Personal Log #930
March 25, 2019 - March 29, 2019
Last Updated: Sun. 5/12/2019
page #929 page #931 BOOK INDEX
Charger Upgrades. This crazy moment in automotive history here isn't all about GM's fall and Tesla's aspiration. We often talk online about establishing infrastructure, but rarely is there mention of improving upon it. But now that so many years have passed since those original efforts began, it is time to address their progress... or lack thereof. In the case of where I park for work, there's very good news. 4 of the 6 chargers there (2 dual-plug units) lost communication with the network. I don't know the detail of what happened, but the decision was made to swap them out with new models. While at it, the 2 other units will be too. Both dated back to 2012. Only one L2 connection was available on each. But since they from long ago, each also had a L1 connection. Neither was ever used (as far as I know), but parking spots were allocated. So, they will now become L2. The newer duals will bump the count that can all L2 charge (usually a 208-volt commercial connection delivering up to 6.6 kW sustained) to 8 vehicles at the same time. That's a nice setup, especially when you consider the really nice location the chargers are at. Sometimes, you get really lucky.
Omitting Detail. Reaction to my distortion callout didn't surprise me at all. It was a typical mislead by omitting detail: "...but even if we look at recent sales - the Volt / Bolt (w/out the largest incentives any more) & Prime are all pretty close in sales." His attempt ultimately had an expectation of taking attention off of GM. I took the bait anyway, figuring his trolling had a motive of stirring discussion. So, asking his point may result in something to derive a construction exchange with. You never know, especially at such a critical junction. So close to that tax-credit reduction none of the Volt enthusiasts ever took seriously is a harsh reality none can escape. The nightmare they tried to dodge will smack them head on... production has already ended and the heavily depended upon subsidy is in the phaseout stage. I hit him with: Wow, that's a pretty lame attempt at whatever you're trying to convince us of. The incentives are still available for Volt & Bolt. That $7,500 tax-credit doesn't get reduced until next month. So if anything, there should be a jump in sales for those wanting to take advantage of that final opportunity. As for attempting to compare a nationally available vehicle to one with almost non-existent inventory in the center of the country, that reveals the opposite of what was claimed. What was your point? We can speculate endlessly about GM's point, but it always comes down to wanting to out Prius, Prius... something that breaks the status quo... which didn't happen. Realistically, slow is just fine if it gets the job done. That's why it doesn't matter whatever each legacy automaker does, as long as they actually do something to get their own loyal customers to change.
Distorting Purpose & Timeline. That's what you do
when things go horribly wrong. Here's the spin: "Volt owners - jumping ship,
consider the Chevy Bolt to be the Volt's successor. ie, a Bridge car. Isn't
that what we keep saying? A plug-in is just a bridge before getting rid of
the ice?" Comments like that are often looked upon as
damage-control. That outcome is clearly not what had been hoped for at
this point in time. I responded to it with:
GM's fundamental problem with Volt was failing to attract its own loyal customers. Those who already owned a GM vehicle couldn't care less about a compact hatchback with a plug. They desired a SUV of some sort. That left it to attract only conquest sales, those early-adopters seeking opportunity in the form of incredibly low leases or a substantial tax-credit.
GM made that worse by listening to enthusiasts about how to make the next generation better. It was the classic "Innovator's Dilemma" business mistake playing out right before everyone's eye. They listened to the wrong people... hence asking "Who?" on a regular basis...which ultimately ended up becoming the lesson learned: "Know your audience."
Volt being abandoned early in its product-cycle is a costly. No automaker ever plans an abrupt stop like that. Calling Bolt a successor makes that already troubled situation even worse. It suffers the same fundamental problem. GM's own loyal customers don't want a compact wagon, especially without tax-credit help.
Toyota gets routinely accused of resisting the EV market by "kicking & screaming". We know that's not true, since their push to phaseout traditional vehicles by offering a wide variety of compelling hybrids is on such a large scale. They are undeniably trying to change the status quo. For those watching carefully, they notice those doing damage-control for GM spinning that situation to draw attention away from GM not even going slow anymore. That previous progress has since come to a complete stop.
This discussion thread about EV adoption has been overlooking that history playing out at this very moment. Those reasons are far more important than quibbling about a past long ago or looking beyond the bridge. We must deal with what's unfolding right now.
Reasons Behind The Slowness. The discussion topic
about EV acceptation & adoption on the big Prius forum has stirred quite a bit
of participation. Here's my add to it:
It has been quite helpful to hear from the regular antagonists about EV adoption, especially upon the death of the biggest "vaporware" failure in the industry. Remember Volt? That promise of an efficient & affordable plug-in hybrid never materialized.
The biggest shortcoming was price. We were provided with a "nicely under $30,000" target. It made a lot of sense why GM would set a goal like that. Supposedly, it would be achieved upon initial rollout. That didn't happen. We were told to be patience, the wait for gen-2 would address pricing. It was a let down for many, but fine. Unfortunately, the necessary cost reductions weren't taken seriously. That pricing never materialized... hence, the vaporware label... and the confirmation of price importance. Tax-Credit phaseout push so much pressure on that aspect of competition, the effort was abandoned. Volt production ended without a successor established.
Efficiency played an important role as well, but it was far more subtle. A system requiring less electricity to travel the same distance wouldn't require as large of a battery. That would contribute directly to a smaller, lighter, and less expensive pack. That would require reduce the time & electricity to recharge. It was a factor if design rarely focused upon. Importance of electricity consumption was just ignored. Displacement of gas got so much attention, concern for efficiency was recklessly treated as rhetoric without regard to source or quantity. It was evidence the situation would eventually become a clash of image verses truly being green.
Ultimate, it was the "green" messaging that caused Volt to be trapped in the early-adopter stage. Dealers had no interest in a "EREV" when no one knew what the heck that actually meant. Fights even among Volt enthusiasts made that marketing term a self-destructive concept. The definition continued to change, each time a new plug-in hybrid offering rolled out. That positioned Volt against the entire line of EV choices as well as all of the plug-in hybrids. No one ever really understood what purpose it served. Even the message from GM itself was bewildering. Volt wasn't the intended "range anxiety" solution as promised; rather, it was abandoned shortly after gen-2 rollout in favor of Bolt.
Everyone saw what was happening, but enthusiasts fought hard to evade addressing it. We witnessed propaganda efforts all over online to distract & mislead. How is that ever an effective means of promoting a technology? Needless to say, a massive amount of opportunity was missed as result. Nothing came about to help raise awareness about charging infrastructure. You'd think with that much attention and 150,000 vehicles sold, some message about plugging in would have come about.
Toyota saw this coming... as did I. We saw the value of simply continuing to study & refine while waiting for the GM disaster to play out would be a fruitful endeavor. Patience does have merit. Now, just 3 days before the 50% reduction of GM tax-credits and production of Volt having ended 6 weeks ago, there's a wide open field to play in. None of the other plug-in hybrids presented the unrealistic expectations hyped by GM and their fanboys. In fact, they were the ones who spread the "slow" narrative.
Stepping back to consider the bigger picture (the legacy automaker market as a whole), what reason is there to claim Toyota as being slow?
First Sighting. I saw a 2019 mid-cycle refresh Prius this morning. It looked very new, no plates yet. That first sighting caught me by surprise. I hadn't heard much about shipments elsewhere yet. Living in the middle of the country, it's quite normal for reports from the coasts to become common before there's even a chance of it happening locally. So, I was happy to see the dealer-tag while driving by it parked on the road. With the market so screwy right now, it's difficult to set any type of expectations. Once the uncertainty of the tax-credit phaseout passes, then we should return to some sense of normal. For now, I'll just chalk this first sighting up as a moment to remember.
Push Back. Eventually, he may catch on. Until then, it's dealing with stuff like this: "Why would someone install a 19kw charger at home in order to take advantage of time-of-use rates? You are making no sense. The idea of charging at night is that you have 8 or 10 or more hours to charge. With an ~6kW L2 you can add enough miles for 95% of commuters." That brings us back to the limited perspective, conclusions draw upon without having all the necessary information available. My guess is the idea never crossed his mind. Options that aren't ever thought of can sometimes result in a reconsideration when presented. I'm not sure that will work in this case. He seems dead set on incomplete facts being enough. Ugh. I pushed back anyway: You are repeating what I already pointed out, the rule-of-thumb: a 40-amp line will deliver 200 miles in 8 hours. You also sighted a situation when a person with the available capacity could take the most advantage of time-of-use rates. Think about this. It's mid-afternoon and you have a low battery. You want to avoid the dinner-time rate. The fastest charger possible is how you would achieve that. So what if a person has the ability to rapid recharge at home for opportunity charging but also overnight charges. You have the choice of when and how much. For that matter, you can even choose charging speed.
Push. Bouncing between several different attacks all at the same time is interesting. I knew this day would come, when the panic from Volt enthusiasts would stir discussion about topics rarely addressed with anything more than just a brief mention: "PHEVs do not ever, IMO, push that long term infrastructure...they kick that can down the road." That in particular caught my attention. It was an effort to spin perspective. That doesn't work when you've misidentified audience. He kept dwelling on the consumer. Overlooking another player involved is a surprise common problem. We see that all the time with respect to dealers. They are almost never treated as a customer to the automaker, even though that is exactly what they are. They choose how to stock & sell the product. That is a vital bit of knowledge to not notice. With regard to this topic today, it's the lack of recognition from whom the electricity for charging comes. Why would you equate infrastructure to an automaker? Since when are they expected to do things like influence the location & quantity of gas stations? In fact, that's an absurd idea to even suggest. Yet, that's exactly what is being forced. Ugh. I replied to that nonsense with: You're looking at it backward. Again, know your audience. There are electricity providers all around the country gearing up to do the push. As a PHEV owner, it's just a matter of taking them up on the upgrade opportunity. They want you to use more electricity, to get on their time-of-use programs, to want your next vehicle purchase to rely on electricity even more.
Limited Perspective. That forcing of perspective can
sometimes be broken by presenting options. People sometimes draw
incorrect conclusions based upon assumptions due to lack of information.
If they simply don't know to what degree something is available, they'll
believe options are limited. I try my best to provide that missing
information when I notice the problem. This caught my attention in
that on-going rant: "Yes, this makes it easy for the consumer.
They can just at home, just using 110v overnight and they need no new
infrastructure at all. If they forget to charge, no problem." That overly
simplistic response made me wonder if he just lacked a full understanding of
potential. So, I pointed in out:
Evidence of the desire to upgrade after getting a taste of EV is absolutely overwhelming. Whether it is the want to recharge faster or simply the need to plug in a second vehicle in the household, there will be pressure which naturally occurs simply from that first PHEV purchase. The owner will seek options, discovering incentives from local electricity providers for them to use more electricity.
Keep in mind of the potential. SAE-J1772 can deliver a charge-rate as high as 19.2 kW. Most households, even with EVs already touting large battery-packs, don't have anywhere near the 100-amp dedicated service to support that currently. So, there will very likely be upgrades for everyone in the years to come anyway.
Toyota is well aware of this power to build a customer base. Their focus on reliability & affordability now makes sense. Higher capacity can follow without consequence of not being available now or even being promoted now. Upgrades are already an expectation. We have come to expect continued improvement.
Know your audience.
Forcing Perspective. Rhetoric most common among those attempting to appear constructive comes in a form like that: "Sure. Build all the PHEVs that you want. But don't pretend it is the fastest or only path to a highly electric future." They are actually the ones who see the "fastest" and "only" perspective. It's called "projection" when someone accuses you of the very act they are guilty of. It's confirmation they recognize the problem, but mistakenly identify the wrong party of that act. I see it on a regular basis. Reading it gives me a bizarre feeling, every time. Most continue on forcing their message of reversed perspective without ever figuring out their mistake. You become familiar with their aviator after awhile. This is why I often end my response to them with a question: Automakers lived in the present for decades, promoting whatever was big at the moment. Now that there is a need to look forward, why must there be a comprehensive look to the long-term. You're setting a dangerous precedent. Think about how unrealistic that can be. Automakers can spin whatever future they want with no accountability... and some have already exploited that opportunity. We've seen things get very messy in the past. There's reason for caution. What do you really expect from an automaker touting a fully electric future, but still sells millions of guzzlers annually for years to come?
More Attacks. This was quite predicable: "Refine?? You mean like the cheap, inadequate TMS workaround that is in the Prime?" I kept my reply to that short. There's no sense arguing with someone who simply doesn't care, but it can be helpful to lurkers now and the curious later to leave behind evidence explaining what the situation truly was at the time: Understanding the difference between want & need comes from seeking a balance. Your insistence upon the battery-pack requiring liquid-cooling, knowing it will never be DC fast-charged, shows a lack of understanding. Adding expense & complexity to a system that doesn't reveal the need makes no sense. Toyota's observation of real-world data from forced air-cooling will help identify what's truly necessary. It's ironic how some claim Toyota is unwilling to take risks, then turn a blind-eye to them when they do exactly that.