota added battery-capacity and a plug to enhance operation.  The goal was to provide a MPG boost.  There was no EV drive requirement back then or later when the PHV model was rolled out.  That didn't come until other offerings stirred the market, carrying it in a different direction.  All those years ago, focus was on making the hybrid even more of a hybrid.  Nowadays, that sounds counter-intuitive.  Back then, the adding of a plug was viewed upon from a very different perspective.  Anywho, I took that prototype out to a beautiful country setting, an isolated road surrounded by fields of corn.  The photos turned out great too, see:  photo album 202


Even More.  Yes, more unpublished Prius photos.  This collection was stored away on a memory card, not forgotten... just set aside for someday.  Finally getting to look through what I had captured over 6 years early was very exciting.  I still remembered taking them quite clearly.  It was at the old military testing facility from World-War II.  There were nothing but concrete frames remaining.  Some of it was surrounded by untouched land in a secluded location.  Other parts were bordered by corn fields.  Much of which is accessible anymore.  Some was fenced off.  The rest sold to a manufacturing facility.  So, having taken them is a nice way to preserve the time... with the Prius, of course.  Remaining unpublished for so long isn't so bad.  I wish I would have had time to share them sooner.  But it sure it fun now looking back at those treasured memories from long, long ago...  photo album 201  photo album 202


Wind-Turbine.  I'm still finding treasure in my archives.  More photos of the 2010 Prius were found.  In this case, it's especially exciting.  I found photos at the same location from 2 different times of the year.  One set was from late harvest, in the Fall.  There's corn fields in the foreground and a big wind-turbine in the background.  Being able to park right along side that looked really nice.  Catching that scene right before sunset made it even better.  The second set of photos is the same place, but Winter.  3 months later meant snow instead of corn.  It was also right when the sun was setting.  Seeing the same place like that under different circumstances is really interesting.  There's 2 that especially peaked my excitement though.  I turned off the paved road to a dirt road, for photos from a different angle.  That was the very location I was at in the previous photos... 2 years later, that same icy road... only a few feet from there, but facing the other direction.  Check out my 2010 Prius with a large wind-turbine in the background:  photo album 200


2010 Prius.  Believe it or not, I had even older photos that never got published.  In this case, they were of my Prius prior to getting the plug-in model.  Interesting thing about them is the captures were underexposed.  The setting was a icy dirt road just after sunset.  That made the lighting extremely difficult to work with.  In other words, they were too dark.  Correcting problems like that is easy nowadays though.  I found a digital filter able to being out the sections needing to be brighter without washing out the sunset.  The results look great.  Lots of detail was revealed in the foreground, stuff you wouldn't have been able to see otherwise.  I guess waiting in this case really paid off.  Sure glad I didn't just abandon these.  They look nice, capturing a circumstance few rarely ever see... especially with a Prius.  Check them out:  photo album 199


April 2012.  Once upon a time, when my Prius PHV was only 1 month old, I took in on a trip up north.  We unexpectedly ended up getting a bunch of new snow.  That provided an amazing opportunity.  The fresh, sticky white stuff coating all those trees in isolated, scenic areas was great.  I went nuts with the camera too.  Unfortunately, those photos remained unseen for all this time, nearly 5 years.  That new plug-in hybrid had me busy with lots of other stuff.  So it wasn't until now, as I'm preparing to upgrade to a Prius Prime, that I'm catching up and finally publishing some of the photos.  There were many.  Choosing the best is a challenge.  It's rewarding to have such a collection available.  Here's what I ended up selecting to share, those long lost PHV photos from many years ago... photo album 197  photo album 198  photo album 199

1-07-2017 More Cheerleading.  The blind optimism never ceases.  The enthusiasts see what they want.  Yesterday, it was a reflection of last month's sales with: "Bolt and Prime validate Volt. Sales, regardless of incentives, are up. Way up."  I waited a full day before responding.  I was curious if anyone had anything constructive to say about that.  Turns out, none did.  So, I sounded off, pointing out and asking: 

A spike in sales at year-end is the usual expectation.  People rush to take advantage of being able to collect tax-credit money right away, rather than having to wait an additional 12 months.  That influence cannot simply be dismissed. Sales going up temporarily is normal.  What happens in the following months is what tells the real story.

As for Bolt validating Volt, how?  The premise of Volt was to alleviate "range anxiety" by providing an engine for backup power when electricity runs out due to battery limitations.  Bolt doesn't need that.  The 200-mile EV range overcomes the same concern... which invalidates. Bolt's capacity growth through increased energy-density and cost-reduction counters the selling point of Volt.

With respect to Prime, what is the Volt validation?  We always knew the mid-cycle, limited-rollout Prius PHV would be replaced by a nationwide next-gen model featuring a larger capacity battery and more power, for a price competitive with traditional vehicles.  That's exactly what Toyota has delivered. What influence did Volt have?  It certainly wasn't a need for liquid-cooling or much further EV range.

Put it this way.  The sales goal hasn't changed. 24,739 is well below the target of 60,000 set for mainstream penetration and maintainable profitability.  Bolt will be competing for the same limited quantity of tax-credits with Volt.  Rapid significant growth is essential. That record high 3,691 needs to climb to 5,000 and remain there.  Otherwise, what's the point?  Replacing traditional vehicles with plug-in choices requires strong sales without subsidies.


Repeating Fake News.  It's really getting frustrating.  Yesterday, an article with this title was published: "2017 Chevrolet Volt Brushes Off Prius Prime Success".  It contained lots of greenwashing.  The technique most common is to omit vital detail.  In this case, there was no mention of availability.  Sales results were presented as if availability was the same.  You are led to believe people actually had the choice, that inventory was available to decide upon.  That couldn't be further from the truth.  There are people going nuts in the Midwest waiting for Prime to arrive.  There simply aren't any yet.  What makes that frustrating is when you read the same article again, word for work, published the next day on a different website.  Today, that happened.  The new title of the article was: "2017 Chevrolet Volt Doesn't Care About Success Of Toyota Prius Prime".


Freaky Cold.  The usual temperatures well below zero are here no, right on schedule.  First week of January here in Minnesota, you have that expectation.  Being cold so much lower than just the freezing point means the engine starts up right away.  Seeing that negative sign though gets me quite curious.  What will I experience when I finally get my Prius Prime?  Being able to warm the cabin with electricity supplied directly from the charger will be a nice perk at work.  But how effective will it be then, when heat-pumps don't have much warmth from the air to draw upon?  There's a point at which the engine will start up anyway.  Of course, it won't need to run as long with the battery-pack also having an electric warming feature.  The steering-wheel and seats will be electrically warmed too.  So, comfort for all is covered.  There is that reality of needing to clear windows though.  Whatever the case, it will be even more efficient than the Prius PHV now.  It will also warm faster.  That's good, exactly what you want from a next-generation upgrade.


2016 Sales.  Understanding the opposition to plug-in vehicles is quite a challenge... except with Volt.  That "vastly superior" attitude revealed the intention to dominate, rather than collaborate.  The enthusiasts simply didn't like the idea of a smaller battery-pack and performance on-par with mainstream vehicles.  They felt better was absolutely necessary... a need, rather than a want.  That fundamental clash of purpose has caused many problems over the years... because the measure of success is sales, not engineering extremes.  Volt enjoyed a major spike in purchases during December.  That's no surprise.  Between the growing popularity of plug-in and the usual year-end rush to collect tax-credits, the spike was a realistic expectation.  Stepping back from the monthly numbers to look at annual totals, you get a different story.  Expecting the first full year of gen-2 to climb close to mainstream minimum was reasonable.  After all, the enthusiasts boasted about doing it for years.  That number count 60,000 sales.  For the first full year of gen-2 Prius sales, the total came to 53,991.  Enthusiasts had set an expectation of exceeding that.  Why not?  The new generation represented a massive amount of engineering with years of refinement.  It also would have a $7,500 tax-credit.  That wasn't the case for Prius.  All it had was a $2,000 tax-deduction, which only came to between $300 and $400 on your return.  Toyota didn't have an much experience as GM at that point either.  That's why the 2016 total for Volt of just 24,739 is really a source of concern.  That's well short of the target... and now there is the added pressure coming from Bolt.  Growth is essential.  Watch how things play out over the next few months.


Teaching Moments.  We've all heard the phrase "teaching to the choir", but how many people actually go out of their way to seek an audience that isn't already receptive to your ideas?  There are very few.  In the online world, most who come from outside and stir the status quo are labeled as a "troll".  The nature of people is to resist change, especially if you can find a place where you can post daily.  Messages which disrupt the happy flow of cheerleading are regarded as unwelcome.  But if you really want to learn what the market is like outside of your protected sphere, that's what you have to do and where you have to go.  I've heard that same suggestion from many successful journalists.  You have to go where the problems are.  That's what I've been doing for many, many years too.  It's quite stress dealing with the continuous onslaught of resistance.  But that's where some of my best material comes from.  Their different mindsets are what provide new ideas... for me.  Every now and then though, the flow of knowledge works in reverse.  That absurd "vastly superior" argument ended with a teaching moment.  My comments about television advertisements actually sunk in.  He parroted back a "That's why GM is using targeted advertising" response.  Looking back through all the posts over those past few days, it was quite obvious he had no clue of that approach prior to me posting about it.  That was clearly a me-too measure.  He got caught unaware and didn't want to admit that I had a valid point.  Acknowledgement of having overlooked something so important isn't something you should ever expect from an antagonist.  Reading them post about something later you originally pointed is an entirely different matter.  It's confirmation of change.  I got the message through to a very stubborn opponent.  It's really unfortunate he still believes the competition is other plug-in vehicles.  That's such a detriment to the effort of replacing traditional vehicles.


Looking Forward.  We are approaching the point which automotive battery technology for plug & drive is no longer easily dismissed by misconceptions.  It's becoming recognized as feasible.  To advance to it being realistic, we have to address efficiency & affordability.  This is where shortcomings of Volt get looked upon as problems of the past, rather than issues of contention still.  The gen-2 model was rated at 31 kWh/100 miles.  That made it somewhat of an electricity guzzler.  When rolled out, that was just brushed off with the "electricity is better than gas" excuse.  Now, we can actually take an objective look at electric efficiency... since Bolt is improved with a 28 kWh/100 miles rating.  That undeniable progress from GM makes discussions easier.  Being constructive is still a problem though... since Prius Prius is even more efficient with a 26 kWh/100 miles rating (specifically 25.9 when the value isn't rounded).  In other words, less battery is needed to travel the same difference.  It's how affordability comes into play.  That next step is a very important one too.  Mainstream acceptance requires a price low enough to still be profitable when competing directly against traditional vehicles.  The challenges between electric-only and plug-in hybrid appeal are quite significant; however, they do still share efficiency & affordability requirements.  Looking forward, we will hopefully find more in common.  After all, the ultimate goal is to replace traditional vehicles.


From Volt to Bolt.  On the eve of Bolt's debut month sales results and the 10th anniversary of the Volt concept reveal, an automotive journal published an interesting article today titled: "GM's journey from Volt to Bolt. A troubled vehicle paved the way for more audacious bets."  Upon reading the first paragraph, it's easy to see why there was so much resent toward those like me pushing for cooperation rather than superiority.  It stated this short & painful description of Volt: "It flopped."  The article went on to describe the failure to achieve annual sales of at least 60,000 even with a money-losing price.  Fortunately, the battery technology will survive the perils of business reality.  That's what was used to create Bolt.  So, even though the small, expensive, niche-configured vehicle has no expectation of mainstream acceptance anymore, its successor does.  It's a gamble only the die-hard Volt enthusiasts were not willing to accept... until recently.  That series of "superiority" posts appear to be the final battle.  There's so much excitement about Bolt deliveries now, it's as if Volt was just a step in the evolution of plugs which had this planned obsolescence all along.  In reality, we see the abandonment.  But then again, that was expected by those like me, who witnessed the very same thing with Two-Mode fell apart.  Volt replaced it in similar same manner... though, the time span was more drawn out.  This is rather abrupt.  Of course, news travels much raster nowadays.  It's really unfortunate the Volt enthusiasts absolutely refused to recognize the pattern.  I repeatedly pointed out the history parallels repeating.  Their denial of the possibility of those same mistakes being repeated ran very deep.  They didn't want to accept the evidence provided... then, as it was happening.  Now, it's being published as a retrospective by automotive journalists.


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