Personal Log  #827

August 18, 2017  -  August 27, 2017

Last Updated: Sat. 10/21/2017

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Ford's Response.  Plug-in & Hybrid SUV options were only a matter of time, despite the cancellation back in 2012.  We still have to wait 2 years.  It is progress though.  In fact, this is exactly what we were hoping for from GM... simply stating the intent to move forward.  The hopeless rut Volt is stuck in is wasting time.  There's nothing else to prove at this point; the technology works and needs to be refined to become affordable.  With Toyota & Hyundai already at that stage, dragging on the mismatch with Volt makes no sense.  GM customers want SUV choices, not a compact car.  Not offering one with a plug, or even just a hybrid, goes beyond missed opportunity.  It's a shrug of unwillingness.  Thank goodness Ford is finally moving on.  Perhaps when Mitsubishi and Kia hybrids with plugs start to make appearances on roads here, then things could change with the incredibly stubborn GM executives.  In the meantime, how will Ford's announcement of intent today impact the Volt enthusiasts who have been fighting so hard to retain the status quo?  This represents quite a change.


Commute To Work - Video.  This newest capture of one of my drives is representative of a typical Summer commute for me in the Prime, including the road-construction slowdown.  I arrived at the ramp where I park for work with 50% of the EV capacity still available.  That shows overall electric driving availability is well above the 25-mile rating estimate.  And since I recharge there, taking advantage of the 85 kWh solar-array, the drive home is exclusively with just electricity too.  Watch the video closely for detail.  Notice the hills and variety of speeds.  Also, keep in mind that the maximum efficiency reported is 199.9 MPG.  Beyond that, there really isn't much of a point.  Diminishing returns makes the value less meaningful.  Here it is...  Prius Prime - Commute To Work


Gas Coupons.  The grocery store with free charging-stations is just a few blocks down the road from my house; so close, I can see it from my driveway.  That means, even with a very short stop, I can recharge the battery with more electricity than what's needed to drive home.  That helps extend the already mostly electric driving even further.  It's quite handy to stop there on the commute home to buy something fresh for dinner.  That type of only-buy-what-you-need approach works really well.  There's pretty much no waste and you get exactly what you want.  Anywho, some purchases result in a discount for gas.  A substantial per-gallon value is accumulated over time.  Normally, that would result in a great savings at the pump.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way when you have a Prius Prime.  Each of those discounts only have a 30-day lifespan.  You only have a rolling-month total available.  Going much longer than that between fill-ups means watching some expire.  My best tank so far was 2,074 miles.  Oh well.  You win some.  You lose some.


Too Bad.  Complaining about price.  I never ends.  It shouldn't either.  The past 20 years of hybrid sales clearly reveal that to be the highest purchase priority.  The reason is simple too.  That's the way people shop.  As a result, that's the way automakers design their vehicles.  They are building & selling to make a profit.  The motivation for offering something green is to remain competitive.  In this case, it is both competing with themselves, as well as with other automakers.  That's why I get terse when comments like this are made: "We need to compare average sale price, minus federal tax credit."  It's a clear disregard for the bigger picture.  Focus solely on what's happening with the early stages of rollout is a terrible approach; yet, that is the underlying theme in virtually everything I deal with online outside of the big Prius forum.  And even there, a few just plain do not want to look at the automaker's overall production.  It's really unfortunate.  Only considering the low-hanging fruit, rather than what comes next, is a very real problem.  Mainstream acceptance is far more difficult than the antagonists want to accept... or even understand.  To them, I say too bad.  Today, it was stated this way:  Short-Sighted perspective is also known as cherry-picking.  Business sustainability is essential to plug-in survival, which requires a competitive price.  A dependency on subsides to lower the price means little to no growth... which is exactly what has happened.  You can't just choose to disregard a key reason why traditional vehicles are selling so much better.  Too bad if you are tired of hearing about it.


Plug-In Promotion.  My day at the fair allowed me to pay a visit to the Eco Experience.  Sadly, it was a bit disappointing.  Unlike last year, this display wasn't in the middle.  That made it harder to notice with some of the other larger exhibits also there.  The small back seat of the Bolt was a surprise too.  It was obviously bigger than Volt, which is why I never took a really close look.  Most of the time, I'm too busy answering questions for others.  But at this particular time, there was opportunity to explore detail.  It wasn't as spacious as hoped.  Why?  Was it that important to squeeze out every last mile, rather than offering more room?  Knowing that Prime is larger, you'd think GM would try to compete better with Toyota.  On the other hand, Chrysler did an excellent job with Pacific.  That plug-in hybrid minivan appears to offer quite a bit of potential.  It is an oddity though.  Despite minivans being a Chrysler specialty, there simply isn't much of a market.  The potential consumer-base to appeal too is quite small.  Much like GM, it will be quite a gamble not if they don't diversify right away.  Whatever the case, the display today is good plug-in promotion.  You have to reach out to ordinary consumers somehow.  Groups like us can really help that process along.


Eco Experience.  Just like with the past few years, the Minnesota State Fair will have a plug-in vehicle display in the Eco Experience building.  Today, it begins.  Tomorrow, I get to see it.  Our owner group got the training recently about how to greet & inform those who stop by to check it out.  There will be a Bolt and a Pacifica, along with a charging-station.  Unfortunately, I cannot participate in the volunteering this year due to family obligation.  But at least I'll get to see it.  On this upcoming weekend, there will be the usual parade which a few of the vehicle join in with.  That obviously would have been a lot of fun... especially with the standout color of my Prime.  Oh well, its not like there won't be other events.  In fact, there will be an Energy Fair just next week.  Anywho, there is a good way to draw in environmentally conscious consumers for a closer look.  They visit that particular building to learn more about green options.  So, our group fits in really well.


Quick Impressions.  That is the stage we are at now.  Plug-In vehicles are finally getting attention... but it is brief.  People recognize the technology and the benefit.  That's all though.  Nothing else.  You simply get acknowledgement upon mention.  That's definitely progress, not at all what enthusiasts had hoped for though.  Remember where Volt was supposed to be at this point?  Success was expected to be so high, demand would make the choice of EV unnecessary.  There wasn't plans for Bolt.  In fact, that was the very thing GM had campaigned so intensely against.  Technology implemented in Volt was to be the ultimate "range anxiety" solution.  That would make hopes of the next-gen Leaf unnecessary.  Instead, there is now Tesla dominating one end and Prime striving for the other.  Nissan would obviously like to shake up that new outlook.  Hyundai obviously would too.  This is why an overly simplistic look at the entire plug-in market is taken now.  That's ok though.  Quick impressions are fine while initial rollouts & inventory build-up take place.

8-22-2017 Quantitative Value.  The fundamental flaw EV advocates makes when trying to promoting plugging in is not having anything substantial to present.  They just generically mention benefits, like no oil changes.  References that vague have little impact.  People just plain don't care.  That's because mainstream shoppers don't care in the first place.  Not wanting to truly know how much their guzzler actually guzzles is key to its appeal.  Driving a large vehicle that roars when you stomp on the pedal is what's important.  How much it costs to purchase or operate is pushed aside and never really directly addressed.  That's why efforts now are somewhat futile.  For that matter, it is why Volt failed so miserably with attempts to appeal to ordinary consumers... who don't pay attention to detail anyway.  blah  blah  blah,  sign here.  How does a plug-in vehicle compete with that simple of a guzzler purchase?  Basically, they don't.  You have to empower buyers.  Sneak in learning moments here and there.  Eventually, they put the puzzle together on their own.  I'm going to do that here with the following.  It will likely be meaningless the first time you encounter numbers like this, but it's a start.  That's why Prime is so important.  It lays down the foundation, building an understanding that will very beneficial years later when looking to upgrade.  It's really too bad gen-1 Volt owners never bothered to educate.  They figured the technology would somehow sell itself.  Thank goodness that naive attitude is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  For example, my real-world numbers to share:

Rapid recharge is quite handy.  I tend to avoid the after dinner recharging though, since we got our outlets wired into sub-meters for Time-Of-Use discounts:

   11.68 - 13.08 cents / kWh  =  8 AM - 4 PM

   41.444 cents / kWh  =  4 PM - 9 PM

   6.74 cents / kWh  =  9 PM - 8 AM

By the way, our electricity association provided $500 per charger rebate.  That incentive worked out really nice.


Back Route Home - Video.  25.4 miles driven with 2.1 miles remaining, all using only electricity.  Taking this back route home on my commute was a demonstration of what the system has to offer.  In this particular case, I had to deal with construction detour backup in the cities and climbing out of the steep river valley once on the highway.  The trip from there to home was almost exclusively at fast speeds, which uses up EV miles faster.  So, seeing real-world EV distance exceed that of the 25-mile EPA rating is good confirmation of Prime delivering on expectations.  Watch the drive for yourself...  Prius Prime - Back Route Home


Handling Risk.  It's rather remarkable how easily the most basic of concepts get overlooked.  But then again, that's only for those who have studied marketing, economics, or accounting.  Without that background, those approaches probably aren't obvious.  You learn right away that the product alone is far from enough to being successful.  Business is a complex equation of variables, many of which are not even tangible.  How much is customer satisfaction worth?  If it results in a recommendation to someone else, who ends up making the purchase, that is worth quite a bit.  There's no way to quantify it though.  That's a very big problem, especially when quantities aren't available either.  Nonetheless, you have to start somewhere.  Toyota's approach is to focus on this intangibles.  They've learned that value from that is substantial for reducing risk.  Great engineering can become a major financial loss if consumer confidence is uncertain.  That's why I have always been in favor of they way they've been handling the technology penetration.  Each step has been small.  Impact has been enormous though, since it moved the base forward.  GM's approach with their attempt to take one giant step clearly hasn't worked.  We're not seeing a market shift from GM like we are with Toyota.  Notice how popular the RAV4 hybrid has been?  As insignificant that may seem, it is a genuine step away from traditional vehicles.  Those buyers are showing confidence in what a battery-pack can deliver.  That's absolutely vital for true progress to take place.  I conveyed that message this way today:  Establishing a plug-in reputation with Prime in the meantime makes sense.  They'll have all of the EV tech itself already proven in the minds of dealers & consumers, making the high-volume investment in solid-state batteries a reduced risk for the business.  Basically, it's a chicken or egg situation.  We know how under-developed the infrastructure is for plugging in the still.  Why not get that electric-vehicle technology well established in the meantime?


Affordable Choices.  There has been an obvious pattern emerge recently as the reveal of gen-2 Leaf approaches, making it an clear point of worry: MSRP is being avoided & downplayed.  $33,220 for the LT (base) model Volt is simply too expensive.  $26,000 is the MSRP for the LT (base) model of Malibu and the Premier (fully loaded) model of Cruze is just $24,820.  GM has a very real problem already.  $36,620 for a LT (base) Bolt makes it even worse.  What will compel GM's own loyal customers to replace their aging GM vehicle with one offering a plug?  That's a huge premium to pay, especially with gas so cheap.  Knowing that Prime has a base MSRP of $27,100 and gen-2 Leaf is expected to be priced $29,990 for the base, there's no point trying to spin them as competitors.  Hyundai is expected to undercut GM pricing too.  They are all legacy automakers striving to deliver affordable choices for showroom shoppers.  Why is there still no "lite" model of Volt offered?  Will there be one for Bolt?  What about Voltec rollout to Trax, the platform GM customers prefer... a SUV?  We don't need expensive choices.  We need models actually capable of high-volume profitable sales able to sustain GM's own business.


Sudden Power.  There's a growing concern from newbies about there being enough power in EV mode for Prime to suddenly accelerate.  This is fallout from the greenwashing effort.  Those hoping to undermine are working hard to spread FUD.  That stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt.  The hope of that assurances from owners won't be satisfy concern.  From owners, the message was to simply switch to EV-Auto if there was any discomfort about being able to accelerate fast enough.  After all, that is the point of offering it.  At times of high-demand, why use up precious electricity when you've got a perfectly good gas-engine available?  That doubt part comes from conveying a belief that the gas-engine not being warmed up yet somehow won't be able to fulfill the request for sudden power.  But then, you have stuff like this to respond to: "I honestly don't understand ev-auto. How is it good for an engine that has been cold for hours to be fired up all of a sudden and running at full power?"  Fortunately, PHV owners like myself already have years of experience to share... to snuff out any reason for concern:  In this case, it was a simple reply:  It's basically like a gen-1 Prius plug-in mode, which never was a problem for me starting cold on a ramp.


Too Late?  The attacks on gen-2 Leaf coming from GM supporters are weak, at best.  Though, I still find them annoying: "40 kWh is too little, too late."  It's a desperate effort to portray GM as somehow being so far ahead of the other automakers, that it is pointless to even try to deliver anything less.  In reality, that's a desperate attempt to conceal cost issues.  There is a very real problem coming when the federal subsidies run out.  Necessary growth hasn't happened.  The loss of that help and increased choices for consumers will make that even more difficult.  That know that though.  You know that too, from reading this blogs.  So, there's no need to dwell.  My responses was very simple:  Too late for what?  The battle for sales without tax-credit help has yet to begin.


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