Personal Log  #792

February 5, 2017  -  February 12, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017

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2-12-2017 Method of Measure?  Concerns of battery-life continue to pop up as the plug-in cars get older.  The seemingly basic complications of chemical & component aging make expectations very complicated.  Does aging alter internal resistance?  How would you measure that?  Don't forget the influence vehicle break-in or the increased grip from new tires.  Needless to say, it's messy.  Some complain about EV range loss, but the accounts are always so vague, there's no good way to respond.  How do you make sure to include all influences?  How are they even measured?  For that matter, who even has a baseline to compare with?  This is how I addressed the situation today:

On Friday, my commute was a balmy 27°F (quite comfortable here in Minnesota), so no need for the heater.  That meant an opportunity to measure.  I went the full 9.2 miles of hilly suburb EV driving before running out of sub-62 mph road.  At that point, the remaining EV was indicated to be 0.4 miles.  Being able to drive 9.6 miles of EV in those conditions (hilly & sub-freezing) for a Prius PHV just 1 month shy of 5 years sounds right on par for aging expectations.

Right now, I'm at the coffeeshop blogging.  The temperature for the drive was 32°F.  The route 7.6 miles of all flat suburb (45, 50, 55 mph limit roads).  The entire drive was EV.  The remaining capacity was stated to be 2.7 miles.  The SOC was 39.6%, which confirms accuracy of the estimate.  That gives me a total of 10.3 miles of EV driving, which is right on too.  There was only 1 stop along the way.  Both lights were green and the 3 roundabouts you only have to slow down for.  Again, that seems quite reasonable for almost 5 years of use.

Note that during the work week, I recharge twice.  At home with 120-volt connection and at work with 240-volt.  Both include long cold-soaks (many hours).  For random full charging, I always wait a minimum of 90 minutes.  When stopping at the grocery store, the quick 10-minute top-off is immediate.  The battery-pack rarely ever saw extreme heat.  It simply never gets that warm this far north.

In other words, my aged battery-pack is working great still.

Can we get some fresh accounts from others, using a format like that above to describe their own experiences?


Fake Trouble.  Simply publishing a random article with a disconnected title works too: "The Toyota Prius Prime Proves That The Prius Hybrid Sucks".  There was literally nothing of any substance to support that.  It was just a bizarre collection of vague comments.  You'd think there was potential.  But the trend we've been seeing is that catchy titles are all that's needed.  Many don't bother actually reading the article all the way through.  Proof of that is how short the articles have become and the complete absence of comments.  No one posting anything is quite unusual.  In the past, you'd see reader participation everywhere.  The diverse audiences were always quite eager to post their opinions.  We're not seeing that with the articles fitting this new profile though.  Thankfully, the ones with actual detail remain quite active.  Nonetheless, it is still quite troubling to see a regular flow of "fake" news now.  We're hearing how these are being used to simply vindicate the stance a person has taken.  They simply want confirmation of their own opinion without bothering to understand the actual situation.


Ford Plug-Ins.  It's easy to forget this big automaker.  Quite the opposite of GM, they are quiet about high-efficiency offerings.  Rather than clamor for the spotlight on a regular basis, you hear virtually nothing.  Yet, sales are surprisingly similar.  Last year Ford delivered 23,895 Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi models.  The total is a combination of plug-in sales, but looking at total in this regard is fine.  We aren't talking about major numbers of any offerings yet.  Mainstream really doesn't apply until sales grow to the 60,000 annual level without tax-credit help.  There's no way to consider them competitive with traditional vehicles prior to that fulfilling that criteria.  It puts the 24,739 total for last year from gen-2 Volt into perspective.  This is why hybrids without plugs are talked about so infrequently now.  Either people are interested in those or they are not.  The technology is so well established, there's nothing to mention anymore.  The addition of a plug is an entirely different matter though.  Yet, you still don't hear much from Ford.  We certainly get our fill of GM spin on the other hand.  I'll sure be glad when that settles down.


Not Moving.  Sometimes, you actually get constructive discussion: "It must be profit margin that drives their not moving Voltec to a larger CUV or SUV."  I was pleased to finally see and respond to that:  What else could it be, you ask?  There's little reason to wonder if Voltec would work scaled up.  The system is clearly overpowered for a compact car and it originated from Two-Mode, which was used in Yukon & Tahoe.  The cost of Voltec is still high though and giving up profit isn't the GM approach.  There is the possibility of market collapse worry, a paradigm shift resulting from interest in efficiency.  That taste for EV propulsion leading to the abandonment of the mighty SUV in favor of sleek aerodynamic style instead isn't too much of a stretch.  After all, that is exactly what draws people to Model S and people have found compelling about Model 3.  People desire change after awhile.  The SUV has been done to death.  The sedan has become plain looking.  Signs are starting to point in the direction of the sport look again.  Remember what happened in the early 80's?  There isn't anything to stop that from happening again.  With the advent of LED lighting, the trickle down of carbon-fiber, and the re-introduction of waved glass, why not?  It all adds up nicely for Prius Prime.  The pattern fits with Toyota's history of leadership too.  This time though, it looks like a one-two punch.  It doesn't take much to imagine RAV4 hybrid being augmented with a plug.  The base system is in place already... and selling well.  We see other automakers on that plug-in SUV path too.  We'll never really know why GM is allowing their opportunity to slip. Of course, the antagonists here will just spin this post as an attempt to change the topic anyway.  So, let's simply end with an outlook for what 2017 will bring in terms of Prius sales.  My hunch is the regular model will remain relatively flat, right around the mainstream minimum for monthly sales.  For Prius Prime, expect it to open up the market for affordable plug-in hybrids.  In other words, Toyota will max-out their supplier quota and be scrambling to significantly bump next year's production.  Fortunately, Prime's worldwide rollout (Japan, United States, and Europe) all at once does help provide a realistic gauge for estimating demand in subsequent years.


Paradigm Shift.  It's happening.  The painfully slow acceptance of gen-2 Volt is getting the best of even the most stubborn.  Those enthusiasts of the past are no longer enthusiastic.  Failing to draw in a new audience can no longer be denied.  I'm writing this on the wall now:  GM milked high-profit vehicles for all they could prior to the market collapse and expensive gas.  We see them doing the very same thing now.  We also see battery cost dropping.  At some point, there will be a competitive market for EV cars, able to compete directly with traditional vehicles.  They won't offer much of a profit-margin, but they will make driving a guzzling SUV or Pickup passé.  Evidence of an upcoming shift is the preparation for it.  Both plug-in offerings, Volt & Bolt, are establishing the technology but not actually drawing GM's own loyal customers... who just replace their old SUV or Pickup with a new one.  Notice the heavy emphasis on conquest sales?  When demand rises for the low-profit choices, GM will have no option but to adapt.  We saw this history play out already with the computer industry.  Now, it's time for the automotive industry to bite that same bullet.  This is known as a paradigm shift.


Better.  We're getting a lot more spin lately: "It's not that the Prius is losing it's mojo, it because it has taken many years for the public to realize the Volt is a better car."  That's a good indicator of change.  When the same old rhetoric doesn't work anymore, they try something new.  I enjoyed exploring this angle:  For mainstream vehicles, the term "better" indicates that it offers a nice balance.  The expectation is that they fulfill a wide variety of criteria.  That's why those which sell in large quantities are so popular.  For other vehicles, you get some type of feature emphasis.  Whether it is speed or power or size or agility, there was always some type of trade off... resulting in low-volume purchase.  Prius was among the first of the modern vehicles to not require that, consequently selling in high-volume instead.  You'd get high-efficiency and low-emissions within the realm of ordinary performance.  Gen-3 made that point especially clear.  Gen-4 took an odd side-step by actually stiffening the body and upgrading suspension for improved handling, but that was achieved without trade off.  So when it comes to "", we need some type of clarity.  For starts, are you referring to the regular Prius or the plug-in model (Prime)?  In either case, both are much more efficient than Volt in HV mode and both have much lower base prices.  If the reference is to range, the "many years" makes no sense... since Prime rollout is still in the earliest stages (low volume on the coasts and none available in the Midwest).


Affordable.  There are some who absolutely hate affordable cars.  They look down upon the as a waste, unworthy of their time.  So, even bothering to consider one is behind them.  That makes any sort of acknowledgement a problem; however, you can sometimes get lucky by pointing out a new perspective.  I pointed out that room is being made for the rest of the Toyota product-line to be offered as hybrids, exactly as their long-term plan has stated.  Prius is going one direction.  Prime is going another.  Corolla hybrid will fill in between that.  This came about in return: "But the elephant in the hybrid room is the affordable plug-in."  It wasn't the direction hoped for with the discussion, but it was at least somewhat of a larger perspective being taken into account.  So, this seemed a good way to reply:  $27,100 MSRP for the base model Prime, which is fairly well loaded, fulfills that criteria.  That affordable price provides the potential to compete with traditional vehicles directly.  Also having a $4,502 tax-credit available will stimulate demand and speed education.


Sales Deception.  I'm growing really tired of seeing fake news on a regular basis now.  This morning's attempt at deception was: "This makes the Prius Prime a highly attractive car on the brochures but the poor design is holding the car back from enjoying good sales."  It's bad enough excluding availability information, giving the false impression of dealers having them in stock and consumers choosing not to purchase.  But to make a claim of "poor design" without providing any indication of what that actually meant is an entirely different matter.  I couldn't find anything even remotely revealing of what that could have implied.  It was simply a blatant slander attempt.  Nothing whatsoever was stated as to what it referred to.  Fortunately, only those looking for redemption to back their stance care anyway.  Taking claims at face value isn't what someone researching a purchase will do.  Those who stumble across the article, due to interest in the topic for whatever reason, will want to find out more.  They'll search for clarity.  There's also the approach of first-year sales being disregarded too.  Mainstream buyers tend to wait until the second year of rollout before even considering a test drive.  They wait.  The sales deception won't matter by then.  So, were good.


Fleet Demo.  I certainly wasn't thrilled to read this: "Just for the fun of it, I called the closest dealer to us, in Florida.  The guy seemed pretty up on what's going on.  He said Toyota sent them one, which sold right away."  It was no surprise.  Imagining how disinterested some dealers are toward selling a difficult to acquire vehicle isn't much of a stretch.  They earn very little profit and have to answer lots of questions.  Wanting to just stick to selling the money-makers right there on the lot with a variety of packages & colors is the preferred, by far.  At least with Toyota, they already have the Prius reputation well established.  That makes participation much more likely.  As of this now (early in the rollout stage), only 40% of GM dealers have expressed interest in selling Bolt.  We saw the same type of struggle with Volt.  So, the situation with Prime isn't so bad.  Not being discouraging is good.  It's still annoying though.  I provided this insight into the situation:  Ugh.  It's the same old dealer problem Toyota corporate faced back with the Classic model rollout in 2000.  They'd deliver a "fleet demo" model to the dealer with explicit instructions not to sell it for 6 months, that it was to be used exclusively for education purposes in the meantime.  Some dealers respected that, using it for customer demos and salesperson training.  Others sold it without any regard for what it was intended.


Defending Pride.  That individual who had become quite a standout antagonist has recognized what "too little, too slowly" really meant.  The pain of learning just how much opportunity had been missed and now dealing with the consequences of such blind hope is obvious.  Oops!  My push to take the next step stings too.  That means having to admit making a huge mistake and worse... acknowledging a Prius owner understood the market.  No amount of engineering excellence can overcome stupid executive decisions.  Harm to business for the sake of pride is nothing new, neither is seeing enthusiasts fiercely defend it.  That's why they are called "enthusiasts" rather than "supporters".  A true supporter of business wouldn't let pride get in the way of reaching sales goals.  If an error in judgment is made, you look back at what could have been done better, then move on.  I'm not seeing that.  I do give the opportunity to let go of the past... which is take a step forward:  It's easy to see which particular questions are being evaded.  Attempts to divert attention away from GM are obvious too.  The condescending attitude though, that's the real giveaway.  That's what leads to discoveries.  That's why I have endured so many "vastly superior" posts.  Bolt's heater is the latest oddity to be revealed.  It was said to "use a resistance-heater that circulates coolant through a heater core".  Why not just a resistance-heater by itself?  Does the added complexity of coolant use improve efficiency?  If so, is it more efficient than using a heat-pump instead?  Or what about using the even more efficient a vapor-injected type of heat-pump?


72 Degrees.  Having enough battery power to drive the entire depletion of coolant heat almost never happens.  Today was different.  Traffic was really heavy due to the snow falling.  My wife and I (we commute together) decided to take the back way to work.  That route is quite scenic and likely wouldn't take much longer than the heavily congested highway anyway.  That meant a lot of EV driving opportunity, after the engine got fully warmed up.  I got excited when I saw the circumstances play out.  I announced the temperature drop as the degrees fell.  Witnessing surprises lows was nothing new.  Even with the temperature outside well below freezing, it was still quite realistic to drive several miles with the engine off.  That inevitably concluded with the end of EV capacity of the end of suburb driving.  Today, luck was in my favor.  True, I had just jumped onto the 55 mph highway to cross the river, but the battery-pack was almost depleted already... and the coolant temperature had already exceeded the lowest state I had ever seen.  My chance to confirm a prediction was about to come true.  72°F is the well accepted standard comfort-level for many.  Was the system in this Prius capable of drawing out heat from the warmed coolant all the way down to that point?  From 130°F to 72°F is not what the regular model supports.  Turns out, PHV does.  I got to watch it happen firsthand too.  Being able to keep the engine off to that point is really smart.  Toyota clearly thought out every little aspect of how to squeeze out efficiency.


$1,000 Shipping.  There is one dealer in Wisconsin who somehow has had a few unspoken for Prime to sell.  How could just that one have them available?  It was making some of us crazy... especially after hearing the story about a Prius owner on a trip from Missouri who just happened to stop there our of curiosity and ended up driving home in a new Prime.  Talking about lucky!  Turns out, that dealer has been purchasing them out on the East Coast and having them shipped over on a truck.  For their effort, a fee of $1,000 is added to the sale.  It's a convenience some people have been willing to pay for.  I did something similar 5 years ago to get my Prius PHV.  Knowing an absolutely wonderful salesperson in Los Angeles, it was just a matter of placing an order with her and contracting my own delivery truck.  That would cost me less than $1,000 to do that again.  So, the dealer is clearly making a small profit, especially with the truck fully loaded with Prime.  Ordering locally was important this time.  Being part of the local plug-in owners group, there's a huge benefit from establishing dealer contacts.  We seek out well informed and helpful salespeople, they direct plug-in business to them.  It's a win-win situation.  One thing we hadn't expected was a dealer being so willing to help, they'd take it upon themselves to seek out distant inventory rather than waiting for regional distribution.  Education of business & customer needs to start somewhere.


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