Personal Log #789
January 21, 2017 - January 25, 2017
Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017
page #788 page #790 BOOK INDEX
Audience Differences. It's very interesting to read the results of the same testing interpreted a very different way. Good Housekeeping published an article listing Prius Two Eco as the "best new hybrid". That wasn't the conclusion Car & Driver came to though. Their audiences have basically nothing in common. One caters to ordinary mainstream consumers, the other automotive enthusiasts. So, it totally makes sense to see their opinions vary so much. Testing involved driving 1,200 miles on both test tracks and open roads. Rating included value, safety, smoothness, handling, interior design, comfort, and onboard technology.
What Does Competitive Mean? I really wanted to get a sincere answer, instead: "It means GM has a 200+ BEV targeted for mainstream buyers and Toyota does not have one." Getting that was annoying. The greenwash of more is better clouds judgment. How can that be the only solution to replacing traditional vehicles? They are the competition on the showroom floor. Knowing that basically anything I post is futile, it's difficult finding a way to proceed. But if you want others to break out of that mindset, you have to keep trying: How can not having any competition be the definition of competitive? The competition we've been expecting from GM is for Volt technology to be offered as a model choice for its own mainstream vehicles, not conquest sales from other automakers. Toyota is working to have its own traditional offerings compete with plug-in hybrid models of the same vehicle. Imagining a Prime version of RAV4 is very easy, especially now that we've seen how affordably that was achieved for Prius. Bolt seems like an abandonment, as if Volt was only a stop-gap until a long-range EV could be delivered. Will we ever see a Malibu hybrid with a plug offered? What about any type of Equinox hybrid? How will AWD and towing requirements be fulfilled? Do you really expect GM customers to just purchase a Bolt instead? In other words, know your audience. Who the competition is makes a huge difference. If GM customers don't have better choices, they'll just settle for traditional models.
Unacceptable. Someone totally new to what's left of the daily blog for Volt joined, with a very open mind. The attempt to be constructive showed signs of weakness right away though: "Sales growth is not THE GOAL. In a period of lower than average petrol costs, a compelling design, efficiency, unit profitability, marketing value, and sales volume are ALL important. If GM has found right volume mixes for the Volt and Bolt in the current economic climate they are doing the right thing for GM." The fallback to defending the status quo with excuses emerged far too soon. That was a big let down, especially on a discussion thread addressing the problems EPA now faces under this new administration. Deflated about the lost potential, I replied with: EPA rulings being changed will continue to keep gas costs low for many, many years to come. The right thing to do is pushing for sales growth regardless. That means offering a configuration fitting that criteria… compelling, efficient, profitable, marketable… in high-volume. Otherwise, the clean tech only makes it to a limited number of drivers. Each sale of a plug-in means one less dirty guzzler in traffic for the next decade. A small battery-pack is far better than no battery-pack at all. I had to put up with the "wait for gen-2 rollout" promises for years, despite knowing the push for more drilling and more pipelines would result in cheap gas challenges. Yet, excuses for delay were the mantra. Climate-Change is a problem now. Clean air is a problem now. Good enough is unacceptable.
Focus. Trying to get back to the simple things hasn't been easy. There's a lot of barriers to overcome, which makes getting stuck the norm. That's where "be patient" gets abused. Legitimate delay turns into excuses if you are not careful Objectivity is nearly impossible online though. The venue doesn't promote that; instead, it encourages participation through rhetoric. That's what compels many to sound off... hence the problems we had with the election. Focus was on hype, not constructive exchanges. Needless to say, that situation applies to the clean & efficient market too. They focus on praise for engineering achievement... not with the lack of accomplishment. Addressing the need to reach ordinary consumers is almost a taboo topic. Heavy dependency on subsidizing through tax-credits is the problem. The seemingly endless supply is shrinking. We can actually see the end approaching. That's very bad news for vehicles with uncompetitive MSRPs. A price too high to champion what mainstream buyers expect spells imminant doom... and the Volt enthusiasts know it. So, why not focus on what can be accomplished instead... namely the move of Voltec to a vehicle that will actually result in growth. My commentary on the situation today was: With the technology GM delivered proven and the pool of enthusiasts exhausted, there are questions about next steps to achieve growth... even without an administration opposed to changing the status quo. Concerns of business challenges were brushed aside in the past, claiming great engineering of Voltec was all that would be needed. We clearly see now that isn't the case. What should the focus be?
The Nightmare Begins. Reading this today was
confirmation of the disaster we feared: "...a loosening of environmental rules and taxation for a major increase in
manufacturing in the US." The context of that isn't necessary to
even bother wasting any time on. We knew this administration was
determined to turn back progress. It was inevitable. Elections
of the past made it easy. They'd simply promise lower gas prices.
That was all people needed to hear... since no other solution was realistic
for mass acceptance yet. Now, we have far more than just a handful of
choices. There are a large assortment of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and
electric-only vehicles either already available or being promoted as
available in the next few years. That large of an alternative presence
is too much to dismiss or ignore. That's why the technology itself
isn't getting attention from the new administration. In fact, it's
being ignored entirely. I haven't heard any mention whatsoever.
All efforts are focused on undoing mandates established by our previous 8
years of environmental & technological advancement. It goes well
beyond a "why bother" attitude. The feeling now an attitude
of "that has been proven ineffective". We are watching a
strong effort to bring back dirty guzzlers. The nightmare begins today
with this confirming of intent. The goal was reachable too. They
just didn't want to. Imagine telling your children how we had the
ability, but decided they weren't important enough to try.
Appearance or Technology? A new post this morning was about the shopping experience someone had. He and his wife simply couldn't get over the looks of Prius, so they purchased a Volt instead. It's entirely possible the "ugly white plastic" was a deterrent, but that's why there is an choice to get black instead. Of course, he never actually test-drove a Prime. He didn't even mention seeing one. My guess is there was an assumption of bigger battery only, not an entirely different interior & exterior... despite the 23 Prime photos included in the article. So, I injected this into the discussion: Huh? Your comments were about the regular Prius, not Prime. This further confuses what you posted: "The full electric miles with no charging anxiety gives it an advantage that Toyota's technology just can't match. Car and Driver was right on with their honest review." Are you unaware that Prime provides 25 miles of full electric driving, at speeds up to 84 mph? With the new electric gas-injected heat-pump, it's even more efficient than what is offered for Volt. What is the "can't match" claim about technology based upon? Are you unaware that Toyota builds other hybrids with more powerful electric motors? Take a look at the RAV4 hybrid. Think about how little it would take to add a plug. Being a SUV with AWD makes it an especially appealing candidate for battery augmentation.
Back to asking "Who?" The attempt to move on to growth took me back to audience again. Reading this comment from that on-going Volt to Prime comparison article did it: "The whole point of driving a PHEV like the Volt is that you are driving it as close as you can to 100% of the time in EV mode. If you are doing the same in the Prime that means you’re stuck with a 91 hp car most of the time. No thanks." Most people have absolutely no clue what the numbers actually correlate to. They only know that more is better, from having been told that. Actual firsthand experience is an entirely different matter. I know. I have extensive experience. That much real-world data emboldens what you say. Hopefully, it wasn't too abrasive: 91 horsepower may not be to your liking, but it is clearly enough. With the 51 horsepower available in the Prius PHV (which I have been driving for nearly 5 years), local errand running and cruising along at 60 mph works just fine. Heck, I even routinely accelerate onto the highway without the gas-engine firing up. Adding another 40 horsepower raises the electric-only speed threshold to 84 mph and allows you to mash the pedal to the floor. I test-drove a Prime (while trying to patiently await the delivery of mine). Even with the electric-heater running, acceleration onto the nearby 70 mph highway was no big deal. That 91 horsepower of EV is up to the chore. The desire for more horsepower is easy to acknowledge. Though, that begs the question of who will be willing to pay for it? Who does Volt & Prime appeal to? Who are the intended buyers?
Delivery Delay. When you study Prius Prime, it becomes easy to see the future soon to arrive. We aren't talking years from now, after there's a scramble to deal with tax-credit expirations. It's later this year, once ramp-up is achieved. Toyota worked hard to deliver a configuration actually capable of competing with traditional vehicles, not dependent upon subsidies or incentives. That's something GM has yet to address... and the fanbois know that all too well. It's why the rhetoric attempts on that new venue failed to stir interest. Not being on their blog that catering to cheerleading has confirmed a variety of shortcomings. They wouldn't listen to me, but could simply use the label of "troll" to get their message heard. That doesn't work elsewhere... which they are finding out the hard way. No more spotlight. No more cheering. No more control. They have to address the true problems. That's quite vindicating; however, it can be humbling too. There are true problems. There are delivery delays of Prius Prime. We aren't sure how much each factor influences the overall results. All we know is there are bottlenecks in the production/assembly process. This is how I summarized the situation for a good friend: Worldwide rollout all at once, combined with carbon-fiber and wave-glass manufacturing challenges, along with industry sensor shortages, is a recipe for delay.
President Who? Remember way back when, shortly after hybrid rollout began here? The impressive PNGV (Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicle) program was canceled. That was the very effort which inspired Prius. It was the federally funded program to support research & development of advanced automotive technology to deliver clean & efficient solutions. Only Americans automakers were allowed to participate. Those from Japan were forced to compete without the same opportunity. Little did anyone now such exclusion would result in a profoundly better vehicle far sooner. Anyone, the program was replaced with "Freedom Car". What a joke. It didn't get as much funding, the timeline was extended dramatically, and expectations were lowered. That effort was clearly greenwashing, a ruse to distract & delay. What a terrible letdown by that new administration. Most people have no idea such a major undermining action ever took place. That same naive nature is what those proclaiming "give him a chance" will allow similar action to happen again. Heck, the repeating of history is what my blogs are loaded with. Complaint after complaint about not recognizing patterns fell on ears of those in great denial. Yesterday introduced us to a new president. Do you really know who he is? Already having strong ties to the oil industry and having proclaimed strong support for the coal industry during his campaign, there is reason for concern. Don't just sit by, choosing to react after the fact rather than stating demands. This is America. Shouldn't our market be the leader in green acceptance? Embracing solar & wind offers so much potential for new employment opportunity. Why not push for action before any executive decisions are made. Make sure it is well understood that we what abundant renewable electricity in our future. It makes no sense investing heavily in oil & coal. I know this all too well, having some family in Wyoming. The potential demonstrated here in Minnesota makes the solution so obvious. We just need to make sure others see that too. Start with a serious consideration of Prius Prime... an affordable plug-in for the masses.
New Venue, superiority. It was only a matter of time before ranting about domestic automakers being better and (ironically) hydrogen being a distraction got posted. That came about on a thread comparing Volt to Prime, in comments related to that recent enthusiast publication. It wasn't about to let it get any traction. I jumped on that right away, firing off: Misleading about the other choices is a terrible approach to promoting electric propulsion. That 25 mph limitation is only prior to the system warming up and only applies to the models without a plug. So, it makes no sense whatsoever even mentioning it. What do you think the competition is anyway? If you believe it is other plug-in vehicles, you've lost your mind. They represent only a teeny tiny fraction of the market. Sales of traditional vehicles are absolutely crushing the choices offering a plug. Grow up and stop with the rhetoric! There's no place for that. We need to find ways together to offer affordable plug choices for mainstream buyers that automakers & dealers will gladly supply. That doesn't come about from misleading.
New Venue, phaseout. A newly relocated antagonist posted: "But the tax-credit doesn’t go from $7,500 to 0. It's phased out." He has been a royal pain in the you-know-what. Having him misplaced in this new venue, no longer in a safe haven should be interesting. I hit him with: Once the quantity limit is triggered, the phaseout starts a timer. The credit value is then reduced and the limit switches to a measure based on months. Success of Bolt will bring about that $0 problem well before the product-cycle for gen-2 Volt is complete. How will GM sell Volt profitably then? There is currently a heavy dependence on the tax-credit money and battery-cost reduction is not enough to compensate. Toyota is already positioned to deal with that. (They have far more tax-credits still available too.) The Prime base-model MSRP is just $27,100. Mock & Belittle all you want about battery-size. Prime is designed to deal with the lack of subsidies. Volt is not. That's a harsh business reality we will watch play out in the next few years.
New Venue, efficiency. I really enjoyed responding to this: "The difference between 106 mpge and 133 mpge is also huge. I wonder why..." It really makes me wonder how people will reply in return to my post: There are many, many factors of influence beyond weight & aerodynamics. Pointing out why Prime has a more efficient EV drive than Volt will result in much retaliation though. So, be prepared for spin. The first reason should be obvious, the electric-motor. The type of wires and how tightly they are coiled are easy to understand differences. You can think of the efficiencies gained from just comparing to CPU design. The material & size make a big difference with electricity consumption too. The next thing that should easily come to mind is battery chemistry. Tolerances of electrical operation (discharge, temperature, responsiveness, etc) will have a major influence on the output. Then there's the not-so-obvious, the controllers & software. So many hardware components and lines of coding could have an impact about how the system operates. Heck, there's even the connections & wiring to take into consideration. GM's emphasis on simply providing more battery capacity reduced the priority of squeezing out greater efficiency from everything else. Toyota didn't take KWH for granted like that... hence the resulting higher MPGE value.