Personal Log #889
August 30, 2018 - September 8, 2018
Last Updated: Sun. 10/07/2018
page #888 page #890 BOOK INDEX
The Last Word. This came from the very last voice on
the dead daily blog: "At first blush, this seems like good news. After 3
days though, I wonder if it doesn’t signal GM’s abandonment of the Volt
(EREV) paradigm. Gas for long range vs ultra-charging..." He has
been continually posting new messages hoping to stir discussion. It
hasn't worked for weeks. No one cares anymore. I figured, why
not endulge his one last time, giving him an opportunity for the last word
based on his own quote:
Bolt is what raised the question of intent. It was an undeniable shift away from the "range anxiety" solution. Rather than evolve their plug-in hybrid system, the choice was made to endorse much larger battery-pack offerings instead... a blatant contradiction to GM's previous stance.
Gen-2 Volt made that shift obvious, confirming abandonment. Rather than focus on making their own heavily promoted "40 mile" range approach affordable for the masses, GM disregarded that goal, choosing to deliver a next-gen with increased range & power... traits neither of which ordinary consumers had been asking for improvement of.
Reduced cost, specifically a MSRP at the long-promised $30,000 target, was supposed to be the highest priority. Gen-2 fell well short of that though, instead remaining heavily dependent upon tax-credits to subsidize purchases. Elimination of the complex T-shape for the battery and unnecessary liquid-cooling would have gone a long way toward achieving that pricing goal. Those were clear opportunities wasted.
Focus of GM is now on delivering "ultra-fast charging system that could add 180 miles of driving range in just 10 minutes" which is feature of no value to a system with small battery-pack capacity... another feature potential "EREV" consumers were never asking for.
Stepping back away from the technology itself, there's the reality that GM dealers and GM customers simply aren't interested in compact hatchback offerings. They want SUV and CUV choices. Not seeing anything with a plug, or even just a regular hybrid, in that type of vehicle makes you wonder how long it will take for something competitive with traditional choices will finally be offered.
Prius Recall. Looks like 192,000 Prius from 2016 to 2018 model-years in the United States will be recalled due to a potential wear issue with a wire-harness. Over time, there could be the possibility of that causing a short circuit resulting in a vehicle fire. Worldwide total is roughly one million hybrids. Either a protective sleeve or tape will be installed, depending upon the condition of the wire. This is a voluntary recall, the type that is looked upon as a proactive measure... but you know the potential it leaves for antagonists to spin it as a major problem. Ugh. Oh well, it's not like there won't be some other recall from some other automaker at some point. Remember, you reap what you sow.
Plug-In Basics. I started writing up a new document to inform people of how a plug-in vehicle works. It covers the basics, providing an introduction. We have a new audience emerging. These are those who have nothing in common with early-adopters. These are the wondering minds who have heard about plugging in but really don't know where to start. I'm hoping to provide that type of guide with this. It's a high-level summary sharing concepts you need to know for understanding how to start your purchase research. Since the goal is simplicity, it will take quite a bit of effort to find the right content. There will be some photos & illustrations, but nothing complicated. Think of it as a summary for confirming interest. We need to show that there really isn't anything to be intimidated about. It really is next step many can take without concern. In reality, you're just plugging in your car just like you do with your phone. The power needs truly are simple to fulfill. You just have to understand the basics.
Mainstream. Measure of progress shouldn't change. If it does, that's called "moving the goal posts". Targets (and milestones along the way) are set for very specific reasons. That's how you determine how well things are going. If there's a shift of some sort, it should relate to refinements of the product itself, not sales. You still must have purchases to have a viable product. Falling under a predetermined threshold means you'll loss money. Contracts with vendors and expectations from resellers is a delicate balance of supply & demand. This is why minimums are identified. Back when Prius was still new, that level was clear. All efforts to exceed that success equated to selling more than that minimum. It was that simple. To "out Prius, Prius", you must achieve more purchases. That doesn't mean delivering an excessive inventory, then having to slash prices to clear out what doesn't sell at a profitable level. It means true sustainable sales. I was annoyed by someone attempting to redefine "mainsteam" and rewrite history as a result: For the last 15 years, the term "mainstream" has represented a green vehicle available nationwide that was able to support itself financially. With respect to sales, that worked out to minimum annual sales of 60,000. This is why sales of Volt falling well short of 5,000 monthly was always a concern. Not achieving that prior to tax-credit phaseout meant business sustainability of the tech would be in jeopardy... which is exactly what we are witnessing now. In other words, dealers will have no desire to stock a low-profit vehicle.
Careful. A few days ago when sales results were revealed, we got the typical "vastly superior" response from a Volt enthusiast. Ugh. It was that same old nonsense I had dealt with for years. My reaction to that was posting some advice: Careful with the LOL posting. GM was able to deliver at a loss with tax-credit dependency. Doing the same without subsidy help for a profit is far more difficult.
Understanding Change, part 2. The inquiry which
started this was more complicated than a single post could address.
The second part has to deal with infrastructure... which is beyond a mess...
as I attempted to explain:
Most people have little to no understanding of how recharging actually works. Sadly, that includes many enthusiasts. So when it comes to plug-in hybrid operation, there's a huge void filed with misconception, confusion, and discouragement. We have much to address still before the inhibition of dealers to stock inventory subsides.
It starts with education of what is needed for recharging at home. Do you know? If you are lucky, there will be a standard household 120-volt outlet available in your garage for recharging. That works well for charges overnight for one vehicle, but what if you have two? Most people have no idea what it takes to run another line for more electricity. That unknown creates trepidation, enough to deter the pursuit of even just a first plug-in vehicle. Why bother with the extra expense?
Public recharging is in the earliest stages still. We see a lot of standard uncertainty combined with a user-base poorly informed about what kW and kWh represent. Not understanding efficiency measure values and charging speeds, as well as the related costs, make adoption a nightmare. How do you attract business & consumer interest when there is such a basic shortcoming of knowledge along with the lack of actual chargers to use? There's the unknown of charger-etiquette too.
Understanding Change, part 1. Most people don't recognize what's happening.
They simply don't pay close enough attention or have the background
experience to see the pattern. Not knowing means they are less likely
to understand where this change will take us. So, I must interject
observations to help the process along:
Simple... our market here is in a state of chaos... which is why Toyota found worldwide rollout all at the same time a better approach.
A little over 51,000 were delivered in 2017. That's amazing for a first-year rollout. Think about how complex the production process is for the intricately shaped carbon-fiber hatch and that distortion-free dual-wave glass, both new tech introduced by Prius Prime. There is also the vapor-injected heat-pump. Getting enough of that spread to each market to begin the education process for business & consumer has been a major undertaking.
As for the chaos, much of that has to deal with the push of Tesla (a non-legacy automaker) combined with the fallout GM has been facing, each heavily dependency upon greatly reduced production-cost. Why get involved in that mess when neither is targeting mainstream consumers in the short-term anyway? Toyota is refining in the process, using early-adopters to provide real-world feedback in the meantime.
Consider the obsession with SUV offerings. It seemed absurd 2.5 years ago when Toyota revealed a change of focus for Prius. The Prime model was aimed at families who have now grown up, hence seating to become more a sport/luxury design. Since RAV4 now targets the "family hauler" buyer, why not? We see the entire industry shifting away from sedan market for that very reason. In now makes a lot of sense that Toyota embraced the shift; after all, it will be easier to adapt a SUV to carry a larger battery-pack than a sedan.
Watch what happens with the market as tax-credit phaseout is triggered. Also, keep in mind the potential mid-cycle upgrades Toyota has had to consider for Prius Prime, as well as Prius itself. Change is coming.
Understanding Efficiency. There was an article published 2 days ago pointing out the extreme inefficiency of an upcoming EV from a high-performance automaker. Of the 204 comments posted, only 1 understood what was being addressed. Everyone else had the same old rhetoric to spread about electricity being better, regardless of how it was used. Interestingly, they don't actually know. This quote from the article itself is what I found especially disturbing: "We don't know why, exactly, efficiency is rated as kWh per 100 miles instead of the obviously-more-sensible miles per kWh, but that is what the government has proclaimed to be the proper metric, so pipe down." That's not good for a website thought to be a green authority not understanding how efficiency is depicted. They are obviously expecting a unit in terms of the way MPG is represented. Not having any idea how flawed the MPG system is should raise concern. It's not used by most of the rest of the world because it is so misleading. Think about a small truck getting 30 MPG and a large car getting 35 MPG. The difference is 5 MPG, right? What does that really mean? People don't know. Traveling 100 miles, the 30 MPG vehicle will consume 3.33 gallons. The 35 MPG vehicle will consumed 2.86 gallons. That implies the 5 MPG difference equates to 0.47 gallons. It doesn't though. Traveling that same 100 miles with a 40 MPG vehicle will consume 2.5 gallons. The 5 MPG difference equates to 0.36, not 0.47 gallons. The next 5 MPG increment reveals a 0.30 difference. In other words, the measure is not linear. People assume it is. That's a very real problem. This is why the government is not using that measure for electricity. It would allow misrepresentation the same way. Too bad the publisher thinks the "miles per" representation is more sensible. You want to know exactly how much fuel is used, that's the "gallons per" measure... or in our case, "kilowatts per". Note that the rest of the world uses a distance of 100 kilometers. Our government uses 100 miles. The point is, you want a lower value. The fewer the kilowatts (kWh) of electricity consumed, the better. That's the opposite of MPG, which a higher value is better. See why there's confusion? Take the time to really undertstand what it all means. Once you do, it opens up a world of comprehending even the supposed experts don't see.
Product Approach. A well known troll attempted to
stir the pot by diverting attention to management, away from product...
either that, or he's completely clueless. Whatever the case, someone
who has been a very frequent poster for many, many years should know better.
Of course, dealing with a person who thrives on debate, you should expect
efforts to keep conclusions from being drawn, anything to continue
discussion. A dead thread isn't of any value for online participation.
I didn't take the bait. Instead, it was met with a detailed description to get back on track:
Toyota's approach from the beginning has been to deliver a product that's affordable for the masses right from the start. That's why component size, power, and capacity was always limited by production cost. It eliminates dependence on subsidy and provides a clear upgrade path. It also provides opportunity for quick adaptation. That significantly reduces financial & market risk.
This is why the approach with a plug-in Prius was always targeted by Volt enthusiasts, their source of unending torment. GM's decision to take the risk instead by betting the farm on something with a costly & inflexible design has proven a terrible choice. That gamble of rapid market acceptance and rapid battery advancement didn't pay off.
As Prius supporters, we had to endure an onslaught of ridicule & downplay about this approach difference... which is now becoming quite apparent. Toyota didn't rely on tax-credits. Toyota didn't succumb to niche appeal. Toyota stayed true to their mission of emissions & efficiency for mainstream consumers. The result is a product capable of competing directly with the true competition: traditional vehicles.
All along, it should have been a design from GM that would draw high-volume profitable sales. That's what bottom-up is all about. Toyota targeted ordinary consumers, delivering a well-balanced platform which could be easily diversified to a wide product-line. We see that with the Corolla, C-HR, Camry, and RAV4 hybrids... each capable of simple adaptation to provide a plug, as Prius has now proven. The "start from the top" approach with both Two-Mode and Volt resulted in nothing but sales struggle. Whatever you want to call that difference, it clearly didn't reach the masses.
Knock Knock. One form of spin that is actually appropriate is to turn the spotlight back on the antagonist. After all, their effort is often a means of taking attention away from them. Putting it back on is constructive, especially if you can take advantage by using some of their own rhetoric against them. Today, this was the provoke: "...but it shows that Toyota is still dragging its feet and would not be entering the EV market unless it had to." I was amused. That only works if you cherry-pick by refusing to address the next stage, as I asked: How is that any different from GM entering the market, but not doing anything with it? That passive-aggressive stance GM has taken is actually worse. They rollout token offerings, do nothing, then end up claiming there was no interest. Sound familiar? Rather than waiting to come out with a product that competitive with traditional vehicles, they rushed. When has not taking time to do it right been a bad choice? People are portraying Toyota's effort to make plugging in a sustainable business that doesn't have tax-credit dependency a mistake. That makes no sense whatsoever. Yet, we hear "fallen behind" all the time without any actual substance to support it. If GM were really far ahead, they would have sales to prove it; instead, we see Volt & Bolt having eaten all the low-hanging fruit... a market without any early-adopters remaining. In other words, no one is knocking on GM's door.
Debate Takeaways. That encounter with a Volt enthusiast brought about an interesting new perspective. Debates often do, if you can stick with them and pay close attention. The key is to remain concise and to not take their bite. All most care about is winning, even if the declaration of victory has no merit. Having the appearance of being cornered is what they look for. I hunt for substance, like buried treasure, some little nugget of new information. In this case, it was a revisit of the Volt "lite" model. Remember those dicussions? Few do. So, this was pretty much a new discussion without anything to start from. He just made the assumption "lite" meant a smaller battery-pack. That was it, nothing else. In the past, other aspects of design would be tappered back too. But those weren't ever really addressed, since the rhetoric impeeded progres. That didn't happen this time. I was able to actually address design. It was rewarding to be able to sight such a simple and oversight on their part, something I'll be able to use later in other discussions to quickly bring debates to an end. That's the type of takeaway you always hope to gain. Here's is the one I got: Think about the unnecessary cost & complexity of the T-shaped battery back. None of that would have been needed with a smaller capacity.