Personal Log  #983

December 14, 2019  -  December 26, 2019

Last Updated:  Mon. 2/10/2020

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New Narratives.  When the audience changes, as we are seeing play out right now, you get entirely new perspectives... which consequently feed new narratives.  Many of which come from those providing no data to support their claim, based on limited anecdotal observations.  Today, it was this: "American auto buyers are rather belatedly waking up to the fact that hatchbacks are a lot more useful and convenient than sedans...  American auto makers have responded with lifted hatchbacks which are marketed as "CUVs" or even "SUVs"...  So I submit the recent sudden decline of the American sedan is mostly due to a shift to hatchbacks."  Absence of any substance to explain why is always troubling.  Far too often, we see people drawing conclusions emanating from basically just hearsay.  This was yet another example.  A solid fact is there has been an ever-growing shift to larger and larger vehicles.  One reason is as our population ages, easier in & out becomes a greater priority.  Like it or not, that compels drivers to abandon aerodynamic benefit of a car in favor of a less efficient SUV, since it offers higher seating.  It really is that simple.  No other reasons are necessary to mention.  That would take us away from the basis of the faulty assertion and newbies often fall into that trap.  They lose focus of their own argument, posting for the sake of winning an argument rather than exchanging info to learn.  I explained the situation:  Omission of vital detail would give that impression.  Reality is, the explosive response to the second-generation Prius back in 2003 was in part due to it being the only midsize hatchback available in the American market.  Impacting change in another regard long ago was the much higher profit from SUV models.  The impression of "belated" or "sudden" comes from no longer trying to hide the disinterest in sedans.  They are a difficult sell in several regards... with the look forward being the most pressing.  It's a heck of a lot easier squeezing battery into any platform other than a sedan.


Rising Sales.  The situation in Europe is quite different than China.  Sales are rising.  The catch is EV rise has slowed.  Faster growth is coming from PHEV sales.  Reasoning for why is unclear.  An interesting twist is the best-seller is by far Model 3.  Tesla is leading by a very wide margin.  That could simply be an initial surge of buyers and year-end incentives.  We'll find out as the months proceed and VW rollout nears.  The closer that gets, the more hype will likely drown out the voice of reason though.  That being a domestic market, there may be nothing to learn from.  Too many factors are at play.  It is nice to see the push, regardless of why.  That could help pull our market here out of its complacency.  It's sad to have been regarded as the leader, then disregarded as important after making some idiotic political choices... which were just plain stupid... so short-sighted.  Anywho, the technology progresses, even when there are slow downs and new barriers encountered along the way.


Dropping Sales.  Reports of struggle in China with EV demand are becoming common.  The reason why is simple, subsidies have changed.  No incentive money is offered for any New Energy Vehicle with a NEDC range rating below 250 km (155 miles) anymore.  For those meeting that criteria, subsidies have been cut in half to 24,750 yuan (about $3,500).  This could be a foreshadow of what is to come here.  There are only so many potential buyers for expensive-but-discounted vehicles... hence the low-hanging-fruit situation.  Those in that group with disposable income available and a strong desire to drive something green will take the plunge; the rest will sit on the fence.  We certainly saw that with Prius over the years.  There were many who believed in the technology and the cause, but just couldn't pull the trigger on a purchase.  Hesitation really hurts.  The market is quite fragile, even with a government pushing for clean.  Here, it's a disaster.  We have heavy oil subsidies still and that industry working hard to undermine electrification efforts.  They provide an abundance of excuses not to bother... which you can read in comments of those article.  Whoa!  The denial is amazing.  There are far too many who seek validation to stick with a traditional vehicle.  It's really sad.  So, hearing about the struggle in China should not be any surprise.  There is much stacked against progress... even in the face of obvious air-quality issues and climate-change problems.  Ugh.


Escape PHEV.  Some new detail was provided today, including price.  $34,235 for the base offering will be looked upon with interest, for some.  That's $3,200 less than Outlander and will have roughly 10 miles more EV range (14.4 kWh capacity).  Actual range delivered in real-world will be subject of great debate.  I can't imagine how that will play out, especially when RAV4 will deliver further range and quite a bit more horsepower.  The Ford is thought to only be FWD, which will give it a clear disadvantage comparing to Toyota's AWD.  This is another one of those situations where audience is key.  Who will Escape be marketed to?  Will they care?  For that matter, will dealers even show support for stocking it?  The becomes especially odd when you consider tax-credit price brings it down below the regular hybrid.  That's not quite what Toyota saw with Prius, since the Prime model looked very different and had less interior space.  Toyota likely won't face that situation with RAV4 either, since the plug-in model will be the fastest and most powerful.  I suspect it to be closer to a wash... especially considering how high the demand is for the hybrid model.  Availability is what really matters.  Will Ford push supply and encourage dealers to stir demand?  There are many unknowns still.


State Purchase Incentives.  Minnesota Department of Transportation is now testing a 3-year pilot program that gives a MnPASS credit of $250 to eligible electric-vehicle drivers and $125 to eligible plug-in hybrid drivers.  This is used to pay tolls associated with the use of HOV lanes.  Purchases or leases between November 1, 2019 and October 31, 2022 will qualify.  In the press release, the purpose was stated as: "The MnPASS incentive is geared toward people who do not already own an electric vehicle, or who are perhaps on the fence about purchasing."  An unexpected perk is the MnPass program will be expanding in 2021 to become interoperable with E-ZPass toll systems.  That means a large section of the Midwest and upper East-Coast will be able to accept that credit money.  Cool.  Additionally, the credit can be used now to pay fees in the Minneapolis Airport parking ramps with combined with a ZipPass account.  It seems a well thought out means of promoting a better future here.  Sweet.


MPG Lies.  Seeing it happen again is rather surprising: "The other part of Toyota's DNA was born into the RAV4 Hybrid, which, at 39 mpg combined, was the most fuel-efficient crossover without a plug behind the 40-mpg 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid in AWD."  You'd think with the incorrect reporting in the past and the resulting fines anyone looking at numbers would do so with car.  This was clearly a spin article favoring Ford's AWD hybrid dishonestly.  Grrr!  Both hybrids deliver combined ratings of 40 MPG.  For the RAV4, it specifically gets 41 MPG city and 38 MPG highway.  No where is there a 39 MPG value.  Sadly, no one called out the issue in the comments either.  It makes you wonder what will happen when both plug-in models become available.


Surprise Victory!  Turns out, my suggestion is exactly what happened.  The federal bill to include funding for renewed tax-credits toward plug-in vehicle purchases got changed at the last minute.  That money was dropped; however, the section for infrastructure upgrades survived.  Sweet!  Just like I said, new money as an incentive to choose a plug-in vehicle should now be used toward upgrades at home.  Where you park overnight should get those funds.  That is a permanent investment which will deliver benefit for decades to come, well beyond just the purchase of single vehicle.  Not only will that be available for all of 2020, it will also be retroactively available for 2018 and 2019.  That's fantastic for both existing and future owners.  30% rebate (up to $1,000) on costs associated with the installation of an EV charging station can be applied to your taxes as a credit.  Amending a prior filing for that is fairly simple too.  This should reach quite a number of people, regardless of what they purchase to plug in.  Having that faster recharging readily available is nice, especially if you combine it with discounted rates associated with overnight programs provided by many local power providers.  If all goes well with the upcoming presidential election, perhaps would could see an extension of this more meaningful means of promoting the use of electricity for travel.  Celebrate one victory at a time.  This is a great win.  Hooray!


Upgrades At Home.  Every time the victim-card is played, claiming Tesla & GM are victims, I feel it necessary to point out a great purpose.  Money to fund change should be focused on the more meaningful efforts.  Doesn't it make sense to help a homeowner upgrade their home to support every plug-in vehicle they will own over the next few decades rather than just use that money for a single vehicle purchase?  I don't understand why more people don't see the value of having a 240-volt connection available for charging.  Benefit from investing in infrastructure should be obvious.  What you setup now will be used for many, many, many, many years to come.  So when I see articles with a title like this, you know what it makes me rather crazy: "In blow to Tesla and GM, federal electric car tax-credit not extended."  That's so short-sighted of a view, it's almost self-defeating.  Think about the audience that is intended to reach.  What message does it send?  There's no invest-in-a-better-future-for-everyone sentiment.  It comes off as an automaker complaint or whining, rather than a conveying support for being green.  Think about how important it is to make people feel the effort is to benefit everyone.  Focus on homeowners (as well as landlords, whatever "home" is for you) to promote plugging in regardless of brand is the type of message to send.  Ugh.  This is what I posted as a comment in reply to the flurry of victim posts:  Tesla used the credit well, as intended... building a base of customers for a new automaker.  GM squandered their credits, using them for conquest sales rather than intended... changing established customers for a legacy automaker.  Credits shouldn't be extended anyway.  A better use would be helping build infrastructure instead... upgrades at home.


Business Perspectives.  These two statements made today were fascinating.  GM CEO Mary Barra: "GM believes in the science of global warming.  We believe in an all-electric future.  It's not a question of if, but when."  Toyota EVP Bob Carter: "Somebody's got to buy these things.  I've been saying we're going to see electrified armageddon.  Because of the cost premium, supply is going to get ahead of true customer demand."  Notice the difference?  GM's perspective continues to be a vague statement of green intent without any substance.  It's the same ambiguous garbage we have been getting since way back when Two-Mode was still in development.  There's an apparent commitment, but no sense of being in touch with the actual market.  It's a belief of the "if we built it, they will buy it" mentality being realistic.  Remember how well that worked with Two-Mode, Volt gen-1, Volt gen-2, and Bolt?  Each has been an incredible example of what not to do.  Business mistakes have been plentiful.  So to earn trust of this next effort being different, we actually need to be told something.  That complete absence of substance is reason for concern.  Toyota sees this... and has been getting a lot of flack for adapting accordingly.  17.8 kWh is the expected capacity for the battery-pack in the upcoming RAV4 Prime.  Why is not being an EV portrayed as a shortcoming?  It is far enough to cover my entire commute, both directions in Winter driving.  So what if that all-electric driving experience is limited to 39 miles for the sake of being competitively affordable?  Ugh.  Think about what sales will become if VW really does saturate the worldwide market with 1 million EVs per year starting in 2023.  Combined with whatever GM will supposedly produce along with Tesla, it becomes a real paradigm-shift without any means of stimulating change.  What will be the incentive?  Reading online sentiment with regard to cheap gas and climate-change conspiracy, where will demand come from?  Remember, each of these EVs will require a dedicated 240-volt charger (a 40-amp line will deliver 200 miles in 8 hours) for realistic overnight charging.  That alone is a major barrier for mass acceptance to overcome.  RAV4 Prime won't necessitate that.  With an ordinary household 120-volt outlet, you'd be pushing limits of available time with a 12-hour recharge, but it would work for initial ownership.  The upgrade to 240-volt charging could come later.  It would not be a sales impediment.  In other words, pressure won't be on Toyota dealers the way it would be for GM dealers.  It is recognition of the fragile balance of supply & demand.  That's vital for good business.

12-14-2019 No Consistent Message.  The damage-control continues: "GM Was Right to Stop Making the Chevrolet Volt"  Turns out, there are quite a few more hidden enthusiasts than expected.  They keep feeding editorial opportunities with articles of that nature.  Following that title, was this opening statement: "As a Chevy Volt owner for over seven years, I completely understand why many Volt owners are upset at the news that GM was cancelling the Volt and not pursuing any other Voltec-based vehicle platforms."  It's a never-ending effort to spin the past, in this case, portraying a stance they didn't actually take until the end was obvious.  I got attacked relentlessly for saying the very same thing.  They felt it was really a clever scheme to dilute Volt.  Putting the same system in a vehicle like Equinox was a terrible idea as far as they were concerned and that sentiment went on for years and years.  Needless to say, I want to know more about what brought about their change and how far they will go to conceal how they were once against that very idea.  This is what I posted on a discussion thread about the article:

That got me really curious.  With so many excuses exhausted and those doing damage-control in such deep denial about how poorly their defense strategy is working, what could he possibly say in a positive manner?

It started out fairly well, sighting "Chevy Volt Cost Too Much To Build" as a primary reason.  But that was an internal perspective, nothing with regard to the rest of the industry. Then, I got to this: "Undaunted, Voltec proponents also point to Toyota's plug-in hybrids as evidence that GM could apply the Voltec platform to larger vehicles."  Then it went on to claim: "The problem is, Toyota's HSD is fundamentally different than the Voltec system."  That got me yearning for detail, which didn't follow.  Instead, it was: "Toyota's plug-in hybrid system is designed to run off the gas engine under all circumstances but off the electrical propulsion system only under limited circumstances.  That's the exact opposite of the way the Voltec system works in the Chevy Volt."

In short, the turn to misleading and outright lies has taken the spotlight.  That's the same desperation I saw years ago.  GM couldn't compete legitimately, so their minions was spread false information instead.  Ugh.  The conclusion got even better: "In other words, in order to achieve what Toyota is doing with their HSD, GM would need to fundamentally change the Voltec architecture.  It would lose its essence as an electric vehicle powertrain with a gas generator backup, and it would become just another hybrid."

That was great.  It showed that even a long-term owner really didn't understand how his own vehicle's system was actually designed.  Volt's engine was never just a "gas generator backup" as BMW's i3 overwhelmingly confirms.  Of course, Prius Prime does too.  It delivers up to 84 mph using just electricity.  How can that not be "essence as an electric" operation?  The engine doesn't start until battery depletion.

Reading the comments, I saw perspectives all over the place... which revealed what was really at the heart of GM's decision to stop.  There was no consistent message.  Even after an entire decade, people still had no idea what GM was hoping to achieve.


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