Personal Log  #890

September 8, 2018  -  September 15, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/07/2018

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Death of Diesel.  We're seeing BMW & Cadillac announcements of diesel offerings being discontinued.  EV fans are doing all they can to distract from plug-in hybrids, attempting to have focus be entirely on EV offerings.  They don't want you to know other choices are available.  They don't want to endorse small battery-pack capacities.  It's quite a gamble targeting diesel enthusiasts who thrived on MPG numbers, especially when a plug-in hybrids can so dramatically exceed diesel.  It was only a matter of time.  Why some automakers even bothered to certify their new vehicles is a mystery.  What a waste effort.  Taking about short-term thinking.  To think that I fought so many for all those years, warning them of ever-improving hybrid performance.  They didn't care.  In fact, they all turned a blind-eye to how diesel MPG numbers didn't add up.  It never made any sense how the claimed improvements were achieved without emission sacrifices.  They wanted you to believe it was some type of engineering miracle.  They were wrong, very wrong.  Our suspicions were correct.


False Information.  Spread of it in the past was a very common problem to have to deal with.  That was before "fake news" was identified as a legitimate threat.  I so clearly remember comments just brushing off the source as having no power of influence.  Such naive belief is how it got so out of hand.  Fortunately, the truth has triumphed in most places.  Not all circumstances getting the attention needed to squash the spread.  Some comments slip throuhg, like this one today: "Take the gas engine out of the Prius no movement.  Take the gas engine out of the Volt you get a total EV."  You can guess how the text that followed was an endorement for Volt.  Anything that can be said to mislead about Prius has been tried.  This one struck me as odd though, since it is so easy to recognize it as being false.  Of course, it was in an article pointing out how much better Toyota sales have been compared to GM.  So, attempts belittle were expected.  The means to which it happened wasn't though.  Deception source is difficult to pinpoint, quite unlike motivation.  I punched back with:  Poorly informed or intentional greenwash?  That's the question to ask when reading a post which spreads such false information.  The plug-in model of Prius is just like Volt, an EV with a gas-engine available for when the plug-supplied electricity is depleted.  The notable differences are that Volt offers a larger capacity battery and more power motor while Prius delivers both more efficient EV & HV drives and more efficient electric-heating.


Motivation.  Sales of Tesla are often used as a basis of measure to gauge legacy automaker progress.  That never made any sense.  Such an expensive product that was supported in large part by investors seeking new opportunity is dramatically different from trying to change an extremely well established traditional production & distribution process.  They have so little in common, it's futle to compare.  Yet, we see those without a good understanding of business do it on a regular basis.  They don't understand change.  It's a problem GM has done a horribly bad job at addressing.  One terrible choice after another... often repeating the same mistake.  Ugh.  With respect to the discussion at hand today on that, I jumped in with:  Low-Hanging fruit isn't a motivator for legacy automakers.  They depend upon high-volume profitable sales that have a strong outlook of being sustainable.  Tesla hasn't proven that yet.  Model 3 has great potential, but it could be a one-hit wonder.  Looking across the legacy product-line, there's good reason for trepidation.  The Osborne effect is a very real problem.  For example, GM announcing a plug-in hybrid version of Trax or Equinox could cause their traditional sales of those vehicles to tank.


Approach Choice.  Each automaker has their choice of how to use their tax-credits.  It's a untimed limit of 200,000 vehicles, then switches to an unlimited quantity with a time limit of 1.5 years of phased reduction.  One of the Volt enthusiasts who gave up on Volt and switched to Clarity made this comment: "I find it an odd choice that Toyota chooses to use up all their tax-credits on the Prime."  That was it.  Nothing else, despite years of discussion on the topic.  Why?  My guess he sttill doesn't understand the business.  Some people have it in their mind that only a single approach works, that no other choice is actually available.  Seeing how close-minded our current president is, that is now a very easy perspective to accept.  Some simply never learn.  Ugh.  To that, I kept my response brief:  Having a vehicle profitable as it hits the phaseout stage is ideal, since there are no quantity limits at that point.  Toyota is doing exactly what's needed to capitalize on the opportunity.

9-13-2018 When?  Some people never learn.  They keep getting pulled into the same discussion without recognizing the pattern.  Remember back in 2009, when GM promised "14 hybrids by 2012" with a grand annoucement everybody got so excited about?  Most people don't.  That's why the "At least 20 new EVs by 2023" has become such a source of excitement.  A new audience is getting drawn into a new round of substantless hype.  That's how the Volt enthusiasts came about.  Anything that pointed out an absence of merit was attacked as an effort to undermine.  They became a brainless group of propaganda spreaders.  GM took advantage of that too, routinely feeding them with vague tidbits of info.  When you'd request detail, pointing out the suspicious nature of what had been stated, they'd attack you.  Since there was never any accountability, this terrible behavior went on for an entire decade... to the point where it became normalized.  What a nightmare.  Looking back at that in a discussion about GM's future, I provided this reminder:

Anyone who has closely watched GM over the years recognizes there's a lot of hype.  Press releases are ambiguous to serve as a means of stirring interest & discussion.  That has led their reputation of "over promise, under deliver" to transform to a concern of "too little, too slowly".

We have witnessed the rollouts of BAS and Two-Mode go nowhere, despite so many expectations having been set.  The real-world results of the technology didn't meet the business return needed.  That knowledge & experience was carried over to e-Assist and gen-1 Volt, which also fell well short of the hope outcome.  Looking at Bolt and gen-2 Volt, we see nice technology struggling to compete with traditional vehicles, even with generous tax-credit help.

So, what's different from this latest round of annoucements?  There's no substance, just a looming phaseout of subsidies and a challenging market that's becoming increasingly difficult to address.  There is no spotlight for GM to take advantage of anymore.  There is no politic will to support green offerings.  There is still little understanding of what electrification actually means.

Remember how GM said there would be 2 reveals within the next 18 months about 11 months ago? What should we expect at this point? When will something aimed at their own showroom customers shopping for a SUV have a choice with a plug?


GM Recalls.  Well, this is interesting.  Last week's Toyota recall has already been overtaken by one from GM.  This one isn't as simple either.  It's a power-assisted steering problem.  The issue involves 1.2 million Pickups & SUVs.  Unfortunately, it's an extension of the previous recall that included another 700,000 Pickups.  The steering can briefly shut down, leaving wheel turning entirely under the driver's own control.  Not being aware of the sudden need for muscle does pose a risk of accident.  30 reports of crashes are on record.  Hopefully, that will be addressed quickly.  But that doesn't sound like a fast or cheap fix.  It's really unfortunate when stuff like this happens.  It eats into profit-margins for the automaker, causes full schedules at dealers, and impact resell values for owners.


Charger Installation.  It's nice to see questions about them come up on a regular basis now.  Here's my latest contribution to those discussions:  How many vehicles do you think will need recharging at the same time?  Remember, your service-panel only has so much capacity.  8 hours from a 40-amp circuit will deliver 200 mlies of range.  Knowing that rule-of-thumb, we installed two 40-amp lines in our garage.  Choosing to use 3/4" conduit meant higher gauge wire could be pulled later.  For now, our JuiceBox Pros are set (via the software interface) to only allow the 80% draw (32 amps).  That 7.7 kW max rate should be fine.  After all, many public chargers top out at 6.6 kW.  Odds are, a future vehicle wouldn't stop at the charger's max of 10 kW anyway, so having allowed for 40-amp draw (50-amp circuit) wouldn't be much of an improvement.  The spec for that port's protocol can actually handle 19.2 kW.  Delivering that requires a 100-amp line though, which would be very expensive and brings you back to overall capacity available.  So, don't worry about the numbers or future proofing.  50-amp line could be nice.  40-amp is fine.


What About?  The end has come.  Talk of mid-cycle updates for Prius has killed off all but the most ill-intent posts.  How this happened is simple.  The speculation overwhelms the antagonists.  Those wanting to undermine simply don't have a voice anymore.  A few are rather desperate though, hoping to derail the topic by causing a distraction.  Catch is, they have run out of subject matter for that.  All that's left is rhetoric related to hydrogen... and now one is biting their bait anymore.  The subject simply doesn't stir emotion when its so easy to focus on the opportunities that await.  So, I help to point some of them out to get back on topic.  In this case, it was a discussion about 2019 model years of Prius and Prius Prime, the potential they bring:  Using the "What About?" technique to attempt to divert attention is telling.  China gets a Corolla PHV and an EV model of C-HR. For that matter, Australia gets the Corolla PHV too.  These are clear attempts by Toyota to shift the paradigm, offering popular vehicles with a plug.  That experience there will provide value information about how to shift the SUV obsessed market here... something even GM hasn't attempted yet. RAV4 hybrid with a plug.


Why?  I'm watching the rhetoric fade into background noise.  There's no reason to ask "why?" anymore.  People don't know.  For that matter, asking the question of "why not?" is rather pointless too.  Minds have already been made up, based on misconceptions & misinformation.  Substance is not needed to make claims, nor does anyone bother to provide it.  Disregard for the bigger picture has become the norm, because it is no longer recognized.  This is why it serves no purpose to try explaining.  For that matter, the complete lack of understanding is why the tax-credits should be allowed to expire.  No one knows what they were for anyway.  You'd be surprised by the variety of responses queries about goals will bring.  It reveals a lack of information.  Many have no clue how the technology works... or what the infrastructure needs... or the many costs involved.  Even related facts are brushed aside as irrelevent.  It's all a big mystery surrounded by unknowns people don't bother to research.  Most aren't interested.  When something is revealed, they quickly make assumptions to connect the dots.  It has become a game seemingly without consequence.  While all of this sounds like a "gloom & doom" status, it is actually encouraging.  It marks a turning point when rhetoric no longer has much influence.  To that, I say:  Phew!


Plug Where?  It's nice seeing this come up from time to time now: "Most people have no place to plug-in an electric vehicle."  That was an issue often brushed off, dismissed as an effort to undermine.  Ugh.  It's bad enough not even having a plug.  But when you look at the power coming from each plug that is actually available, there are issues too.  Most of the articles you read promote charge-rate maximum as something you'll just naturally get at home from an ordinary 240-volt connection.  That's far from the reality for most.  I didn't get into that detail though.  I kept it basic:  That is exactly why fuel-cell vehicles will co-exist with electric-only vehicles.  Hydrogen is a means of storing renewable electricity.  Whether or not that is the best carrier of energy doesn't matter... especially with the hypocritical stance some EV supporters have taken, choosing to turn a blind-eye toward guzzling electricity.  When the sun is shining and the is wind blowing, we'll have banks of batteries and tanks of hydrogen holding the electricity with what would otherwise be missed opportunity.  Our grid can only hold so much at a time.  Also, production can be shifted to more practical locations.  It's really unfortunate that so many early EV adopters don't think about those who won't have a plug readily available or where the electricity to recharge comes from.


Understanding Design.  I like reading comments like this: "I really don’t understand Toyota's design."  It was in a discussion thread that brought up the choice of making Prime a 4-seater.  Some people have an extremely difficult time accepting change.  They don't recognize how little value a tight middle seat actually delivers.  They simply see it as a loss.  Coming to accept the fact that want can be costly is quite a challenge in a society when most things are perceived as need.  Nonetheless, a balance must be delivered for high-volume sales to be both profitable & sustainable.  That means looking at the entire package, not focusing entirely on just a single attribute.  Far too often, people obsess with a trait that doesn't deliver a large return.  Volt is a great example, since the capacity of the battery-pack so clearly demonstrates the problem of diminishing returns.  Cost of miles delivers less and less as more and more are added.  Think about it.  If you don't drive the distance of the entire capacity, that extra is excess.  It's a waste to buy more than what will actually be used routinely.  Of course, people don't see that.  So, responses must start out simple, sticking to the basics... outward appearance.  I pointed out:  The market is changing.  Toyota recognizes the shift away from "car" appeal.  Anything that doesn't resemble a SUV or CUV must take on a more aggressive styling to survive.  It's not rocket science.  It's the business of high-volume sales.

9-08-2018 Purpose & Intent.  I continued on that soapbox, providing a part-2 for optimum understanding... with special attention to timing:

Volt's antithesis has always been Prius.  The reason why is simple.  GM's focus was enthusiasts.  Toyota's focus was mainstream consumers.  That resulted in vehicles with profoundly different traits; yet, Volt was promoted as a competitor.  That contrast never made any sense. Know your audience.

Leaving that all aside and focusing on the technology itself, there's a very real problem of timing.  GM will trigger tax-credit phaseout within the next 6 months.  That puts the 2019 model-year in a very difficult sales position... especially if Toyota really does rollout a mid-cycle upgrade along with their ramped up production & distribution.  Would GM respond with commitment to applying the technology to a SUV or CUV platform?

Prius Prime has proven the Toyota hybrid system can easily support a plug.  The existing design simply needs the addition of a one-way clutch.  That's their answer to delivering an affordable solution. Both RAV4 and C-HR hybrids are strong candidates for the upgrade.  We already know that Corolla will next year for the market in China.

GM announced intent to debut at least 20 new EV in the next 5 years, back in October 2017.  Within the next 18 months (which would be March 2019) the expectation was set for 2 new all-electric offerings.  That most likely means we will get reveals at key autoshows... especially with the inevitable tax-credit phaseout rapidly approaching.  LA is a strong possibility, in late November.  Detroit is another, in early January.

The past is loaded with examples of GM obscuring misfortune with reveals.  Volt is the most blatant, an obvious attention diversion from the terribly disappointing rollout of Two-Mode.

Whether you like hearing those facts or not doesn't change them.  Choose to embrace GM's advancement by endorsing their investment in high-speed charging.  We ultimately need each automaker to choose some electrification path.  So what if GM's is different from Toyota?  The point is to focus on replacing traditional vehicles, not winning some silly "vastly superior" contest.

Remember who the customers are.


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