Personal Log  #968

September 27, 2019  -  October 1, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/06/2019

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No Background.  The new month started with an analogy that just plain did not work... unless you weren't paying attention at all over the past two decades.  Unfortunately, that no background problem is quite common.  People make observations, then draw conclusions.  Lack of any study leads them down a confusing path.  I attempted to raise awareness of that missing information.  Sadly, it probably won't help him.  Luckily, we have lurkers who learn from posts.  So, it's never a total loss:  Out of context, that could be a convincing argument.  But when you consider how the market has actually played out, that analogy doesn't work at all.  BMW was the automaker without a plan, just an innovation which management could not agree upon how to proceed with.  GM was the automaker with a plan, but it was an "over promise, under deliver" situation to the extreme.  Toyota has a clear progress map they've been following.  Each vehicle will get a hybrid option, one that will be upgraded successively to bring about a plug option.  It shows solid commitment to their dealers, ongoing value of their product (used sales), and an easy to understand move forward across the entire fleet.  As for partnerships and supplier choices, that type of activity is normal business.  We've seen it for decades.  That's how the major automakers became major.  As for the claim about who the future belongs to, I suggest study of innovator's dilemma.  Toyota is demonstrating a succinct means of avoiding that situation.


Huh?  The annoucement that Toyota will have a partnership with Subaru has really stirred interesting posts... from those who clearly don't have any historical background.  We've seen that approach at different levels of complexity for decades.  Sharing technology is nothing new.  It's simply a part of the automotive business most aren't aware of.  Heck, even the most simple "rebadge" rollouts go unnoticed.  So when it comes to something related to propulsion system, that big unknown is no surprise.  It makes any discussion of the path forward challenging.  If you mention diversity, their minds explode.  Solutions that are not one-size-fits-all are pretty much impossible to constructively post about.  Rhetoric thrives on simplicity, so you get bombarded by efforts to prevent critical thinking.  Ugh.  Despite that, I tried anyway:  Someday, there will be an EV in that size offered here.  The first elsewhere will be C-HR.  Its hybrid model already shares the same platform as Prius.  That is targeted for the European market though.  The EV model will be the Chinese market.  When we get something, who knows what body it will use.  The likely next step for Prius here is to make the plug model standard.  Keep in mind the flexibility Toyota puts into their design.  This is why the real-world data Mirai provides for that 113 kW traction-motor is so valuable.  It's getting an entire generation shakeout before even being offered to the wider audience.  Remember, Prius was available in Japan for 2.5 years before rollout in the United States.  And when that rollout finally took place, Toyota delivered it with an upgraded system.  Gathering knowledge from a Subaru partnership fits right into that.


Catch Up.  This is where the "know your audience" really comes into play.  That old question of "Who is the market for Volt?" revealed those enthusiasts didn't have a clue.  They were so obsessed with the engineering, they didn't bother to learn about the business.  They figured a vehicle like that would appeal to everyone.  They were wrong, very wrong.  So as we emerge from the early-adopter stage (clearly defined by the availability of tax-credits), we must recognize that many priorities will be different.  Williness to trade range for interior space simply is not acceptable.  That's why VW isn't even bothering with ID3 here in the United States; instead, we will be getting the larger ID4.  This is the reason seeing statements like this send a chilling reminder of mistake repetition: "The only way for Toyota to catch the pack now..."  It's that group-think of online participants that are well informed and more than happy to make sacrifices believing everyone else shares their view.  Ugh.  I pointed out that's not the situation with:  Enthusiasts here keep pushing the idea that faster & farther is the goal for all automakers.  Toyota is not compelled by conquest.   Toyota is taking a different path.  So, there is nothing to catch up to.  Focus is delivering vehicles able to compete directly on the showroom floor.  That means MSRP is a much higher priority... hence starting prices of Corolla hybrid at $23,100, Prius Prime at $27,750, RAV4 hybrid at $27,850, and Camry hybrid at $28,250.  Those are vehicles fighting for sales today.  Each purchase means a traditional vehicle was displaced by something cleaner and more efficient.  That's why new offerings, like the AWD Prius, are being explored too.  It's all about actually changing the status quo at their own dealers, not chasing some pack after a distance trophy.


Balance & Disruption.  Discussions have taken on a quality of starting fresh.  In a way, that is exactly what's happened.  GM support has completely vanished and there isn't an expectation of anything from any of the other automakers until next year.  We are in this strange dead zone, where a transistion is taking place but people are not sure what will become of it.  Legacy automakers are still lost.  Tesla is in a place of uncertainty.  The political outlook is grim.  Who knows what will happen with the ecomony.  And of course, people are still afraid of change.  That just leaves us with traces of rhetoric to keep discussions from evaporating.  End of quarter should bring interesting speculation, as well as a wake up call.  That will be interesting.  In the meantime, I repeated my summary but to a changing audience:  It's the Tortoise and the Hare situation.  While others were racing ahead and showing off for praise, Toyota remained steady and true.  Pleasing enthusiasts and early-adopters simply hasn't ever been a priority for them.  Their focus is on the masses, their own showroom shoppers.  This is why dealers have been so willing to carry Camry and RAV4 hybrids as regular inventory.  That variety is essential. It's about getting the right balance of tech & platform to result in genuine change without disrupting the business.  It's ironic that many here actually want disruption.  How is that type of inventory uncertainty a way to sustain profit to pay everyone involved in the production, distribution, and sales process?  Problems like the Osborne effect are very real.  So even without the political & environmental turbulence, there are major obstacles to overcome.  Think about how many battery cells the hybrids are requiring.  That's a ramp-up no one here has been paying attention to; yet, it is priceless experience necessary for mainstream EV offerings.  Put another way, Toyota has been busy with requirements such as that for profitable high-volume sales to the masses.  That is not where others have been.


Raise Awareness.  You can't make all the people happy all the time.  It's just not realistic.  When it comes to Prius, that means the more advanced users (owners with lots of experience) tend to desire additional information.  The detail they desire simply isn't there though.  This is why some seek out aftermarket devices.  That's a means of getting more without having to ask anything of Toyota.  Some do complain instead: "It's a pretty stupid design."  That was said about the question we see pop up on the screen upon shutting down when the system is hot and the temperature outside is hot too.  The owner wanted the ability to specify that setting permanently.  I pointed out:  Know your audience.  Toyota does, exceptionally well, as they have proven in the past.  For this situation, it is an audience of those new to plugging in who mostly depend upon 120-volt charging.  That makes asking the question quite sensible.  It raises awareness, providing a subtle reminder of the importance of keeping the battery from getting hot on a regular basis.  The last thing you want in an emerging market is a "set & forget" feature.  No amount of arguing will change that.  Far too many Prius owners of the past simply ignored the refuel message.  Complaints about the battery not being fully charged because the $@%^# cooling system ran in the meantime simply isn't worth it.  You must make the choice each time for the non-scheduled charges.  Sorry, but with over 25 years of dealing with users software doing wild things to their computers, I'm in full agreement with Toyota about using the "raise awareness" approach.


From The Ashes.  There's nothing.  To think, all that praise for GM's leadership...  It was an incredible way to start a year of fallout.  Enthusiasts continued to push the narrative of Toyota being hopelessly behind, on the verge of collapse.  I saw that as reflection.  Such heavy dependency on tax-credits and those sales only resulting in conquest was a sign of trouble to come.  Adding to that the reality of profit coming only from the large guzzlers, it was a recipe for disaster.  Sure enough.  Strikers are voicing their upset.  Volt is dead.  And we don't hear anything whatsoever about Bolt.  This last we was silence.  Having no hype to blog about was strange.  It was the reveal of hopelessness.  There had been talk of pushing negotiations for Union workers to get production of EV pickups as their focus.  The high-cost and low-volume expectations for that make it unrealistic though, especially with it not even starting for another year or two still.  This is the result of "too little, too slowly" not being taken seriously.  That concern to ensure the market was established prior to triggering tax-credit phaseout was geniune.  They pushed me back instead of pushing GM forward.  Those terrible enthusiasts were enablers of this disaster.  So much opportunity missed.  Ugh.  Their final hope has been something rising from the ashes.  That looks very, very unlikely.

9-30-2019 About Face.  More partnership info about Toyota working with Subaru regarding AWD delivery of electrification choices was released today.  We quickly got this: "It's fascinating to see the quick about face of Toyota... Toyota for years was saying that the best way to lower CO2 was to use Hydrogen, and Hybrid technologies."  I saw that as an invitation to jump into the fresh discussion with lots more info:

The "behind" narrative only worked on those not paying attention.  There is no about face.  Progress has been on-going, just not easy to see.

For those actually seeking detail, they discovered Toyota's electric-motors offered outstanding EV efficiency ratings.  They also saw that Toyota's heat-pump was the industry's most efficient offering.  Upon further digging, they'd undercover the use of carbon-fiber in a surprisingly complex vehicle part.  All of which are technologies that carry forward to an EV.  It's refinement of production to achieve lower cost while also proving reliability which have a significant payoff later.

At the same time, we see plug-in experience advancing forward with Prius Prime and Corolla PHV.  Next year, the market in China will get an EV model of C-HR.  For us here, it looks quite likely that the next plug-in would be RAV4 hybrid.

In other words, all that rhetoric earlier this year about GM's progress as legacy leader was just the usual meritless hype.  It comes down to being able to actually get dealers on board.  That means delivering choices directly competitive with traditional offerings.  From the shopper perspective, that equates to an appealing price (no tax-credit) and an effortless means of recharging (existing 120-volt).  Those are traits Toyota is already showing success with.

September sales for Prius Prime will confirm that appeal progress.  Despite still only being available to roughly half of the United States, there is obvious growth emanating from rollout of the 2020 mid-cycle update.

Use some critical thinking.  Having a large number of vehicles switched to plug-in hybrids quickly will have far more of an impact lowering overall CO2 than a small number of EV deliveries.  It has the immediate benefit of preventing a new traditional vehicle purchase.  That purchase of a PHEV will likely lead to the next purchase being an EV.  At the same time, it encourages the upgrade to a level-2 charger at home.  It's a win-win-win situation.  Don't listen to the "behind" nonsense.  It's not an about face, change of direction either.


Back to Offense.  This was amusing: "I'd argue that the more versatile and practical body type (a pickup truck or a "compact SUV" like the RAV4 or the Equinox) and faster charging speed at more locations are more important than the >250mi range."  It can hardly be an argument when that's what I have been saying for countless years.  So, I just repeated the same sentiment, but pushing it, not in any regard a response to attacks anymore.  That stage is over:  Those are fighting words.  I got attacked for years from that very suggestion.  Volt enthusiasts absolutely hated me for pushing the idea of diversification.  Equinox using Voltec (the tech in Volt) required a sacrifice of range, since it would be far less aerodynamic and much more heavy.  Keeping it somewhat affordable made that situation even worse.  But adding to the impractical reality of poor approach was CHAdeMO fast-charging already available for Prius PHV in Japan.  It wrecked any hope of their mantra of more range being better.  GM's dependency on tax-credits and the result of never being able to appeal to their own loyal customers is what stands out most now.  Even the desperate excuse of abandoning EREV in favor of EV doesn't save them from the reality of not having anything beyond just conquest offerings.  The goal is to change status quo, phasing out traditional choices in favor of something with a plug.  While we witnessed Toyota improving upon RAV4 hybrid to set the stage for a PHV model able to compete directly with the traditional model, we watched GM rollout a diesel model of Equinox and create a new traditional Blazer made in Mexico.  All that nonsense about Toyota being so "behind" has been revealed as meritless rhetoric.  And to those who lashed out at me for expressing the "too little, too slowly" concern about not spreading the tech to a more versatile & practical body type, you now understand consequences of not critical thinking.


Fuel-Cell Distraction, Only.  Another means of undermining is to state an advantage as being exclusive.  The idea is to keep focus on that, as if you are being objective.  In reality, what you are really doing is working to prevent any other advantage from ever getting attention.  That single-mindedness is easy to maintain, since most online discussions are have difficulty achieving any depth.  It's a terrible means of conveying complex scenarios.  The thought process is broken with the greatest of ease.  Squirrel!  Anywho, it was this today: "HFCVs offer exactly one debatable advantage, faster fill up, and exact 0% chance of success in the passenger vehicle category."  I punched back with:  No.  There is another advantage many here desperately try to avoid mention of.  It's the ability to store energy.  Despite the fact that it is more efficient to hold electric in DC format using batteries, the idea of massive storage-banks simply isn't practical.  In fact, the need for a lot of electricity quickly (think many 150 kW chargers all drawing at the same time) is a very real problem.  That type of transmission is incredibly expensive.  Getting supplemental electricity for those high-demand situations is an ideal application for a large fuel-cell stack located at the charger location.  Get use to the idea of co-existence.  To power our plug-in vehicles, we'll need power.  Storage is a challenge to overcome.  The ideal of solar & wind providing lots of electricity requires a means of putting it somewhere off-grid and being able to tap that supply rapidly.  The oil industry won't just stop supplying energy.  They'll be forced to switch to a cleaner & renewable fuel.


Fuel-Cell Distraction, Victory.  At some point, they simply declare victory: "...that BEVs have won the race."  It was bizarre the first time I witnessed that.  The antagonist will just assemble some facts into a summary, something to seemingly support the narrative.  It doesn't though.  They just pretend their mess of disassociated claims all make sense when put together.  Sometimes, it is to the point of absurdity.  In this case, it wasn't.  Instead, the person simply excluded what didn't fit the claim.  Again, I was annoyed an punched back.  Who knew the fuel-cell discussion would end up being about everything but fuel-cell tech.  Ugh.  Oh well, I kept at it:  That's called cherry-picking.  You know the commercial & shipping market will see fuel-cells as a common technology.  They will co-exist.  How much will vary depending upon market.  But that absolute of a single solution isn't realistic.


Fuel-Cell Distraction, Reluctance.  That narrative to give the impression of defeat, helping to convince those of PHEV death, is to emphasize an impression of FUD with regard to the participant.  It's a means of reinforcing the idea of technology failing to deliver.  Antagonists worked really hard to fortify their false portraying of the true situation.  It's really sad.  Oh well.  I just keep punching back:  What some people label as "reluctance" others see as patience.  Toyota packaged an extremely advanced heat-pump, an impressive carbon-fiber hatch, flawless dual-wave glass, and remarkable traction-motor efficiency together into a discreetly delivered as a next generation of Prius.  Notice how all those naysayers about Prime focus only on power & range?  Their avoidance of the technology employed speaks volumes.  They refuse to acknowledge the advancements delivered, especially with regard to being both reliable & affordable.  I do find it amusing how claims of being behind with the technology have no basis in actual market delivery.  All those Prius Prime owners, and now Corolla PHEV owners, are now driving electric-only miles.  They couldn't care less of Mirai contributed to that or not.  EV driving experience is the same regardless of how the electricity is supplied.  Each vehicle using those EV motors, power controllers, heat-pumps, etc. help to reduce production cost.  Heck, even the hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles share battery-cells.


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