Personal Log  #846

December 4, 2017  -  December 10, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 1/28/2018

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Too Late.  Over and over, we keep hearing it's too late for Toyota: "Even if solid-state will be THE final brick in the wall it will be too late for toyota who will be dead last in experience with electric cars by then."  They just keep repeating that brain-dead mantra.  It's like they don't have any clue what a hybrid actually is.  The manufacturing of parts for electric propulsion is already well established.  Think about the motor used for Camry hybrid.  Put that larger electric-propulsion component into the smaller body of Prius, you have a what you need for a EV with more power than Prime... exactly what they are spinning Toyota still won't have for years.  Why don't they recognize that?  Or do they, but their intent is to undermine by convincing people none of anything needed for EV has even been designed yet?  Whatever the case, my intent is to circumvent theirs with video.  That will be very visual rebuttal difficult to deny.  But while I'm busy capturing a collection to share, it's still mostly words:  That's comes from not understanding how Prime actually works.  It's remarkably efficient... more so then some currents EV offerings.  That's a big deal when moving up to dealing with cost issues from very large battery-packs.  Did you know Prime uses a vapor-injected heat-pump for cabin warming?  That is the industry's leading technology for electric heating.  It's an advancement most people are totally unaware of.  Toyota is far from the claimed last in production feasibility too.  They are prepping their hybrid offerings to include plug-in options.  Camry, RAV4, C-HR, and that replacement for the Prius wagon are all being positioned for that.  Think about spreading cost and the benefit from high-volume interest.  Who else in the industry is taking those measures already?


Competition.  Knowing what's going on in the larger scale is vital.  Most people don't, as this clearly drew out in discussions: "Toyota chairman says electric cars are not ready for mass production just yet due to long charging times and expense."  Comments came from enthusiasts, of course.  Nonetheless, it still provided an opportunity to point out a few things... most notably, who the competition actually is:  Notice how many EV announcements from other automakers are also given "not ready" status by stating they will rolled out in 3 to 5 years?  Notice how none actually state the intended volume for those rollouts or their potential for profitability?  Toyota is being up front, setting realistic expectations.  Others are being vague to stir hype.  There's a big difference most don't seem to notice.  Remember all the "over promise, under deliver" we got from GM.  Pointing that out isn't anti-GM.  It's simply an attempt to get others to be realistic.  In other words, this is a matter of acknowledging challenges still faced from the true competition: TRADITIONAL VEHICLES


Archival Note, part 2.  My punch back at the lashing out was to provide a detailed summary of the situation:

The target of an annual sales rate of 60,000 was set for the end of year-2.  This group had high hopes of Volt achieving that mainstream vehicle milestone.  It was the technology to crush Toyota, as they often reminded everyone using "vastly superior" proclamations.  With total disregard for how costly the design would be, they proceeded on with great enthusiasm.

It wasn't realistic.  Price was far too high, even with the generous $7,500 tax-credit, to draw interest from anyone beyond enthusiasts.  GM shoppers simply didn't care anyway.  Their preference for SUVs and large cars wasn't a good match for the small hatchback.  Promotion of Volt becoming a high-volume, profitable offering fell apart.

Those who remained loyal turned a blind-eye to shortcomings, unwilling to acknowledge lack of an audience for the design they had endorsed and put so much effort into promoting.  Over time, more abandoned hope and moved on... to the point where all who remained were just die-hard fans unwilling to recognize goals missed.

This topic about Kia Niro marks the end of their rhetoric... since the ultimate goal of Volt was to spread it's technology to GM vehicles that their own customers would be drawn to.  Very specifically, that meant seeing Voltec offered in a SUV, either Trax or Equinox.  Despite the concern of "too little, too slowly" being continuously dismissed, it never became a reality.

GM's leadership didn't result in a mainstream product.  Instead, we see Kia about to offer the first plug-in SUV (Niro) in this market, and it will be affordable (est $30,000).  Though more expensive (est $34,500), we will also see a larger SUV plug-in (Outlander) offering from Mitsubishi shortly following that.  The first deliveries of Honda's new plug-in hybrid sedan (Clarity) has already taken place too.  With a $33,400 base price, there's little to stir interest in Volt anymore.

Watch the variety of plug-in hybrid choices result in the market growth GM continues to struggle to achieve.  It is absolutely essential to appeal to loyal customers.  When someone comes in to replace their aging GM vehicle, what will they purchase from the GM dealer?


Archival Note, part 1.  The final lashing out happened.  I knew we were close.  It was labeled "Archival Note" to mark this point in history, when we look back later at how things actually played out.  It's good to document events in-the-now like that.  I certainly have benefitted from taking the time to note thoughts & feelings at the moment.  Anyone, this particular individual was a troublemaker who lost quite a bit.  Several of his hopes & predictions feel apart.  He was looking for some to blame.  I was unwilling to oblige, making note of his particular frustration with the voting there:  Voting has been a source of sabotage for years.  Rather than any other venue that provides a means of conveying likes & dislikes, it allows you to hide anything you don't want to see… enabling it to become just a fanboy website, rather than a constructive place for discussion.  Voting isn't even a tally, it's nothing but a simple up & down.  So, anyone can take influence what is seen, calling ON-TOPIC discussion trolling while hiding the actual content to portray a different narrative.  There’s no accountability whatsoever.  Just image if those providing the multiple negative votes took the time to respond to the topic instead of dropping bait and spinning rhetoric.  You reap what you sow...  Turning a blind-eye to problems is troublesome, but being an enabler is quite a bit worse.  Why are blatantly false statements misrepresenting Volt to make it look favorable not called out?  In other words, you should be trying to fix the true issue, not just look for a way of concealing it.


Slow-Speed Cruise.  It appears to be that was indeed the trigger we've been looking for.  Using it for suburb driving was not something any of us had anticipated.  It's like those who disregarded the audio & visual warnings to inform you that fuel is getting low, then having the engine stall because it ran out of gas.  Not telling us the warning part, yet complaining about having been stuck on the side of the road, leaves out an vital component to the story.  We need to know every little detail.  Patterns are easy to overlook.  Someone who routinely used the cruise for their commute, despite not being on the highway, didn't think about how uncommon that was of a thing to do.  With the radar for the dynamic-cruise, that isn't as much of a surprise.  But nonetheless, it certainly wasn't predictable behavior.  That was definitely a new one for us.  I summed this situation up with:  Cruise was the unexpected element in the equation.  Normally, it is used for highway driving.  With just a 25-mile EV capacity and a high probability of soon driving faster, engagement of that mode is instructing the system to be ready for more power to be demanded.  So, it fires up the engine in preparation for that.  It's another easy-to-explain situation that took us a great deal of time to insolate detail for.  That's what we do as first-year owners.

12-09-2017 Engine Started.  Posts have been going on for weeks... to the point of that owner with the "engine started" problem ended up purchasing a video camera to document what was happening.  In short, he wasn't getting an all-electric drive experience.  For some reason, the EV was disrupted.  Here is the conclusion drawn by that owner after all of our discussion on the topic, followed by mine: 

"It seems to be my consensus that driving immediately, accelerating to a speed of 35 MPH while engaging the cruise control. It has been 9 days since ICE came on. The only thing I'm doing different is NOT engaging Cruise control. Accelerating quickly to 35 MPH does not necessarily cause ICE to kick in. Also the criteria is car is left outside overnight and only unplugged when I leave for my trip and the temperature is below 50°F"

It was obvious you were doing something outside of the "predictable" use cases.  We've encountered that a number of times over the years, where some critical bit of information was unknowingly omitted.

My all-time favorite was from a Prius owner who complained about the car rolling forward unexpectedly.  It took weeks for us to figure out that this owner, who had been driving for over 50 years, had never been behind the wheel of a vehicle with an automatic transmission.  It never dawned on any of us that natural forward-creep behavior was something he hadn't ever encountered over all those decades.  That doesn't exist with manual transmissions.  It sure was a learning experience for us.

Another big "problem" of the past was the lock-up at start-up.  Some owners were reporting the dashboard lighting up like a Christmas tree and the Prius never getting to Ready mode.  It would lock the transmission, not allowing you to shift the selector.  Eventually, they'd figure out how to force the system off.  The next time they'd try, it would work every time.  Our debugging efforts took forever.  Turns out, when we asked if they were pressing the brake first (as instructed), before pushing the Start button, they actually weren't doing that.  Not being attentive enough to notice the timing was key.  If you were slightly ahead with the button... only a fraction of a second... the self-inflicted problem arose.

One other story was the "brake pause" issue.  When you've been driving for that many miles and there's a claim of the system having a dangerous flaw, yet never experienced it yourself... despite trying to replicate the claimed situation... it makes you wonder.  After weeks of posts, we finally got our answer.  You had to be braking aggressively, then smack into a substantial road-hazard, at the peak of deceleration.  I rarely ever brake that hard.  Hitting a pot-hole or train-track that that exact right moment was quite a bit less likely.  Finally putting those pieces of the puzzle together brought a much better understanding.  Toyota did indeed tweak the parameters of the brakes to better deal with that rare situation too.

Will they do anything for those choosing to use cruise-control in low-speed driving with cold battery?  Most likely not.  The "predicable" use of the car is to plug it in overnight.  That's an expectation for a plug-in vehicle, especially since it has a battery-warmer.  Not doing that defeats the overall purpose of getting owners to equip their overnight parking location with a permanent charging option.  That's how they'll get you to upgrade your current plug-in with one offering a larger capacity in the future.  Doing less means getting less.

It was yet another interesting learning experience for all of us.


Melting Snow.  People ask about the curved glass.  No wiper gives the impression you'll have snow build up in back.  Turns out, that's not the case.  Wind from driving gets funneled.  That amplification causes a clearing effect.  Great... if you're driving already.  But what if you aren't?  This evening, I got to find out.  It snowed while I was inside shopping.  When I got out to the Prime, there was a thick layer of fluffy snow covering the hatch.  I wondered how long it would take to melt off.  So, I didn't bother sweeping it off with a brush.  Instead, I got in and pushed the rear-heating button right before driving away.  Before I even got to the stoplight just outside of the shopping complex one block away, most of it had already melted away.  Whoa!  That was impressively fast.  In hadn't crossed my mind that Toyota would use powerful heating-elements to ensure the window would stay clear.


Range Estimates.  How does a plug-in vehicle with just 0.1 kWh more battery-capacity earn 4 more miles of EV estimate?  That's what EPA rating supposedly just awarded to Hyundai's new Ioniq.  Thinking since it's a smaller car, weighing less could possibly provide that advantage.  Perhaps it is a more efficient system too.  After all, both hardware & software can make quite a difference.  No, that wasn't it.  In fact, the story doesn't make any sense.  Prims is rated at 25 kWh/100mi.  Ioniq is rather at 28 kWh/100mi.  How can the vehicle with a more efficient rating get fewer miles?  That doesn't make any sense.  The only plausible theory is that it utilizes more of the capacity.  That's really hard on a battery though.  You want upper & lower buffers for longevity.  Sacrificing that for the sake of a better rating is a terrible idea.  Is that what actually happened?


Model 3.  Guess who got to see one today.  Me!  At our plug-in owners groups, a person from within Tesla corporation was able to take delivery.  So, we got to see it at today's meeting.  That sure was a nice looking car.  The reality really does meet expectations.  It is a great EV.  We're still facing the paradigm-shift required for something like that to become common.  Plug-In Hybrids will bridge that divide.  Between cost & infrastructure, the hope of fast simply isn't realistic.  This is why so much hope had been placed on Volt, but time proved it wasn't up to the chore.  So, we look to automakers pushing the production up front... like Tesla... and those pushing from behind... like Toyota... to make it all happen.  With the generational cycle of vehicles typically 6 years and ownership over 10 years, there's much to consider.  We'll make electrification happen, but pounding out issues... like cost & production... is quite challenging.  That doesn't even address what it takes to get dealers on board.  Upgrading homes for high-capacity charging will be a challenge too.  Fortunately, we get confirmations from time to time about how well worth the effort is.  That Model 3 today most definitely confirmed we should keep pushing.


Video:  Messy Winter.  My commute 3 days ago was that opportunity I had long awaited.  Winter finally arrived. It was an abrupt transition from rain to snow though, which left the roads a lumpy & wet mess.  Travel was slower due to it being so slippery, but was otherwise uneventful.  You can see how the electric-only operation for propulsion & heating worked just fine throughout the entire morning commute.  Note that the "Climate Prep" option was part of my scheduled recharge at home, while plugged in at home in the garage.  So, you'll see the temperature gauge reading warmer than the outside temperature at first.  The footage turned out great.  The 4K makes it especially nice.  This is a video I'm very happy to share...  Messy Winter Commute


Real-World Data.  It took 1 hours 4 minutes travel 16.7 miles.  That was the first Winter commute with a heat-pump.  It is rather noisy, but moving so much air made that a realistic expectation.  Of course, with all the ice crunching, I couldn't really hear it except when stopped.  It's still an extremely efficient way to travel, as clean as possible too.  The mission of Prius remains intact.  I'll be seeing the ups & downs of each passing season just like in the past with the older generations.  The benefit is obvious... and still quite pronounced.  With a guzzler, you don't notice as much.  No screen and such poor efficiency all the time, you suffer all year long... but have grown accustom to the sacrifice.  Between the screen and plugging in, you can't miss it.  Real-World data is what proves worth.  The approach of much colder temperatures will do that too.  For now though, it's just a peaceful (so to speak) drive in crazy traffic with all the guzzlers.


Attacking Niro.  It has begun.  Some of the same old antagonists are fighting the new battle.  Since Prime's presence is growing more and more of a challenge to overcome, they are trying for weaker prey.  It's the same thing that happened with Leaf.  Those nasty Volt antagonists attacked it relentlessly.  It was an EV.  That was Volt's supposedly enemy.  When they couldn't defeat that foe, they pretended it never was the target and went after Prius PHV instead.  Ugh.  Fortunately, I have real-world data from back then which will be helpful to Kia's new plug-in hybrid now:  Claims of more power being needed, but no actual data to support it…  That complete absence of detail is a dead giveaway the situation portrayed doesn't have any merit.  Lack of supporting material is just rhetoric.  Knowing the 51 HP from the gen-1 plug-in Prius was often enough to merge onto the highway without starting the engine confirms the 60 HP will do the job for Niro.  So what if the engine starts?  It only runs for a short time anyway and on the highway you tend to want to save EV capacity for when you get off later.  Of course, you don't need that much HP to maintain a cruise at 70 mph.  So, what exactly is the problem?


Tit-For-Tat.  Those final voices of the past aren't able to get much attention anymore.  They certainly try though: "Take your Volt blinders OFF.  The Prime is in the same category as the Volt.  The article was comparing the GM EV sales to the GM PHEV sales so I was referring to EV/PHEV sales..."  Knowing they lost and that it is over, there's nothing to lose, so they think anyway.  Turns out, they can actually make a bad situation worse:  It is all about sales of TRADITIONAL vehicles verses PLUG-INS now.  With the end of tax-credits in sight and each automaker soon offering some type of vehicle with a plug, the early-adopter phase has come to a close.  It's over.  Though, if you do still want to tit-for-tat, I could point how that Prime offers a much more advanced electric-heater.  The efficiency from its vapor-injected heat-pump is a step above what GM offers in both Volt and Bolt.  So, I suggest we drop any of the debate and simply call it a wash at this point.


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