Personal Log  #967

September 18, 2019  -  September 27, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/06/2019

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Fuel-Cell Distraction, Dead.  It didn't take long before the discussion turned against PHEV.  The desire is to throw all support in favor of EV and just letting everything else die by declaring it dead.  Ugh.  Needless to say, they certainly try.  It's always a cobbling together of supposed facts to portray a narrative to support their claim.  I found myself punching back again:  Anecdotal observation would give that impression.  But if you've been watching Prius Prime, the step forward should be obvious.  2020 model is a mid-cycle update, perfectly timed to take advantage of GM's fallout.  In the established markets, the update is seeing both inventory & sales growth.  That puts it right on schedule for rollout to the rest of the country within the ordinary model-year calendar.  It's a move to help build plug-in reputation, both for reliability & affordability.  Whether or not the current offering is an EV or a PHEV only matters to enthusiasts.  Know your audience.  Their customers will focus on the electric-only driving experience & price.  Both of which set the stage well for a next offering, like a plug-in hybrid RAV4.  Think about how well Prius Prime promotes EV purchases.  The family starting with a PHEV will naturally consider an EV for their second plug-in vehicle in the household.  It's basically a no-lose situation for dealers hoping to transition away from traditional offerings without having to take much of an inventory risk.  Keep in mind, the gamble that VW is taking really doesn't really do anything to entice existing VW customers.  An owner with a Tiguan now won't have an EV equivalent for many years still.  Rollout will begin with smaller vehicles that have a much higher price tag.


Fuel-Cell Distraction, FUD.  Almost a full week of no real plug-in news about anything was somewhat bizarre.  Seeing an out-of-the-blue attack on hydrogen from EV enthusiasts emerge as a result to break the silence was a predicable outcome.  I was annoyed, especially when the focus was on spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertain, Doubt) rather than something actually constructive to stir decent discussion.  So, I punched back:  FUD about fuel-cell tech is a distraction from the bigger picture, an effort to misrepresent.  The entire shipping industry via water (container ships) is being pushed to finally clean up its act.  That necessity to stop guzzling oil is about to become a regulation reality.  An obvious solution is to embrace hydrogen, the economics of which are profoundly different from that of passenger vehicles.  That's true for commercial road (cargo & people) transport as well, which will follow. So, whatever nonsense is stirred here about fuel-cells being a dead-end equates to a futile effort to stop the inevitable.  The tech will co-exist with plug-in vehicles.


The Industry?  Gotta like this: "...the industry can't wait for more EVs to be sold before increasing the number of charging stations, they need to increase the number of charging stations first."  That's yet another example of no critical thinking.  Lack of detail should stir concern.  Not having any actual "who" or "how" information doesn't though.  The assumption is someone else will address the problem.  It will just get resolved without any help from you.  Ugh.  That's why I ask questions:  How would the automotive industry achieve that?  A simple example is seeing the benefit of having chargers where people tend to spend at least an hour patronizing that business anyway... like a coffeeshop, restaurant, or theater.  It seems sensible, until you try to figure out how.  What benefit is there for any specific automaker to invest in any specific location or even a chain?  Usage would have no correlation to vehicle purchases.  In other words, there is no actual "industry" to direct initiatives.  Heck, even trying to enforce minimum requirements or safety standards is a major undertaking.  This is why Toyota is pushing their focus-on-the-masses approach.  You start with a gain not requiring infrastructure change, but offering a gain if you choose to upgrade... something to entice as well as retain future value.  With Prius Prime, nothing beyond an ordinary 120-volt outlet is needed.  If you decide to install a 240-volt outlet later, charging time is reduced.  Waiting for some landlord to install chargers for their business lessor simply isn't realistic.


Harsh Reality.  There are always a few who absolutely refuse to accept what happened: "The Volt is (was) the greatest car that virtually nobody bought, because of laziness - not willing to adapt to plugging in regularly - and a generally wrong (hateful) perception of GM.  Every second car on the road should be a Volt.  Such a shame."  That type of spin is exactly why I documented as much as I could while it was actually playing out.  I was quite obvious they would attempt to rewrite history later to conceal what really happened.  I refuse to allow such an act.  Not learning from history is how mistakes get repeated.  This was my reply:  It wasn't hate, it was misrepresentation.  Volt was a great enthusiast car.  That didn't mean the design or approach would be one for the masses though... which in the end, proved to be the case.  The niche was well fulfilled.  Both Model 3 (standard plus) and Prius Prime deliver 25 kWh/100 mi for EV efficiency.  That puts the 31 kWh/100 mi rating for Volt into perspective.  For HV efficiency, Prime Prime delivers 54 MPG and Volt 42 MPG.  Then finally, comparing Prime's base price of $27,600 to Volt's base of $33,520 pretty much tells the story on fundamentals.  Prime came better loaded with its base model too.  Sorry, but that's the reality of the situation.  Selling to the masses means recognizing different priorities.  To be a high-volume profitable vehicle, range & power simply isn't as important.  Think of what dealers consider for what they stock as inventory.

9-22-2019 Rationalizing Failure.  Those years and years and years of Volt hyped I blogged about sure make for interesting reads now.  So much hope was based upon meritless claims.  All fell apart as a result.  Lack of substance will do that.  It has left some with the chore of trying to make sense of the mess remaining.  For example: "The rationale for an EREV is that it can go anywhere in a world without fast chargers but that world is gone... Another thing that must have factored in their decision is that a Bolt is worth 3X as many CARB credits..."  The market doesn't fit into such an expectation.  Reality is harsh.  Here's why:

First, that perception of a world with convenient DC charging is still very much a fantasy.  Thankfully, the technology is proving realistic, but the practical nature of it becoming common is a long way off still.  Think about how many vehicles are actually on the road and will be in need of a quick recharge.  Think of the expense.  Think of who & where.

Second, delivering something with dependence on CARB sales is short-term thinking.  But the decision logic related to cost was sound.  Bolt delivers a 2.88 ZEV credit [(0.01 X 238) + 0.50].  Volt delivers a 0.83 ZEV credit [(0.01 X 53) + 0.30].  With so little of a price difference, there wasn't good reason for Volt to continue.

Third, wider audience plug-in hybrid choices are coming.  They'll nicely compliment & promote EV adoption in households.  Think about how strong of a draw RAV4 as a PHEV will be.  Compared to the seating & cargo for Volt, they're entirely different categories despite the potential for similar pricing.

When tax-credits have expired and the need for change reaches far beyond just CARB credits, the view of what should get offered looks different.  Enthusiast delight with a niche offering doesn't necessarily translate well to high-volume, profitable production & sales.


Can You Explain?  Shortly after posting the video, I got asked about extreme winter conditions.  This was the standout comment: "It seems it would be very harsh on an ice cold engine to kick on at 75 mph."  I was happy to follow up with:  There are videos of that already, except my garage isn't heated.  I leave from it being in the 20's inside to temperatures much colder outside, getting onto a 70 mph highway just a few blocks away.  No big deal.  The system is designed to use the battery to protect the engine during the warm-up cycle.  Watch RPM on those winter videos.  You'll see how draw of the battery-pack is heavy while that process is taking place.  Despite that, there's still ample power to merge onto the highway.... and that's the older generation of plug-in Prius.  The newer generation of Prius takes on even more winter challenges.  It includes a battery-warmer and a heat-pump.  So, the electricity can be taken advantage of even more.  Down to 14ºF, you can enjoy EV driving without the engine ever starting.  When the temperature is 0ºF or lower, the engine will pre-warm anyway.  Watch the aftermarket gauge data.  You can see how the system was designed to produce heat very quickly.  So, that "ice cold engine" situation won't actually happen.  There are a lot of videos on my channel, with more data being supplied as my ability to capture it progressed.  Here are 2 examples:  Prius Prime - Single-Digit Winter Commute  &  Prius Prime - Charge-Mode in Winter


Sightings & Change.  There's a lot of patience required and a lot of rhetoric to deal with.  Eventually though, you do get in a glimmer of hope... real progress you can measure:  Here in Minnesota, where Prime is still special-order only, we spotted 2 yesterday.  I can't wait until Toyota finally rolls out to the other regions.  Delay until the mid-cycle update was a wise move.  It avoided the now obvious fallout GM is having with their disastrous subsidy-dependent design.  And of course, the regular model-year cycle for 2019 hasn't even come to a close yet.  So, there's a few months of waiting still.  But in the meantime, stir for PHEV interest emanating from strong RAV4 hybrid sales will be a nice attention boost for Prius.  Patience is a virtue you must learn when it comes to Toyota.  That's an automaker who doesn't give in to short-term gain.  There attentiveness to true long-term advancement can both be painful and distressing.  At times, it feels like lost opportunity.  But the ability to actually affect the status quo requires it.  Think about what it takes to get a dealer to embrace change.


Endlessly Committed.  It's nice to see a request for help to understand the rhetoric: "Can anyone point me to an article or serious discussion on why Toyota is so endlessly committed to hybrids (ie ICE engines basically), and still hasn't got a public push into pure electric vehicles?"  That impression of no EV interest is the narrative being pushed hard now.  It's an effort to distract from problems other automakers are having.  Keeping the focus off of them supposedly helps.  Ugh.  Refusing to acknowledge what Toyota is actually doing to promote a move to plugging it is how you confirm what they are up to.  With that in mind, here's what I provided as material to ponder:

Simple.  HV --> PHEV --> EV is the most effective means of changing the entire fleet rapidly without sacrificing business in the process. Look at how much of a disaster the EREV --> EV approach was for GM.  They rolled out a horribly expensive design which dealers weren't interested in.

The reality-check in the situation is having appeal to existing customers at an affordable price.  That's exactly why RAV4 hybrid is such a strong seller.  Not only does it met that criteria, it also sets the stage for a PHEV model.  At the same time, that cleaner and more efficient HV is preventing more traditional vehicles from being purchased.

What other automaker has such a non-disruptive plan for dealers to embrace a large portion of their fleet with battery-pack offering so quickly?  RAV4... Camry... Corolla... Avalon... Highlander... and of course, Prius.  And that's just here. C-HR and a variety of other hybrids are offered elsewhere.

Corolla hybrid becoming a PHEV already (the next step beyond making Prius a PHEV) is evidence of Toyota pushing forward with electrification of their hybrids.  That's quite contrary to claims of falling behind.  The upcoming EV model of C-HR will help to further silence naysayers.

Again, look at the bigger picture, how dealers will embrace change.  A one-hit-wonder dependent upon tax-credits doesn't actually change the status quo.


Video:  Mostly Highway Commute.  This is the back route to work for me.  It's 26 miles.  That's 7 miles longer than my usual route, but a great example of using more battery.  Being mostly highway, that's more demanding of the electricity supply.  So, I've been looking forward to capturing the drive.  Despite being longer, it can be quite a bit nicer in the winter during extreme driving conditions.  Traffic just flows along, rather than getting jammed up from the much more dense situation when closer to the cities on the bigger highway.  At one point, I drop the pedal to the floor to demonstrate the EV power available even when you are already driving 65 mph.  It gets up to 84 mph using only electricity without struggle.  That's nice to know the gas-engine will remain off, despite the demand for a burst of speed.  In the end, I make it to the ramp at work entirely with EV.  There, I can plug in to recharge my Prius Prime.  Watch it here... Prius Prime - Mostly Highway Commute


Lipstick.  Insult.  Belittle.  Offend.  They do whatever it takes with online posts to undermine progress.  It's really sad.  Every now and then though, it backfires.  I'll end up being inspired from a stir of information being accidently revealed.  Those subtle clues are what I'm always on the look out for.  That provides a means of fighting back on their own terms.  It's quite devasting, because there's no good way to respond.  They get cornered and just have to give up.  Today was such a situation.  I saw this: "Lipstick on a pig."  It wasn't a clue to any aspect of design they fear or something they have been working to conceal; instead, this was just a witty comeback.  I was pleased to post what came to me in response too:  Bacon comes from pigs.  Pretty much everyone likes bacon.  What are you saying?


2020 Ford Escape Hybrid & PHEV.  Today's annoucement was strange.  The market for Europe will be getting a plug-in hybrid model of Escape.  Why we won't here in the United States is a mystery... a bizarre decision without any reasoning.  It's a big "Huh?"  Of course, the strange expectation of an underpowered traction-motor is a mystery too.  Will it really be as small as previous press releases have hinted?  Though lacking in detail, there was a mention of having more than 30 miles of all-electric range from a 14.4 kWh capacity pack.  That battery size could deliver that, potentially.  But the question of how is unknown.  But then again, the measure of efficiency from the European measure is different.  Their testing results always result in more miles than what we get here.  So, perhaps it all makes sense for there.  After all, we already saw that very thing playout with Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV rollout.


California Waiver.  Our awful president, who has become hellbent on the idea of undoing everything related to bringing us forward, has raised the stakes yet again.  Now, it is an attack on California.  He wishes to pull the emissions waiver they've had for decades.  The claim is this is necessary "in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially safer."  Then he went on to say "there will be very little difference in emissions" if emissions are managed on the federal level instead.  And of course, none of that would be complete without adding "you will be out of business" fear if you don't accept the change.  We have seen this very thing playout in the past, over a decade ago.  The very opposite resulted.  We got vehicles that were much more dangerous than ever imagine that guzzled gas... and sadly, jobs were lost from the struggle to sell enough of them.  Ugh.  It's the presence of evil.  He just plain does not care about the logic.  It's all about finding ways to make more money by eliminating regulation.  That's such an embarrassment.  I never imagined having to deal with such greed & stupidity.  Destroy what you could have long-term for a short-term gain.


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