Prius Personal Log #969
October 1, 2019 - October 4, 2019
Last Updated: Mon. 2/10/2020
page #968 page #970 BOOK INDEX
Infrastructure. Forcing conversation beyond the
immediate EV market is getting easier. In the past (when Volt
dominated headlines), there was no vision beyond just enthusiasts. In
fact, they absolutely refused to even acknowledge there was anything beyond
plug-in offerings. It was a blatant effort to force a narrative.
They simply didn't care about what the rest of the automotive industry sold.
Those blinders were on so tight, any mention of "Who?" resulted in
an onslaught of personal attacks. I sure am glad I took the time to
document all that. It's almost hard to believe so much fight came from
the "vastly superior" group. They exerted so much effort to
undermine the very technology that was helping to promote plugging in, it's
difficult to grasp. They truly didn't know their audience; however,
some of us do. Here's my take on the situation as it stands right now:
Charging "infrastructure" is not well understood. Most people have no clue how a site with charging-stations is establish or maintained. Cost of tier-3 service (high capacity power during peak demand) alone is a major deterrent. So even without addressing how to pay for the equipment install, there's that very ownership real issue to address. Then of course, there is the sad fact that a charger could break or get vandalized, as well as dealing with the problem of ICE'd spots. All that sours appeal. Why would any legacy automaker to ever pursue, especially when you consider how many locations would actually be needed? Heck, even just installing some chargers at a dealership isn't likely to happen.
Starting with PHEV purchases is the ideal for rapid penetration into the mainstream. They stir interest for at-home upgrades, the most vital part of charging infrastructure. Getting households to install L2 chargers is the game-charger. Once we start seeing those 240-volt 40-amp lines appear as the norm for overnight charging (capacity for 200 miles in 8 hours), the purchase of an EV becomes a no-brainer. That reduces the need for public charging rather significantly.
Toyota is way ahead of the curve in this regard for legacy automaker push. Plans are underway to convert production in Kentucky to build more of the extremely popular RAV4 hybrid. Already delivering 40 MPG, it's an ideal platform to attract the masses. Adding a plug is only a matter of inserting more battery and a one-way clutch, as Prius Prime has already demonstrated. That's a cost-effective means of reaching the massive potential in our SUV-crazed market.
Preparation on that scale is absolutely vital for electrification to finally break out beyond subsidized sales to enthusiasts. Offerings of long-distance EV alone won't be enough. That's too slow and too few. Affordable choices starting with just enough EV capacity to cover a daily commute puts plug adoption in the fast lane. That will provide a major boost to ending traditional production for setting the stage to plug in... which is exactly what the RAV4 hybrid has addressing right now.
It's the change to "infrastructure" that we really need to focus on. Far too many here don't look beyond the immediate EV market.
At least 50%. I had to ask the question.
What does "...at least 50% people which can charge EVs at home..."
actually mean? It was on a new discussion thread about charging
infrastructure. Most of the posts were beyond vague, lacking detail to
such an extreme there wasn't really anything to take away. Those
comments were nothing but echoes of the past. We are not seeing any
progress. Lack of advancement is how you lose interest.
Enthusiasts become disenchantment if you take to long. In fact, that's
exactly why the GM followers of Volt were fewer and fewer. That "too
little, too slowly" wasn't taken seriously. Point being, there
must be a push. Mine is now in the form of directing focus away from
public chargers. It's all about charging at home now. There's
lots of opportunity. Let's do something about it. Here's my
latest comment on that subject:
The basic rule of "40-amp line will deliver 200 miles in 8 hours" in itself is far from common knowledge still. So, the effort required to run conduit & wire from service-panel to new outlet location is a complete mystery for most people. How does one even get a ballpark cost estimate when every home has a completely different wiring situation? And that's just addressing the challenge to provide electricity for a single vehicle to recharge. Support for multiple vehicles adds complexity.
This is a topic many advocates dance around, avoiding it by focusing on just the low-hanging fruit... those already interested and willing to spend setup money in addition to just the vehicle purchase. Trying to get an ordinary suburb owner with a cluttered garage and electricity coming into the house on the opposite side isn't easy to setup. Those who have a detached garage in an alley and their service-panel on the house don't have it easy either. Yet, these are included in the 50% that technically could.
This is why starting with PHEV that encourage a post-purchase upgrade will help significantly with infrastructure investment. The homeowner will become comfortable with the need and be willing to spend the money to upgrade. That naturally leads to the next vehicle purchase consideration to be an EV. It's an effective means of getting a household to embrace plugging in.
Notice how none of that has anything to do with public rapid charging.
PHEV Down, BEV Up. That was the summary of sales. It was a recounting of the worldwide market as of August... which really doesn't tell us much. We're in a state of change. The same is true for China and Europe. So, what can you truly learn from just that particular slice of time? Turns out, not much... except if it was to find out how EV enthusiasts are taking the actual detail. That "up" is really only a tiny amount. That "down" is a temporary shift due to GM and BMW struggles. This is the nonsense that emerged: "PHEVs were a great idea - 20 years ago. Now, they are a joke and automakers cling to them in hopes that this "EV thing" will pass. How's that going for you Toyota? BEVs are the future." I jumped on the opportunity to repond: That narrative is a joke. The well informed are keenly aware of how an affordable PHEV will contribute to the widespread acceptance of BEV later, but with a benefit immediately. Toyota's design is able to compete directly against traditional vehicles without tax-credit dependency. The starting price of $27,750 for Prius Prime delivers 84 MPH top EV speed, electric A/C, and heat-pump to enjoy that EV future today without any range-anxiety concerns. It doesn't even require any upgrade at home either; an ordinary 120-volt outlet supplies all the electricity you need for recharging. It also encourages the upgrade to 240-volt charging without any pressure upon purchase. In other words, your attempt to downplay is being called out. I fill up my Prius Prime every 2 to 3 months. My commutes are entirely electric. I take advantage of the 55 MPG it delivers from time to time. To answer your question, it is going well for Toyota. The same design will work well as a RAV4, as it has already been proven with Corolla PHEV. The difference between hybrid and PHEV is basically just a matter of adding more battery, a one-way clutch, and a plug.
Sales Perspective. Among the final counts to be posted were those from GM. With the market down double-digits here for most automakers, the added pressure of striking workers made for a grim outlook. That's why I needed to post some realistic perspective on the celebratory remarks related to Bolt sales: That last-minute scramble to purchase just before tax-credit phaseout reduces from 50% to just 25% made the spike quite predictable. The real measure of progress will be sustainable sales at a profit once those subsidies are gone. This current stage is filled with early-adopters, people who take advantage of discount opportunities for new tech just like that. Each automaker must advance beyond sales of just 200,000 over multiple years anyway. Sales in the United States last year alone for GM were 2,036,023. For Ford, they were 2,381,635. For Toyota, they were 2,128,201. Both growth and diversification is vital; otherwise, what's the point? Plug-In sales will continue to be overwhelmed by traditional guzzlers. It turns into a situation where dealers don't even bother if a next step isn't taken. That's why the current tax-credits should be allowed to expire. If a new round of subsidies are introduced, they should be focused on infrastructure. Encouragement to get homeowners & landlords to install/upgrade charging capacity is what will help promote sales growth... on the scale that really makes a difference.
Really Sad. The start of this next quarter triggered
the next tax-credit phaseout stage for GM. Most of the comments posted
were pointless. It's far too late. The article highlighting the
situation stated it this way: "The task for GM, in a more mainstream
segment of Chevrolet brand, is much more challenging." I had much
to say. So, I waited a day, then posted the following:
Purpose of the tax-credit was to address that challenge prior to phaseout, so the automaker could take advantage of the switch to unlimited quantity upon reaching the 200,000 trigger.
Tesla did a phenomenal job of achieving exactly that. It was a genuine effort to strive for a high-volume production able to capitalize on that opportunity.
GM didn't bother. Right from the very beginning, the question of "Who is the market for Volt?" was asked. It was quite clear GM was using those tax-credits for conquest rather than make an effort to actually change their own offerings. Instead of evolving that tech into a form-factor their own loyal customers would actually purchase, it became just facade to garnish praise.
Meanwhile, GM released ambiguous information to feed enablers, those who supported the squandering of tax-credits by labeling automakers taking time to do it right as "laggards". It's a debacle on a monumental scale only now becoming apparent, despite all the warnings along the way pointing out the concern for that very situation. The deadline approached, yet GM did nothing to address it.
In other words, the technology in Volt should have been diversified years ago. Spreading it to a far more popular platform would have carried GM forward. Rather than introducing both Trax and Blazer as traditional guzzling SUVs, they could have featured a Voltec model. The extremely popular Equinox could have been an excellent choice as well. Instead, all GM customers have no plug-in hybrid whatsoever... despite most of the tax-credits having been used to advance that very technology.
So much opportunity was wasted. It's really sad.
Sales Down. As expected, I was personally attacked. There are a handful of let down GM enthusiasts still looking for someone to blame. They see me as a good target to let out their frustration. Being disappointed about the utter abandonment of that technology they had endorsed for over a decade is one thing. But for nothing to replace it, that's too much to accept. Bolt should have simply taken over, as far as they were concerned. That was never realistic though... and they didn't want to accept my insight pointing out why. So, this is what they get now: It's just a stage. The natural progression of replacement technologies is for the candidates unable to sell well beyond early-adopters to cease production. Volt was too expensive, too small, and too inefficient. Being able to compete directly with traditional vehicles simply wasn't realistic. That doesn't mean other PHEV designs won't succeed where GM could not. In fact, GM itself may attempt to deliver another configuration capable of high-volume profitable sales. T he next stage will begin, one that actually focuses on the masses rather than enthusiasts and without the benefit of tax-credits. Those choices will be quite different than Volt, despite also being PHEV.
Who? I get annoyed when limited-scope observations become meritless generalizations. You can't take short-term results based upon a single configuration and expect them to translate well to mainstream demand. That's how many fall into the innovator's dilemma trap. Yet, no matter how much you try to point out the mistaken perspective, it becomes a problem anyway. Hope overrides logic. I keep trying to interject some critical thinking into discussions. It's difficult to tell how effective content like this is though: A plateau of sales at 15,000 would represent a great selling niche, something not unheard of in the automotive market. To get to the next stage, significant growth is required. The current stage is filled with those who cross-brand shop and take advantage of tax-credit opportunities. Legacy automakers appealing to those who shop the showroom floor is the next buyer to target. Call them whatever you want. I label that as the "will my mom consider it" stage. A major component to that is to diversify. It must be made available in different configurations. That's how the technology breaks away from niche and becomes mainstream. If mom doesn't even take time to explore the choice, we don't stand a chance of achieving the goal of ended traditional vehicle production. That audience beyond those who purchased a Model 3 are far more fickle than most here are willing to accept. We need to recognize how much more difficult growth really will be. That means careful observation of what actually compels shoppers to take a closer look... and to hell with specifications. Far too many here are well informed, with engineering backgrounds and no fear of embracing new technology. That isn't at all representative of an typical consumer.
EV Market. September results were shared today. I obviously had something to say about the comments being posted, especially to one that was over the top optimistic: Careful. How many of those sales are to ordinary consumers? Reaching the mainstream audience is far more difficult than appealing to early-adopters. Tesla did a marvelous job of picking all the low-hanging fruit. Hope from doing that was to build up high-volume production while establishing a reputation to draw in the next stage of shoppers. It looks promising in that regard, but for how many? The higher price tag, lack of convenient trade-in, and lack of body choices means there are challenges to overcome still. Success of Model 3 is absolutely fantastic, but keep in mind how difficult that next step in market penetration will actually be. This market alone (United States) will see somewhere around 16M sales this year. That limits a perspective of "utter domination" to just the plug-in audience, not a measure with regard to the rest of what's offered nationwide. There's a lot of potential, but it won't be easy. Look no further than GM for a dose of reality. Enthusiasts celebrated sales of Volt while refusing to acknowledge they were really just conquests with no affect on the status quo. GM dealers just kept selling traditional GM choices to loyal customers looking to replace their aged GM vehicle. We need true change. Put another way, ask who the competition is.
Understanding Sales. Today, quarterly results will be shared. That means a lot of commentary will be posted from those who have little background or simply don't pay close attention. So, I jumped into the thread on that big EV blog to provide some information related to Toyota: Keep in mind that Prius Prime had an inventory burndown prior to the 2020 mid-cycle update and those models were only available in roughly half of the country. Near year-end, hope is the middle & southeast of the United States will finally get the opportunity to sell Prius Prime beyond just special-order. It made sense waiting until the update, especially with tax-credit phaseout having such a significant influence on original offerings. With a starting MSRP of $27,750 and being immediately available at all Toyota dealers, it's easy to see the potential... that juggernaut we have all been waiting for from a legacy automaker.
Sleuthing. The thread started back in February of this year was my choice of revival for news related to Android Auto. It mentioned the need for us to do some digging ourselves, pointing out that information is usually available if you are willing to hunt for it. I seek that type of content all the time. It's what ends up in the logs for future reference. That builds background for setting realistic expectations. It also helps with the effort to be patient. Tiny bits of news are better than nothing at all. In this case, it was the next clue to upgrades related to the infotainment system: Today was the announcement that C-HR will be getting Android Auto. If you have been watching rollout of Prius Prime (2020 mid-cycle update), no news makes sense still. Sales in established markets are showing growth. Adding a highly anticipated feature would derail that effort to finally expand to the rest of the market. Imagine the demand spike! It's not Toyota's way. They prefer spreading upgrades throughout the years to keep interest fresh. In fact, that on-going improvement approach has been around since even before Prius and has proven very effective.