Personal Log #919
February 1, 2019 - February 5, 2019
Last Updated: Sun. 2/24/2019
page #918 page #920 BOOK INDEX
Damage Control. Virtually all the Volt enthusiasts have vanished, gone without a trace. Rather than showing up elsewhere with a revised purpose, there is nothing. It's exactly the pattern observed in the past. Those who cheered & antagonized disappear entirely upon recognition of having failed. Acknowledgement never happens, they simply don't exist anymore. The few who remain don't even speak of them. It's as if that history was just a bad dream. So, all the rhetoric is over. However, those individuals remaining feel the need for damage control. Today, it was an effort to make things look like Toyota was in the situation: "OMG, even Toyota's doing it." Quickly after posting my reply, there was a response to spin what was really intended by that. It was too late though. Even more damage had been done. Making it worse is evidence of still having not learned their lesson. Oh well. It's their loss, which I'm happy to point out: That attempt at damage-control is pretty lame. The advertisement for RAV4 hybrid features the second-generation now being rolled out, not the first as you imply. I have been talking about a "Prime" upgrade to that platform for years, just add a one-way clutch and more battery the same way Prius was augmented. It's a simple & affordable way to offer a plug option. Each time I brought up the larger and more powerful hybrid, I got attacked. In fact, I expect the same with this post... especially when I remind everyone of how GM recently chose to offer Equinox as a diesel, rather than a hybrid. See, with the RAV4 hybrid becoming a popular choice, due to the regular RAV4 being Toyota's top-seller and the hybrid being so affordable, taking the next step by offering a plug in a no-brainer. Those loyal showroom shoppers will see the plug-in and seriously consider the purchase, simply by association. All the senseless efforts to undermine Prius and attack me were in vain. Enthusiasts here failed to heed the warning, despite being told hundreds of times GM must diversify their plug-in hybrid technology. It was never spread to a SUV... and clearly should have.
Video Collection. Continued refinement of video presentation is rendering some of my older content less useful. More detail and improved quality made that inevitable. Adding value is the goal though, so that's ok. It's interesting to look at those old captures from years ago. A lot has changed with the technologies involved, both car & camera. It's rewarding too, when you have that content to share for education & debunking. So as time progresses, I'll just recapture some of the most referred to video with new footage containing a lot more information. Sadly, some of the locations & circumstances cannot be recreated, but at least it all reflects real-world driving. That's just me behind the wheel doing what I normally do... nothing special... just drive it. More to come as I get better with the editing too. The effort to assemble the variety of feeds and insert commentary is rewarding. I enjoy that build process.
The Game. This seems reasonable, at face value: "I started to wonder if Toyota might try to up their game by putting in a larger capacity battery-pack." But when you start wondering about detail, questions emerge about purpose... as I pointed out: If the "game" is to sell more, what data is there to show larger capacity would raise demand? I envision Toyota rolling out a mid-cycle update with cell/stack arrangement for the pack altered to provide a better fit in the hatch area for greater cargo space. That may not increase capacity, but it wouldn't cause a price increase either. What if the "game" is to prepare Prius for a plug-in only approach instead? In that case, the smaller battery-pack would be better. Think about what people have in there garage for charging. If only a single circuit is available and it must be shared, the rate may be limited to 8-amp draw... which could requite 8 hours for a full recharge. More and more, it looks like Toyota is aiming for the masses, where their high-volume profitable seller is something in that regard. Prius would be a "prime" candidate for that. (I know, bad pun.) Reaching mainstream consumers is far more difficult than appealing to early-adopters.
Big Problem. I figured the following message I posted would generate a large number of negative votes: "You are mixing up RANGE with EFFICIENCY. There's a profound difference, a factor many supporting plug-in vehicles don't recognize the importance of. That's a big problem. MILES/KWH is a measure everyone participating here should learn & understand." That was a testament to the lack of education related to everyday posters... you know, those who oppose without substance... aka: enthusiasts. Ugh. They blindly follow the mantra of more being better. In the minds of many of them, they belief is a tipping point toward acceptance will be reached simply by delivering enough battery-capacity. Talk of how the electricity is consumed simply doesn't happen. Rather than improve how a heater operates, you just add to the pack enough to compensate. That's an awful approach. Don't deal with the actual problem, just find a better way to compensate for it. Ugh, again. It's maddening at times how poorly informed some people are. But what really makes it troublesome is when they resist any effort to become better informed. They just plain don't care. They've had it with oil & pollution. Green is all about plugging in. How much electricity they actually consume doesn't matter to them, as long as it isn't gas. That's such a let down. They don't even recognize the true issue at hand. It's about the triangle. You know... reduce, reuse, recycle. The effort is to minimize, not just switch to another fuel and waste that instead. Needless to say, it was very disappointing to see that lack of understanding. I've heard from several other leaders recently dealing with that same big problem. Any suggestions?
Priorities. Follow up to that online slapping was motivating. He actually responded. Most of the time, comments are just blown off. I was pleased to get this: "Toyota's problem is that they don't listen. There was plenty of talk about the miserable range on the pip for 5 years." He remains clueless, but at least lurkers will have something to recognize a pattern of denial with. It's intriguing how some people don't like the answer, so they keep asking the question over and over again hoping to finally get something different in return. Refusal to accept is quite common. Resistance on this scale, especially when there isn't anything to gain anyway, makes no sense. He keeps fighting though, hoping for an outcome to change. That's the same nonsense I dealt with for years with the Volt enthusiasts. They absolutely refused to accept what was happening, belligerent to the very end. It was a defeat so comprehensive, there wasn't anything left. Giving up on the idea of GM rolling out any type of plug-in hybrid anymore wasn't an outcome any of them ever saw as a possibility. The remote chance I could possibly be correct was never entertained. They had no clue how bad the situation for GM really was, despite all the evidence I supported. Seeing that automaker's stance change so drastically is a victory for whom? I wasn't even expecting such terrible management decisions to cause such a dramatic setback. Yet, that's what happened. All GM now has is Bolt, which barely sells anymore... even with the $7,500 tax-credit. That's why Toyota staying true to priorities is so important. That's why I admire any automaker who presents such clear plans for their future. It's not loyalty. It's common sense. Duh! He doesn't get it though, no matter how hard I try to convey that message: Toyota listens, just not to you. Far more people weighed in saying they wanted a more powerful EV drive with electric heating that was still affordable. Toyota delivered that. It's all about managing priorities.
Complaints. There are some who will never be happy. Like today: "Ah, I'm not the only one who realized toyota blew it with battery placement." I would like to figuratively slap some sense into him sometimes. This was such an occasion: You are the only one who constantly complains about it. The rest of us acknowledge the upgrade process and the tradeoff decision. Drawing conclusions during pregame simply doesn't make any sense. Wait at least until the tax-credit stage has passed. Real players of the game (mainstream consumers) haven't even arrived at the field yet. Keep in mind that the market is still emerging, that we are only in a very early stage still. In other words, there is no "blew it" to claim... that's far too premature. Everyone is only testing the water. There is lots of opportunity to adjust. Also, don't overlook the barriers you create toward technology acceptance but distracting with complaints. Though valid, they are far less important than proving the battery is robust enough to withstand the extremes owners encounter.
Video: Extreme Cold (commute to work). That cold drive to work looked great on each of the capture devices. I couldn't wait to assemble the pieces to something comprehensive to share. It turned out really nice after lots of sizing & cropping, then the long series of renders. Here's what I published: Polar Vortex blast of cold remained for several days, keeping temperatures well into the negatives. That meant no driving. I stayed at home and the Prius Prime stayed plugged in. This was the ideal opportunity to collect data showing how the battery-pack was warmed by electricity from the cord. Its purpose is to allow as much use of power from the battery as possible, despite extreme cold outside. Watch the variety of instruments showing how the system operates when it is so cold. There's quite a bit that takes place, most of which drivers don't usually notice... Extreme Cold (commute to work)
Timing. If you study carefully, you will uncover
clues about what really happens. The key is to do that digging
actively while those events are playing out. Looking back, after the
fact, they may not be visible. It's that lack of certainty which makes
certain things stand out. In other words, those are the decision
points. Following whatever choice was made, it may not be obvious what
happened any why. That's how blogs like this become so valuable.
They document history as it is unfolds, during that moment to capture
whatever was relevant & important at that particular time. That's why
stuff like this becomes annoying:
"My theory is cost. Toyota needed a bigger battery for Prime and
it didn't fit the existing Prius well so they just raised the trunk floor up
till it fit. Toyota did keep the Prime cost down." Looking
back years later, it's very easy to miss something vital. While things
are taking place gives you sight no one else will ever have. I take
advantage of that... and later try to relay my documentation:
We already know that's what happened, no theory necessary. Prime was originally intended with a smaller pack. Flexibility of the design allowed a larger one to be used instead. It didn't fit well... physically, but it was a better fit for the emerging market and still fit within the affordable goal. So, Toyota felt it was fitting.
That responsiveness to market is what we saw with Prius PHV. Back in 2010, the prototype had a raised floor... exactly like we have now. I drove one around for a short span and didn't see any issues with it. When the 2012 was finally rolled out, they decided to scale back from the 5.2 kWh capacity to 4.4 kWh for a better fit. Since it was just a mid-cycle upgrade, no big deal. We'd find out what the first true generation would offer "soon" anyway, not realizing how just how complicated the resistance to change would become.
The problems GM had forced Toyota to be responsive to market uncertainty, of which Volt enthusiasts created. Choosing to rollout Prime into limited areas only to test the waters with a larger pack, while waiting for that fallout to take place made sense... but made enthusiasts crazy, despite the obvious benefit from waiting. Now, we see tax-credit reduction just weeks away, as well as the discontinuation of Volt... a path cleared for Toyota to launch an assault.
This topic addresses the possibility of Toyota going all out, by killing the regular Prius. A logical step to preparing for such a move would be to rollout a mid-cycle update to align Prime according. Lack of 2019 model inventory seems to be setting the stage for an early 2020. Think of the opportunity Toyota has from having waited until the timing was right.
Spot Blocking. I couldn't believe it. The guy in front of me pulled right into the charging-spot and sat there with his engine running. I sent a brief honk his way. Nothing. So, then I got out and said: "I would like to park here to plug in." He looked at me and said: "Why don't you park over there?" Annoyed, but unwilling to give him an emotional excuse to lash out at, I calmly said: "I would need to drive all the way around, then have to back in to reach the cord." He got angry, but stayed quiet, rolled up his window, backed out of the parking spot, then drove away. With all the snow we got recently, he was hoping to take advantage of the charging area and not get called out for blocking. I wanted that spot and was polite about my request. It was a very effective means of telling him to leave and never try that again. With only those 2 chargers there, filling one with a non-plug vehicle with its engine running is totally inappropriate. More and more I am seeing both being used at the same time. Why did he think he had the right to prevent what the lot's owner intended that location to be used for?
Video: Extreme Cold (commute home). I was able to film my drive in both directions today. This was the commute home, from work after a long day in the office: Extreme Cold brings about lots of questions. Prius Prime owners ask for detail about how their plug-in hybrid system operations in conditions with the temperature well below freezing. This is a commute home that I filmed when the mercury dipped down to -1ºF. Watch the temperature reading of the engine coolant. You can see how the engine shuts off when it reaches a warmed state. It will then remain off for a little while, using that warmth to supply heat for the cabin. Though that electric-only driving doesn't last long, it does contribute quite a bit to overall efficiency. As an expected bonus in this video, you get to see how well the defroster works too. I accidentally bumped the blanket covering the lower camera used to film my commute to work. It slipped down the dashboard, covering the vent... which caused that section of windshield to frost directly in front of the upper camera. Oops! Overall, the EV driving ratio came to 37%. That resulted in a 60.0 MPG average for the 19.1 mile trip in the extreme cold, complete with travel while it was lightly snowing... Extreme Cold (commute home)
Realistic Expectations. It is intriguing to have a
discussion with someone who abandoned Volt in favor of Clarity. He use
to fight me on a regular basis. It wasn't pretty. My frustration
paid off though. He recognizes that my concerns of the past were
valid, that I really wasn't just a troll trying to undermine GM.
Today's discussion was a reflection on January sales. He wondered why
Toyota's green offerings were all low. I pointed out the opportunity
approaching. There was intrigue. That's quite an improvement
upon confrontation of the past. His comments ended with: "What
I don't understand is why Toyota is using up all their tax credits with it.
Seems like a PHEV Rav4 with 20 kW battery or something would be a better way
to use it (or what I would rather have)." With GM sales so low
now and the tax-credit reduction rapidly approaching, there's opportunity
for constructive exchanges. So, I replied with:
The intended purpose of the tax-credits was for each automaker to use them to establish high-volume profitable sales which could be sustained without any subsidy. In other words, it was to fortify the everyday expectation of seeing a plug-in vehicle on the showroom floor. Whatever it would be, that vehicle needed to be able to compete directly with traditional offerings there at the dealer.
This is why I got so frustrated with GM. Watching great engineering go to waste from stupid management decisions was sad. Enthusiasts made excuses, knowing in the end a compact hatchback would never appeal to GM shoppers. It's really unfortunate Voltec wasn't ever deployed in a vehicle like Equinox.
Since Toyota customers still embrace cars, using up tax-credits on Prius makes sense. There's simply no possible way for the next-gen RAV4 hybrid just rolling out now using the TNGA platform to be established long enough to take advantage of whatever upgrade Toyota has been working on. It would just cannibalize itself. Prius, on the other hand, would be able to take full advantage of an Prime upgrade.
Just like you stated, it's easy to see Toyota treating Prime as a regular car. With some clever repackaging of the battery stack, exploiting the tax-credit to stir market interest and build up a following of non-enthusiasts would push it into the mainstream. The key is appealing to non-enthusiasts. That means reaching beyond early-adopters, which requires word-of-mouth endorsements and routine road-sightings.
200,000 is a very small quantity when you consider how many sales are required for a vehicle to be one that provides business-sustaining profit. That is absolutely essential when you consider the necessity of appealing to salespeople to encourage those sales. Remember, they work on commission and selling anything with a plug requires extra effort. Focusing on Prius jump-start dealerships makes sense.