Prius Personal Log  #814

June 5, 2017  -  June 8, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 6/11/2017

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Launching Attacks.  Out of the blue, on a thread discussing Prime's rapid rise in interest, this came from a Volt owner: "I am going to raise the old topic of "EREV" again! Volt deserves the special designation of EREV compared with the rest of PHEVs! ...there are still NO PHEV out there to even match the EV range of gen 1 Volt. That is 7 years already!"  He has been ever since we first crossed paths a few months ago.  His very first post replying to me was an attack claiming something to the affect that I was protecting the oil industry.  That gave the impression he was an EV supporter against all engine use.  Finding out later he owned a plug-in hybrid was quite a surprise... though, the attitude wasn't.  The bizarre need to label Volt differently than all the other automaker plug-in hybrid offerings is that same old trophy-mentality.  It impairs progress and makes cooperation nearly impossible.  That means having to deal with each random attack.  Those claims of superiority sure are annoying.  I guess he realizes winning the war alone is impossible, so he's settling for victories in small battles instead.  I wonder how this will be taken:  EV range is the only original criteria remaining, and that was only vaguely important.  The rest of how EREV had been defined has eroded away entirely.  Other offerings have joined in with competitive design.  Prime offers both more efficient EV and more efficient HV.  Prime also delivered the industries most efficient electric heater.  Prime is also the lowest priced plug-in hybrid.  Saying Volt is somehow special simply doesn't hold any water.  It's a plug-in hybrid, since it has a gas engine.  What's wrong with that?


Drawing Conclusions.  It's in our nature to do so, even with little information available.  In this care, there basically isn't anything yet.  Nonetheless, people are drawing conclusions about the plug-in market already.  Rollout of a technology can be fairly rapid to those well informed.  That's why enthusiasts get so excited.  They know.  They understand.  Education simply isn't needed.  That most definitely isn't the case for ordinary consumers though.  Willingness to invest is far more involved.  That's why this can't be taken seriously: "Most ordinary consumers don't buy anything with plug anyway..."  How could that possibly be known?  The choice to do so is almost non-existent.  Having to place an order for a vehicle, then wait months for delivery is so far removed for the usual purchase experience, that alone is a deterrent.  People move on to the next choice even when the technology is well understood, simply from not having to wait.  In the case of a plug-in vehicle, there's a wait for the tax-credit in your returns the following year too.  Needless to say, I wasn't about to left that comment slip by:  Most ordinary consumers don't even know about them yet.  So, there's no possible way such a generalization can be claimed.  Even a number of readers hear haven't learned about how the newest plug-in offerings work.  Saying a bulk of the population won't be interested cannot be done some data from those new offerings to analyze either.  Prime is barely just rolling out in the Midwest.  We're waiting for Chrysler, Hyundai, Honda, Tesla, and Nissan to all make debuts this year.  Heck, we may even hear something from Mitsubishi and Ford too.  There's also VW to consider.  That means anything related to purchase decisions is far to premature.


Flooring It.  In a traditional vehicle, that usually means requesting maximum RPM from the engine.  People instinctively avoid that, unless absolutely necessary.  With a hybrid, the maximum is artificially limited.  That RPM is much lower as a result.  It means you can be generous with the pedal, yet still get rapid acceleration.  The reason is simple, there is also a motor & battery contributing propulsion power.  That makes up the difference.  It was concept easy to understand... until recently: "Flooring the pedal and pushing through the click switches on the 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine..."  That comment came from a first-look report of the upcoming new hybrid from Honda.  That's exactly what you'd expect, right?  Not necessary.  From a hybrid with a plug, some respond that way, others don't.  Knowing which would had been a simple matter of checking how big the motor was.  Very small meant the engine would need to supplement power.  The new plug-in hybrid Clarity will have a very large motor, but will still offer the ability to fire up the engine using the pedal.  That means flooring it simulates an engine response familiar to traditional drivers.  With Volt and Prime, that behavior is intentionally excluded.  Drivers want to avoid that from happening via a pedal drop; instead, you push a button to request engine-assist.  You confused yet?  If not, consider how difficult it will be keeping track of which offerings behave in a certain way.  For that matter, think about which depend on the pedal and which a button.  Needless to say, those of us trying to be constructive have our work cut out for us.  Here's my attempt to exchange knowledge and solicit feedback:  Note that Prime will remain in EV mode, even when maximum acceleration is requested.  There has been a lot of confusion lately from older reviews who unknowingly reported the engine starting, when they were actually in EV-AUTO mode instead, which is configured to allow the engine to start.  Finding out that Honda Clarity will behave similar to Hyundai Ioniq and Chrysler Pacifica should make us wonder how mainstream consumers will interpret the plug-in hybrid choices.  Since Prime & Volt deliver an "always" mode for EV, what influence will that have on the purchase decision?  The simple question of how the heater works will likely become a bigger issue.  Prime's vapor-injected heat-pump is much more efficient that Volt's resistance heater.  Both use only electricity though. Ioniq must run its engine for heat.


Commute Distance.  The argument for years has focused entirely on commute distance.  I found a study that used 2011 census data to analysis 96 metro areas.  The results were surprising.  Most people drove distances less than 12 miles.  When you think about that, it makes sense.  But from a talking-point perspective, most people obviously had not.  That's why when I posted the entire collection of data, it freaked out the antagonist.  That much detail is difficult to dispute.  So, he didn't.  The tactic of changing-focus was tried instead: "People drive more in a day than just to/from work. You have lunch-time travel, work time travel, trips after work, etc. And why are you cherry picking metro areas?"  I anticipated that.  It's a predictable outcome.  Being cornered is nothing new.  We've seen that quite a few times in the past.  This is yet another example:  Metro area means not rural.  It includes the suburbs.  Many people don't actually drive to the downtown area.  They work locally, which is why those real-world numbers are lower than you expected.  Driving destinations other than work tend to be quite a bit closer than work too.  Their grocery, retail, and other stops are close by.  That's why 25 miles covers a majority.  Watch for the video I filmed last night.  I drove to my favorite coffeeshop with the Prime, that very same drive I did a few months ago with the Prius PHV.  Round-trip is 15 miles.  It's a nice mix of suburb driving, varying between 30 and 55 mph with a few stops here and there.  I did the drive twice to use the entire supply of electricity available.  30.6 miles of EV before it switched over to HV.  More is nice, but clearly not necessary.  That's why this particular configuration has great potential for high-volume sales.  Prime is that natural progress from hybrid to plug-in hybrid playing out.  No amount of negative votes can hide that.  200 MPG.


200 MPG.  Watching the pattern repeat enough times is a good incentive to push really hard.  Breaking the cycle was utmost on my mind.  What new element could be introduced?  One of the long-time antagonists who claimed it was the messenger, not the message, was doing his usual enabled.  Rather than actually confront those intentionally spreading misinformation, he was going out of his way to provide a means of them being more effective.  Ugh.  To intentionally promote dishonest posting... it still boggles the mind how that is believed to be unnoticed.  I see exactly what's going on.  So when that predictable series of posts come, it was always the same old choice of how to respond... until today.  The moment of epiphany finally came.  I had been able to end the "catch up" rhetoric, but had nothing effective to move forward with.  Then it hit me: "NPNS"  That had been included at the end of countless posts for years.  It stood for "No Plug, No Sale".  That was a motto chanted so often, few ever really took the time to realize how vague it was.  That was like saying "hybrid", so generic the seemingly useful slogan really didn't amount to anything... which is why it died.  The idea caught me though.  Diminishing returns has proven the greatest source of frustration for the antagonists.  That particular pattern was easy to see.  I could ramp up its impact by stating a specific value.  What to use for that step away from the shortcomings of generalization was obvious too.  Toyota had already done that research.  Prime gauges top out at 199.9 MPG.  You can actually see beyond that maximum with the Advanced model using the phone-app.  But all that did was provide data confirming 200 MPG was the correct value to stop at.  Gallons & Kilowatts never made any impression.  MPG will though.  So, that's what I will begin promoting.  "200 MPG" will become how I conclude posts.  Stressing its importance will reduce the influence of the talking-points the enthusiasts of Volt had exploited, without actually reaching ordinary consumers.  They were so preoccupied with conquest, they hadn't noticed the ineffectiveness.  It makes you wonder what would have happened had GM stuck to their original "230 MPG" campaign.  Hmm?


First Sighting.  My wife gets the prize.  We couldn't commute together today.  So naturally, so encountered another Prime.  It was the Blue Magnetism, just like mine.  As far as I'm aware, that was the first to be reported.  With so few of us so far, it's easy to keep track of each other online.  We knew of other deliveries, but hadn't actually heard of any sightings yet.  I wouldn't have expected that color to be the first either.  Lots of deliveries of the ordinary choices took place elsewhere.  Everyone had to wait for models having that unique color.  It's not shared with anything else.  Being Prime only is nice.  Of course, I'm not sure what other vehicle could support a blue like that.  Anywho, I posted a comment about that.  No one was aware of who that could have been.  Cool.  I wonder how long it will be until sightings become common.  They certainly are rare still, even in areas with more deliveries.  But here in the Midwest, there are only a few so far.

6-06-2017 Prius History.  What once had been the daily blog for Volt has become a venue for terse exchanges of emotion toward competition in the plug-in hybrid market.  Only thing is, I don't take the bait.  So, today's article posted exclusively about Prius was not welcome to them.  I wasn't willing to play along.  Their antagonism doesn't work.  Instead, my response was to post this recall of Prius history:

The natural progress from hybrid to plug-in hybrid is playing out.  Toyota's plan from the very beginning was to increase battery power & capacity as cost would allow, keeping the design affordable along the way.

That first generation back in 1997 used D-cell batteries and had a plug, in Japan.  The plug was dropped right away. Introduction of prismatic format batteries came with the rollout to the United States in 2000.  Power from the gas engine was increased too.  Diversifying the platform by creating a detuned version of the vehicle, giving it a less expensive interior & exterior, allowed the first profit to be made.  (That's how Echo came about.)

The next generation to follow in 2003 included the ability to travel at speeds up to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) using only electricity.  Unfortunately, battery capacity simply wasn't dense enough to power any benefit from including a plug; cost was far to high too.  Despite being unrealistic, a plug-in demonstration model was revealed in 2009.  This was to solicit feedback, as well as acknowledge the very expensive aftermarket upgrades some owners had endorsed.

The generation to follow in 2009, which replaced what had now become the iconic hybrid, was loaded with improvements.  It laid down the foundation for offering a plug, including a redesign of the system which added a second power-split device for two-speed operation.  Only a larger battery was needed.  The design already included all that was needed to provide the significant MPG boost owners had requested.

Mid-Cycle rollout in 2012 delivered that larger battery, switching from NiMH to Lithium at the same time.  Unfortunately, it was still too expensive and the market had become very uncertain. Volt was struggling to attract sales and Leaf had stirred expectations.  So, Toyota changed national rollout plans to be for the next generation instead.  After all, they knew what that upgrade would deliver, could continue collecting real-world data in the meantime, and wouldn't have much legacy to deal with since rollout had been limited to just 15 states.

4th Generation introduced a new design architecture in 2015, one with heavy emphasis on cost reduction.  At the same time, the body had been stiffened significantly and the rear suspension got a major upgrade.  Use of lithium battery chemistry had proven effective in the previous plug-in model and the 7-seat wagon model, so it became standard for 4 of the 5 regular Prius package offerings.  Styling was changed to a dramatic standout appearance, a clear effort to break the prior stereotype and to distinguish it from the upcoming plug-in model.

The following year brought reveal & rollout of the first worldwide available plug-in model of Prius.  That meant simultaneous delivery to Japan, Europe, Canada, and the United States.  The result has been strong demand and limited supply.  As of June 2017, first deliveries in Canada are still being waited for and early orders in the Midwest are finally being delivered.  That approach of keeping the design affordable, along with the careful balance of purchase priorities, is proving to be a wise choice.

Popularity of the plug-in model of Prius is growing at the rate necessary to achieve a sustainable high-volume level, enough to continue with profitable sales even as the tax-credit is phased out... an absolutely essential step in that natural progress toward making a plug the common choice.


Approach.  You can feel the regret.  Virtually all feeling of superiority has melted away.  The reality of needing to become a player in the plug-in hybrid market, rather than being king of the hill has sunk in.  Finally!  This is right on schedule, exactly has predicted.  The second year of the second generation has ended arguments.  Facts confirm goals were not achieved.  I stressed that with this summary & reminder:  GM's approach hasn't paid off for high-volume sales so far.  To go faster & further, there was a design tradeoff resulting a challenging price-point, lower electric efficiency, and lower hybrid efficiency.  The struggle for sales growth will become even more difficult when tax-credit phaseout begins next year.  The mistake GM made of trying to fulfill enthusiast requests for gen-1 of Volt was repeated for gen-2.  Sales have barely growth, falling well short of expectations.  Their own traditional vehicle buyers simply haven't been interested.  Toyota's choice not to follow that approach is looking good so far.  Hyundai & Chrysler are planning to take alternate paths too.  Odds are, we'll see that from Ford as well.  Not sure about Honda or VW yet.  The goal of getting large quantities of plug-in vehicles on the road, at a profit, requires careful consideration of what is really needed... not what is wanted.  Approach to fulfilling that is vital.


Looking Beyond.  The reply of misplaced anger included this opening: "The rest of us have enough of a brain to realize that EV's, even with longer ranges still have public charging issues."  Not seeing further than what's immediately in front of them is a common problem, the cliché of seeing the tree instead of the forest applies well to this.  I was happy to point out what is still being missed:  Looking beyond that barrier, you'll discover there are even more issues with household charging.  Many homes are limited to 15 or 20 amp connections in their garage, if they are lucky.  That makes any type of higher draw a very real problem... both logistically & financially.  For my household, you'd think a home less than 10 years old would not only avoid that issue, but it would also be able to support more without challenges.  Nope, it even has some.  We're the very first customer for that electricity provider to request adding more than one 240-volt high-amp line for charging in the garage.  They haven't ever supported two lines to deliver 10 kW each and both be on Time-Of-Use meters.  Fortunately, all that should be setup next Monday.  It won't be cheap though, despite having the service-panel right there in the garage.  How many customers do you think will be well enough informed to do the same, in addition to being able to afford it?  For that matter, being able to just get one 40-amp charger for daily use?  Don't forget how intimidating all that is for most people either.  It's the reason why a VOLT LITE has a great deal of potential.


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