Prius Personal Log  #838

October 16, 2017  -  October 25, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 1/28/2018

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Solid-State Batteries.  Elimination of the electrolyte in lithium batteries would allow for both greater energy-storage density and faster recharging.  It's what Toyota has stated they are working toward for their next-generation plug-in vehicles, including their first EV for the masses.  It's a challenge for the battery industry which many battery-powered devices will benefit from.  Think about how great it would be to replenish the battery in your phone with just a few minutes of charging.  Technology leaps forward like that are what we need to stir interest for plug-in vehicles.  What we have now proves they are worthy of consideration, but the need for improvement is obvious.  At least it sets the stage for realistic expectations.  This isn't a miracle.  It's a matter of getting the chemistry refined for mass-production.  There's enough potential for serious development work to deliver a paradigm-shifting return.  In the meantime, platforms are being proven for this upgrade.


Continuous Improvement.  I said it was always the plan, as is cost containment.  That was confirmed correct.  Our official Toyota representative posted the following about the generation design of Prius Prime: "The two main options to reduce the gap - either redesigning the traction battery to fit in a different space, or using a separate under-floor assembly unique to the Prime - both would drive up the cost of the vehicle pretty significantly.  It was a difficult tradeoff, but we stand behind the decision that we ultimately made on this version of the vehicle."   That priority of keeping cost in-check, to ensure affordability, rings through as strong now as ever.  That was always essential with each generation of Prius.  Sure, they could enhance performance, but the cost increase wasn't ever worth it.  That's not how you design a vehicle for the masses.  Instead, you provide continuous improvement.  That's why each generation is so much better.  You deliver what makes sense for that time.  This has proven a very effective approach for Toyota.  Unfortunately, the bottom-up mentality makes for great ridicule material.  The top-down pushers love to mock & belittle that opposing method.  They don't see their smug either.  The view of "vastly superior" is something I know all too well.


Nope.  I liked reading this:  "Except actual customers are required, and therefore they need to actually consider the packaging..."  It was easy to say "no" to:  I just finished taking a class on business process (six sigma) where we analyzed the how's and why's of large-scale success.  We learned about seemingly sensible conclusions like that having cost some companies billions in losses.  Toyota was brought up on a regular basis with unexpected examples of success.  Who is buying vehicles from the automaker?  It is dealers, not the people who will end up driving the vehicle.  Lego is an example of having failed to understand that, suffering from an entire decade of serious financial trouble.  They also thought their customers were the people that used the product.  Turns out they were wrong, very wrong.  It was the retailer.  When places like Target & Walmart didn't get what they wanted from Lego, they chose to fill their shelves with something else instead.  That was a painful lesson learned.  Ordinary showroom shoppers want a well-balanced vehicle at a reasonable price that's very reliable.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  In fact, the expectation is that in years to come that next offering will be better.  They want to have a selection of them available for immediate purchase.  That only happens if you have a dealer pleased to carry them.  Business is not as simple as it seems.


Priorities.  Some people don't understand how to deal with complex issues: "They were shoe-horning a big battery into a car not designed for it so they just threw it in the trunk."  Part of it is the internet culture.  Taking the time to analyze all the points rarely happens.  The venue isn't supportive of that.  You cannot convey complex information into a simple post.  I keep trying though:  You can't do it all in a single upgrade and we know there are more to come.  Toyota chose to deliver a robust battery for an affordable cost, at the tradeoff of it not fitting as well.  The result was an impressively efficient vehicle so competitive, it makes you wonder how likely a next-gen model without a plug will be.  Successful business requires a balance of priorities.  As much as the engineers here would like more, it simply doesn't make sense after you come to realize the actual customers are dealers.  Think about it.  What incentive is there for a dealer to purchase and stock Prime on their lot?  It won't return much of a profit and their staff must do more to prep & sell the vehicle. Battery design doesn't even come into play.  Dealers are much better off simply selling guzzlers.  Why spend extra resources knowing you'll get less in return?  People here need to step back and look at the bigger picture.


Reality Check.  When I bring up having a Prius Prime in a random audience, even when in context, the response is typically some type of "wow" and nothing else.  That happened this week in a class I was attending.  It was about process improvement.  Our education was an in depth look at how.  General Electric and Toyota are industry leaders in this, each with an extensive list of success stories.  Naturally, the dialog came around to a topic related to Prius itself.  So, that was an excellent opportunity to share my own real-world experience and how it related to exactly what Toyota had strived to deliver.  Anywho, I only had them captive for a few minutes.  Like most people, they weren't interested in much detail because they were not shopping for a new vehicle.  I see that trait a lot.  Consumers don't research unless they are in the market to purchase.  So, there isn't anything to gain by providing that detail.  You offer a few well thought out basics, share what they express interest in, then move on.  That usually last anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes.  Rarely will I even get asked anything beyond the basics.  We simply aren't at that next stage yet.  Early adoption is pretty much just a phase which you raise awareness.  Teaching more isn't realistic until the market has advanced.  Fortunately, Toyota is making a lot of small steps.  It will be easier to draw attention when lots of hybrids have already replaced traditional vehicles.  It makes the step to a plug that much smaller.  For now though, patience.


Prius v Gen-2.  Toyota doesn't like to rollout too many new vehicles all at the same time.  There's nothing to gain and lots of extra overhead doing too much at once.  So, we get staggered introductions.  The new Prius and RAV4 hybrid was enough, last year.  This year, it's C-HR and Camry-Hybrid.  Between those with staggered distribution was Prius Prime.  Back in last 2011 thru early 2012, we had the rollouts of Prius v, then Prius c, then Prius PHV.  Understanding why, it's easy to see how the very first spy photos of the next-gen Prius v are only now emerging.  Toyota kept silent, hiding its development until just yesterday.  We hadn't heard a peep.  Nothing at all, even rumor.  With a vehicle style so popular within the service industry and a strong choice for families not interested in an SUV or minivan, you'd hope there would be an upgrade of some sort.  It now looks like there is one on the way.  The snapshot of the camouflaged vehicle is clearly a large Prius.  It doesn't look wagon-shaped anymore.  The style appears to have taken on some aspects of being a CUV, but without anything resembling heavy-duty suspension or all-wheel drive.  That would seem an excellent design for our changing market, especially if it were to get the hybrid system of Camry hybrid.  The added power, while still delivering outstanding efficiency, is what Toyota needs to keep the product-line strong.  That sets up their customer-base for an easier transition to plugs.  Dealers & Salespeople will especially like that.  My guess is that we'll have detail by the Detroit auto show early next year.  Perhaps, we could get a little bit of teaser information in the meantime.  Whatever the situation, news of this first sighting spread like wildfire across the internet.  I was able to find several instances of the photos attached to articles in other languages.  And with the power of Google Translate, reading them was a snap.  Like all things Prius related, patience is required.  For now though, let the rumors spread.  That helps raise awareness.  I'm sure there are many who were not aware that a wagon model of Prius was even offered.


Wasted Space.  An owner pulled apart the back cargo-area of their Prime.  I was surprised to find out how long it took for a thread of that nature to finally be started.  I had my battery-pack exposed within hours of purchase.  Of course, I needed that information to confirm I wasn't going to interfere with any of the sensors by taking so much apart to install that receiver-hitch.  Anywho, this ended up as a comment posted: "Before you say it's for cooling, there are TWO substantial blowers there for that purpose, ducted from the left and right rear passenger seat-backs."  He was talking about the unexpected void underneath.  Like most, the expectation was that the battery-pack was consuming that entire area.  It isn't.  There's about 4 inches of empty space.  Naturally, many theories are being shared about why that is.  This was my contribution to the discussion:  Air is an isolator.  Radiant heat from asphalt and extreme cold are battery enemies.  Having an extremely lightweight layer of protection like that makes a lot of sense.


Market Expectations.  We are still very much in the "early adopter" stage.  It ends when the tax-credits end.  In other words, when people are willing to pay full price, you know a true milestone has been reached.  Meanwhile, we are getting into the gen-2 rollouts.  That will create a nice used market for those looking for a bargain on a plug-in vehicle.  That gives early adopters an excuse to upgrade.  I'm obviously one of them.  Of course, I sold my old plug-in to a friend, so that didn't contribute to the used market at all.  However, it does still serve to influence more people.  That's a new audience getting exposed to the benefits of being able to recharge at home, instead of a gas station.  For the new market, we have lots of work to do still.  Think of all the garages without level-2 support.  Being able to take advantage of level-1 in the short-term is great, but ultimately upgrading from that ordinary household 120-volt outlet to a charger with a dedicated 240-volt line is a big improvement.  There's also the complexity of households typically having 2 vehicles.  How will those be accommodated?  It's education about the technology, combined with cost-reduction, required to get growth to happen in the next stage.  Whatever we can do now will help make it easier later.  Right now, there's the basics to address still.  We aren't even far enough along to set decent expectations.  What should happen at public charging-stations?  That seemingly simple question doesn't have any simple answers.  So, even when we overcome the sales aspect, there is that to deal with too.


Baseball Analogy.  It's quite remarkable having to deal with someone who just plain doesn't care.  You are wrong.  He is right.  Period.  Even with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there is no compromise, no meeting in the middle.  That stubborn attitude is a very real problem.  If the person is unwilling to budge under any circumstance, what do you do?  The advice I was given is to keep replies simple and use analogies.  The response back will be an analogy that doesn't apply to the situation, but that doesn't matter.  Everyone else will see that it doesn't apply and how desperate that person has become.  It's sad that principle blinds some.  Most people do tend to become set in their ways, far less open to change than when they were younger.  It usually isn't a barrier to progress though.  It only limits choice.  In this case though, it's causing him to be left behind... hence all the "behind" references.  That's the textbook reflection response I keep getting.  Anywho, I did keep it simple with this analogy:  GM keeps trying to hit homeruns.  Toyota continues to hit singles to fill bases.  The game isn't over, but the score is adding up.


Inevitable Outburst.  I got my confirmation: "That your posts are pathetic..."  Clearly, he got the message.  Too bad there are some who refuse to simply be part of a team.  Why must Volt be vastly superior?  Why can't it just be a player helping to win the game?  It's that homerun thinking.  Rather than small advances for the chance of scoring a single, there's the hope of gaining a lot from just one hit.  This is why there is so much mocking & belittling.  Our culture teaches us to always fight, that winning is more important than just being part of the game.  Ugh.  There's so much waste with that approach.  You don't place the entire game on just the fate of one hitter.  Being a team means having a variety to "cover all the bases".  It's really unfortunate that I have to interact with people online who don't notice the world around them.  It doesn't require formal education in business practices or even that much study.  They just have to observe what works and what doesn't, then make changes accordingly.  Oh well.  It's their loss.  Meanwhile, I just keep providing my observations:  Is being correct about Volt sales that difficult to accept?  It's not like the technology itself was ever a sales concern.  It was always the choice of configuration.  For mainstream sales, a small hatchback with that much battery was doomed to struggle.  It simply didn't match GM's consumer base.  You made that sustain worse by supporting the decision for so long.  Glad you're now seeing the technology would be a better fit used another way.  Diversity support is long overdue.


Looking Forward.  I don't expect this to be well received, but that isn't the point.  You post something like this solicit feedback.  Anything in return is confirmation of having read it.  That's the point.  So, I posted:  We're starting to agree.  Gasp!  Looking forward, there's concern about getting households upgraded to handle that type of demand.  How does a home with multiple vehicles?  How do they even pay for the upgrades.  For that matter, how do we educate people about what upgrades are needed and what the process is?  This is why I place far less priority on faster & further and simply want to get plug-in decisions going.  We have to start somewhere.  Waiting for the ideal capacity, size, speed, etc is wasted time.


Spinning History.  Giving Toyota credit for planning a strategy consisting of a series of small steps with limited risk and the potential for huge gain won't ever happen.  Instead, we'll get stuff like this: "I guess battery technology has now advanced to the needed level.  Amazingly, overnight, now that Toyota plans an EV."  The problem originates from the cultural difference.  Continuous improvement has been a part of Japanese business since things were established after World War II.  That's at least 3 generations with the mindset of no step forward is too small.  Every advancement is progress.  We don't think that way here.  We analyze return and decide whether or not the effort is worth it.  That's missed opportunity.  Not seeing that does indeed make success look sudden.  When the competition finally takes notice, quite a bit has already taken place.  Oh well.  All I can do is point out what hasn't been noticed and what's to come as a result:  Is that like the "overnight" success of an artist who has been working hard for the past 20 years?  Prius Prime offers EV driving up to 84 mph, complete with a high-efficiency electric heater and CHAdeMO charging.  That sets the stage nicely for taking the next step.  Looking closer at the new C-HR, you can see why it is expected to become their first BEV offering for China in 2019.  In other words, that carefully planned progression is amazing... but in no way overnight.  We have witnessed battery improvement from each hybrid upgrade leading to this point.


Cold Weather.  We're starting to see the first signs of Summer becoming a distant memory.  Reports of morning frost have become a reality.  That's messing up some data logging owners have been doing: "What's going to do that list in is the ICE going on while I'm defrosting.  Just starting to see temps in the 30's around here."  We haven't discussed Winter yet.  That's an entirely new topic for the big Prius forum.  Prime rollout didn't happen in the northern states until Spring arrived.  I only saw a very brief snow fall with mine.  Cold weather driving opportunity simply wasn't possible.  Warming has already begun.  I do have experience from the PHV though.  That's a good background to leverage from.  We can at least start posting thoughts.  Real-World data will come in just a few weeks.  Here's my contribution:  Have you actually found the need to use that defroster (the dedicated physical button)?  Choosing the blower option for the windshield with the electric-heat instead is all you should require with temperatures that warm.  Even here in Minnesota, I don't expect to use that forced ICE option unless the car has been sitting outside in much colder conditions for hours without the ability to grid pre-condition.  btw, it is interesting to see that Toyota selected an aggressive strategy with the ICE warm-up.  The result is a net gain with the EV range as a result of it running to generate heat.


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