Personal Log  #818

June 27, 2017  -  July 2, 2017

Last Updated: Sat. 10/21/2017

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7-02-2017 Backfired Advertising.  The on-going discussion with Volt enthusiasts now is the effort to improve efficiency of the biggest vehicles, in this case, pickups.  Inevitably, a reference to Ford was finally made: "Chevy responded by bashing aluminum in their pickup truck ads."  Sales have confirmed Ford's gamble really paid off.  The market has embraced aluminum.  There's worry the same thing will happen with Prime, despite the smaller EV range.  I was happy to point out some history to draw a comparison:

Chevy bashed Prius about lithium in their Volt ads.

They were attempting to portray Toyota's approach to technology as outdated, using technology from the long-ago past.  Problem was, Chevy's timing was horrible.  Shortly after the new advertisement campaign began, Toyota revealed the next-gen Prius.  Rather than using NiMH batteries, as the television commercial stated, this new Prius would be using Lithium instead.  The commercial abruptly vanished.

GM's struggle to leap-frog with Volt never materialized.  That entire first-generation was haunted by sales they simply couldn't ever match, not to mention exceed as so-often boasted.  It was a disaster, now getting worse... because the gen-2 Volt about to be rolled out didn't fulfill those original goals GM had set either.  MSRP was still above $30k and depleted efficiency was still below 50 MPG.

No distraction was available either.  All they could do was hope the next-gen plug-in Prius didn't deliver too much of an improvement.  Turns out, it did.  Now, there's this on-going efforts to label the elves as trolls for providing reminders.  Well, too bad.  Acknowledging shortcomings is what makes a product better.

Those here, you know who you are, ragged on Prius PHV relentlessly.  Although the arguments were weak and quite a stretch at times, they were taken seriously nonetheless.  Remember the shortcomings that were claimed?  Notice how they aren't anymore?

We know Chevy is pursuing aluminum pickups too.  The lesson learned with Volt applies to this effort as well, it must be competitively priced.  Cost of aluminum is very expensive.  Cost of lithium is also very expensive.  Notice how much emphasis MSRP gets?  People want improvement, but few are willing to actually pay a large premium for it.


Better Warm-Up.  This comment was part of a brand new discussion: "i prefer to make the decision to switch from ev to hv, rather than have it happen when i'm not aware. one for the reason stated, and two, to do a better warm up while i'm still in ev."  It's interesting to feedback from PHV owners about Prime.  Their perspective is unique.  Most people will only know Prime, so their observations will be quite different.  The power & feel are not the same.  You do things differently with more EV capacity available too.  I joined in asking:  Better warm-up refers to what?  Toyota's choice to emphasize the switch was intentional, making the driver well aware of the transition so the subtleties of operation to follow won't be overlooked.  For example, the MPG remains unchanged.  You can drive for 50 miles before MPG drops below the maxed out "199.9" value.  I did that last week to find out how far I could go on just a single charge before efficiency in HV would actually go unnoticed.  50.6 was the distance traveled, just on my ordinary commute, followed by a run to the coffeeshop.  Had I plugged in between, the MPG would have stayed at 199.9 for all my driving that day.  Another thing to keep in mind is that warm-up is more aggressive in Prime than it was in PHV.  If I drive my entire commute on just a single charge, the engine will fire up around 33 miles.  Shortly after warm-up completes, I notice EV capacity available.  This newer system takes advantage of stoplight & acceleration activity.  How many owners would notice that, especially if the transition from EV to HV wasn't emphasized?


Unrealistic Expectations.  Vague comments contributed to problems.  Even when innocently stated, they can become a source of misleading.  A review of Bolt from a highly respected green website did such a thing today by posting: "Buy a 240-volt Level 2 charging station to install at your home.  It's roughly a $600 investment."  The omission of vital detail contributes to incorrect assumption.  We don't want that.  We want to set realistic expectations.  I quickly jumped into the discussion to interject some of the missing information:  The odds of someone having a 240-volt line in the needed location with available capacity are extremely unlikely, to the point of worry that you're setting up unrealistic expectations.  If they are lucky enough to have a service-panel in their garage and it can support that addition, the cost of hiring someone along with the wire, conduit, outlet, and permit will easily double the sighted investment price.  If you have a second vehicle in your household that would also want to plug in, that's going to add quite a bit more... especially if also want to take advantage of off-peak or time-of-use discounts.  Since I just did that for my home a few days ago, I know it's best to make sure the true cost is known up front and not trivialized.  The benefits are great, so it's worth consideration.  Having 2 lines each able to deliver 10 kW to both cars at the same time is really handy.  No messing with inconvenient cord locations either.  I did end up having separate cans installed to get a sub-meter for each car.  That simplified the setup, but added some cost; however, it did provide an extremely convenient way of tracking true electricity expense for each of the cars.  The detailed billing should be quite informative.  Long story short, that rough $600 is way off for the typical household.  Don't be afraid of quoting a more realistic cost.  Saying $1,500 isn't that big of a deal when stated in terms of how much you won't be spending on gas.


Problems Beyond the Technology.  Lack of being able to see the bigger picture has plagued Volt enthusiasts for an entire decade now.  They focus so intensely on the engineering with a belief that superior technology is all it takes to achieve mainstream sales.  It boggles the mind how some people lack business background to the extreme that they never notice what's contributing to the lack of progress.  That was my minor in college, so I took the study the discipline intensely.  My engineering emphasis (the software type, studying all aspect of programming) was what came easy.  Those business classes were quite a challenge.  I struggled to pick up on the fine details of economics, accounting, and legal.  It was a lot of work... which I didn't realize would serve me so well later with this.  But when it comes to programming, understanding user need and recognizing market pressure is absolutely vital.  That's why finally seeing this was encouraging: "Dealer acceptance remains a huge problem."  Talking about too little, too slowly.  Though correct, it is only a start.  There is still much more to see.  Hopefully, some will find this informative:  Sadly, that is a big problem.  Why bother trying to sell a vehicle that will generate a lot of questions & concern, consume a lot of personnel time & resources, and result in a low-profit margin?  Once we finally get past that hurdle, there's still the issue of infrastructure.  How many of you have the capacity to handle delivery of two 10 kW draws at the same time?  Setting up for decent charging at home of just one car presents challenges… and that’s the low-hanging fruit.  Adding a second is not a simple next step.  Think of the extra expense and the physical limitations.


We Already Did.  Sometimes, you can't help but to wonder: "The biggest savings would definitely be in the biggest vehicles, which hasn’t been discussed very much at all."  A reaction like that from an ordinary consumer is quite understandable.  But having this come from a frequent poster who has expressed quite the opposite, it's hypocritical.  The change of stance is encouraging though.  You know they will never admit such a move.  Seeing a shift away from the status quo is the best you'll get.  So, I pushed that step in the right direction:  That topic has been discussed to death… to the point of people getting angry whenever reminded about it.  All those reminders of Two-Mode cannot possibly be forgotten.  Remember what its purpose was?  We have since moved on discussions of to putting Voltec in a SUV, like the new Equinox.  We know Mitsubishi & Kia are both rolling out plug-in SUVs.  We also know that Nissan & Toyota have easily augmentable hybrid designs to offer a plug.  Recent rumor is that Ford has a mule they are now testing too.  Then of course, there's Chrysler approaching the same issue from a different angle.  If anything, the lack of discussion is from GM remaining totally silent on the topic.  There's nothing to discuss.  btw, another reminder is how much pushback there has been about discussing the topic of diminishing returns.  That also addresses the topic of bigger vehicles offering the biggest saving.


Recognition.  Eventually, even the most stubborn of naysayers will give up.  Either they become silent & disappear or their opinion ends up becoming what you had been saying all along.  They'll make it seem the idea is new & obvious though.  What you had struggled to point out for years won't be recognized.  In fact, they'll do their best to ignore you.  What I've found very effective in this regard is to keep replies to just one sentence.  They cannot say much in return, since you give them almost nothing to work with or any reason to lash out anymore.  However, you are still entitled to point out and ask about the transition itself:  Remember how often I sighted the "too little, too slowly" concern and no one else agreed, instead insisting that a solution would soon be delivered.  GM was going to do this and do that and…  If we are at a turning point, which Tesla Model 3 would clearly highlight, discussions can finally be turned toward traditional vehicle replacement.  Are those who blew off the concern ready now?


Spin.  Some have an extremely difficult time accepting change, still attempting to spin a picture of leadership using more to draw interest.  It's the faster & further belief.  Appealing to the primal urge that more is better, the dominate discussions.  That doesn't translate to increased sale though, which is why the stance has turned to such desperation lately: "Now Toyota has a weak offering and you are claiming superiority in the plug-in arena, any which way you can spin it."  Pointing out the initial success of Prime and laying out reasons for the potential makes Volt enthusiasts crazy.  They don't see a partnership as the Volt supporters do.  They want superiority, hence that becoming the focus of their fight.  It's really sad they don't see traditional vehicles as the competition.  Isolating their world to just other plug-in vehicles is how they deal with "too little, too slowly"... since from that perspective, all appears to be going well.  But when look upon from the larger perspective, the entire market, things look grim.  I pointed out that cold, hard reality this way:  Ordinary consumers just plain aren't interested in getting the most, they simply want a good buy.  That nice balance is why Toyota will sell a lot of Prime.


Clashing.  More questions arose about the head-butting.  Seeing a Volt enthusiast lash out at a Prius Prime support is rather bewildering for a Volt supporter.  It makes no sense to see something with such potential to be attacked.  It's not like Volt, which clearly has a high MSRP concern.  Toyota really strived to deliver on the affordable aspect.  Striking a balance rather than playing up strengths is a confusing concept for the trophy seekers.  In other words, they simply don't care about ordinary consumers.  The purchase of a reliable vehicle that gets people from point A to point B in a clean & efficient manner without any demonstration of power is of no interest to them.  So, basically, you'll never win.  There is no recognition of something for the masses.  They wouldn't be caught dead driving something common.  Effort to appeal with something they detest is futile... unless you're like me, who uses them to flush out detail about what the market truly find important.  Anywho, I added this to the on-going post clashing:  His priority is faster & further.  My priority is high-volume profitable sales.  That fundamental difference has been a major problem.  I couldn't care less about enthusiast wants, it's all about mainstream consumer need... sustainable business.


Home Charging Discounts.  Hope of getting that starting today didn't work out.  There was a programming issue with the meters.  Watch for an update, soon...  The point was to take advantage of discounted charging rates by having dedicated lines & meters installed.  They offer a $500 rebate to help cover the cost too.  Since we'll be doing that for each vehicle, double that is a really nice opportunity to take advantage of.  Why not?  That's the point of getting into a program early on.  Of course, I know of someone who did when if was first established.  She pays even less.  That's ok though, it's still a good deal for us.  The reason for the discount is for demand to be off-loaded to non-peak times.  For use, the 8AM to 4PM range is the same usual billing rate of 11.68 to 13.08 cents per kWh.  That in itself is lower than what many others pay elsewhere.  Our area of the county strives for lower cost, despite getting rid of most imported coal in favor of local natural gas.  We are establishing local solar-farms and wind-turbines too.  It's a nice place to live in that regard.  Anywho, the discont from 9PM to 8AM is are lower rate of 6.74 cents per kWh.  Nice, eh?  Of course, Prime will only consume about 3.5 kWh for the commute to work.  That isn't much electricity anyway.  But the point is to lead by example.  So, that's what we are doing.  The catch is if you recharge during peak hours.  That's from 4PM to 9PM.  The rate then jumps to 41.44 cents per kWh.  That's only during the week though.  On weekends, the rate for all hours on Saturday & Sunday is the low 6.74 cents per kWh.  Overall, it's a great setup, especially since there is no monthly service fee.  We only have to pay for the equipment up front.  The can is $75 and the meter is $70.  Knowing we'll be living & charging is this house for a very long time, and the fact that it would be a selling-point years later, makes it a very good investment... which would eventually return a benefit from the discounts.


Hope.  Some of those from that old daily blog have begun participating on other forums, ones not so welcome to the idea of superiority.  So, their posts really stick out.  It's looked upon with dismiss.  Why in the world are you fighting the effort to spread acceptance of plug-ins by attempting to undermine a new popular choice?  I jumped in to point out some history they would not be aware of:  Watch future posts.  You'll recognize the pattern after awhile.  Sales results infuriate those who push for "faster & further".  They don't appreciate ordinary consumers who just want a good buy, something well balanced & affordable.  It's unfortunate some spin intent to undermine mainstream offerings.  They want standout, not common.  Pressure from the upcoming phaseout trigger of tax-credits will only make the trophy-mentality worse too.  Hopefully, sales of plug-in vehicles genuinely trying to replace traditional vehicles will overwhelm their rhetoric.


Inventory.  It's amazing how hypocritical some people can be.  The same individuals who screamed "foul" when conclusions were being draw prior to rollout having commenced in all states think nothing of doing that themselves now.  We've seen that recently with both gen-2 Volt and Bolt.  Watching those same individuals do exactly that with Prime is remarkable.  It goes so far beyond double-standard, there's no excuse.  In fact, after being called out on it and watching the behavior continue, you know they are intentionally trying to mislead.  There's no excuse.  So, I attempt to prevent those opportunities by posting inventory information before they get a chance, like this:  Midwest deliveries of Prime began in April and have only been in very limited numbers.  No supply for January, February, and March provides a misleading impression of true demand.  Note that there are many still waiting for their orders to be filled.  Worldwide rollout is underway.  Inventory available for immediate purchase is a long way off.


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