Personal Log  #986

January 13, 2020  -  January 18, 2020

Last Updated:  Mon. 2/10/2020

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1-18-2020 Amazing?  Comments like this are especially interesting: "It is amazing to me that GM and Nissan in particular have nothing worth raving about."  It wasn't just the comment itself, it was who posted it.  He was a well-known troublemaker in the days of daily Volt blogs.  I bumped heads with him quite a bit; ironically, it was on this very topic.  Think about how many times I pointed out GM not doing anything with their technology, the need to spread it.  Ugh.  So, I posted:

Amazed, really?  We knew even before Volt gen-1 rolled out that GM had the engineering know-how but not the executive desire.  The disastrous Two-Mode history overwhelmingly confirmed enthusiast praise would enable the same behavior to continue.

I was amazed how many Volt enthusiasts attacked me for pointing out the technical achievement was giving a false impression of what to expect upon market saturation.  And sure enough, when that happened with the steep price-cuts midway through gen-1 sales of Volt, the pattern played out.  Sales didn't grow.  Overall flat was a very bad sign, a warning gen-2 needed to be dramatically different to appeal to the necessary wider audience.  Same problem repeating.

No matter how many times the obsession (engineering blinders) of power & range was brought up as a barrier to growth, I got shot down.  The idea of spreading the technology was looked upon as a means of diluting intention, sending a message of defeat rather than being a natural next step.  In fact, you can see that very sentiment playing out now with Toyota.  We see many spinning the successful migration of their technology to RAV4 as a message of Prius struggling to survive.  Evading the topic of what the next-gen Prius Prime will bring is evidence supporting a narrative of struggle.  Think about what Toyota's next step will be.

GM has no next step.  Evidence of that comes from the Hummer focus.  Why aren't we hearing anything about a plug-in aimed at Equinox buyers?  Nothing at all for middle-market buyers is a dead giveaway of problems to come.  Remember the "Who is the market for Volt?" question getting asked repeatedly over the years?  It's more neglect, missed opportunity to deliver something appealing to their own showroom shoppers.  This is history repeating, yet again.  Perhaps that's the amazing part.  Could any automaker really be that stupid?

1-18-2020 Sales Spin.  I especially enjoyed responding to this comment: "BEVs are doing well and growing!  What suffered was PHEV sales."  The perspective comes from unknowingly cherry-picking.  They are looking at just a slice of the market in just a slice of time.  When you step back to look at the what is to come, that conclusion doesn't make sense.  I pointed out:

Drawing conclusions about the entire market based on limited data is very misleading.  Neither BEV nor PHEV have enough variety available yet, the choices are far too limited for even a generalization.  In fact, it's basically just cherry-picking still.

Tesla was scrambling to deliver their long-awaited price-target prior to tax-credit phaseout coming to an end.  They did an excellent job too.  Kudos!  But that provides us nothing to set expectations upon.  Reaching out beyond early-adopters is far more difficult than the low-hanging-fruit stage; mainstream customers are far less accommodating.  So, even for that single choice, there is uncertainty... which anti-plug propaganda will exploit.  Be careful.

GM was DOA right from the beginning of 2019.  Volt was already declared dead and Bolt didn't appeal to GM's own customers.  So, comparisons to 2018 sales don't tell us anything meaningful.

Toyota was limiting Prius Prime to just initial rollout states, making any conclusions about nationwide potential a guess at best.  There was simply no reason to risk entanglement with GM's mess, especially with RAV4 Prime on the way and a mid-cycle update for Prius Prime.

All that provides perspective for the stage which has just come to a end.  This new stage just starting requires significant growth at prices directly competitive (no subsidies) with traditional vehicles.  So, even lessons learned from the past only apply in limited fashion.  Appealing to showroom shoppers is a major challenge to overcome still.  Having proven technically viable isn't the only step toward mass acceptance.


Short Distance?  This was the commute posted on the video from yesterday: "15.8 miles in EV is a very short distance."  This is how I responded to that:  38 minutes of cabin heating and window clearing using only electricity is actually pretty good.  Keep in mind the outcome.  MPG was still well over 200 and the entire supply of electricity was taken advantage of.  That's the point.  In the summer, EV distance is well over the 25-mile rating.  In fact, seeing low 30's is quite common.  Also, this drive didn't start with a full charge; it was short 3% since charging had not completed yet.


Video:  Prius Prime - Snowy Commute Home.  Roads were getting bad.  All that snow meant a slow drive home.  That extra times reduces EV range, since electricity is also used for the heater.  Watch as the battery-capacity is used up and the engine joins in to provide a mix of power & heat.  Once the coolant is warmed, the engine shuts off and you resume EV driving.  It turned out to be a really good example of what Winter can do to alter driving circumstances.  I quite pleased to be able to share footage like this...  Prius Prime - Snowy Commute Home


Video:  Prius Prime - To An Evening Meeting.  Minnesota EV Owners' Group has meetings every 6 weeks or so.  This one in January just happened to be one an evening cold enough to be below the heat-pump threshold, which meant the opportunity to show how the engine joins in to provide heat.  Watch the overall efficiency climb as it cycles on & off.  You can see the coolant being heated for cabin warming, then circulated until it isn't able to provide any more warmth.  That entire time the engine is off, you get to enjoy EV driving.  When the engine starts back up, the hybrid system is run in the most efficient manner... which means if there is excess load (due to RPM remaining relatively constant for maximum MPG) some of power is directed to the generator to create electricity for charging the battery.  It's a system that seeks out opportunity.  Even if brief, it really adds up.  This video helps to demonstrate that capability...  Prius Prime - To An Evening Meeting


ZEV Credit Formula.  The formula for adopting ZEV standards is a simple on.  My multiple EV range by a reduction factor, then add a standard value.  For Bolt, the ZEV credit is 2.88.  The formula is [(0.01 X 238) + 0.50].  That 238 is the EV range in miles.  The 0.50 is a value added since it is a BEV.  With PHEV, that value is 0.30.   So for Prius Prime, the ZEV credit is 0.55.  The formula is [(0.01 x 25) + 0.30].  For Volt, you get 0.83 using [(0.01 X 53) + 0.30].  In other words, there's flexibility with what is being sold.  Dealers could favor a vehicle with a shorter range; yet, they would still achieve the required ZEV credits.  That's why when an antagonist claims "compliance" vehicle, they really don't know what that means.  It's intended to be an insult.  But if enough are sold, what difference does it make?  Heck, there are some situations where you are actually better off with a lot of PHEV instead.  Long EV range only matters if you actually use it.  The upcoming RAV4 Prime will deliver 39 miles of EV range.  [(0.01 X 39) + 0.30]  Each one sold will earn 0.69 credits.  Think about how much potential Toyota has with such a vehicle.  It could be extremely popular.


Adopting ZEV Standards.  It has been interesting to watch my state go through the process.  They are on an accelerated calendar too, hoping to adopt the standards within just 15 months.  Minnesota will commitment to CARB-established rules, just like the 12 or so other states that already have.  There will be a phase-in period, of course.  It gives the automakers & dealers an opportunity to adjust to meet the expectations.  For consumers, it means a easier time actually getting a green vehicle.  Just like with what originated from California, the credit formula will apply.  So, there should be a variety of choices.  For many automakers, there's not much to choose from yet.  But you have to start somewhere.


Neglect.  How many times did I foretell this outcome: "Voltec died of neglect.  If they'd put it in other platforms they'd have cleaned up."  Even with the less efficient and more expensive system than Toyota, they still had an audience.  It was missed opportunity.  It's amazing how many years of blogs entries I have pushing for the spread of that technology.  The enthusiasts kept fighting against that though.  GM wasn't taking the next step.  That situation was so ironic too.  They'd complain that Toyota was resting on it laurels, calling then laggards, while that was exactly the situation playing out with GM.  Even more ironic is the fact that Toyota really wasn't.  RAV4 Prime is overwhelming proof of that.  Makes you wonder what will happen now.  GM has been painfully quiet.  I just said this about the situation:  That is exactly what enthusiasts were warned about.  GM kept missing opportunity after opportunity.  They became enablers, showering GM with engineering praise rather than pushing for spread of the technology.


Expectations.  Enthusiasts tend to lose touch with ordinary consumers, without being aware of it.  So, from time to time, you have to remind them:  Know your audience.  It's not a matter of being a "who will buy" issue.  The problem is finding a way to appeal to the "who will sell".  Lexus dealers are in an entirely different category too, having shoppers looking for something not Tesla like.  True, that will change with the next-gen battery, but it most definitely isn't the case now.  So, they are appealing to their base by establishing plug-in offerings with familiar design in low volume.  It's no different than what happened 20 years ago with Prius.  Remember the sedan model?  We know the dedicated platform EV designs from Toyota are coming in a few years.  By then, Lexus dealers will be more familiar with the technology and have a better understanding how to compete in the newly emerging market.  Don't forget, the audience here is made up of supporters who are well informed and have much higher expectations than showroom shoppers.

1-14-2020 Much Sooner.  When stuff like this gets posted, it's like poking a sleeping bear: "500,000 hybrids saving at least 20% fuel over equivalent ICE is currently displacing as much oil consumption at 100,000 full EVs."  There's anger that quickly emerges from the reality of such a statement.  Dealing with the reality of impact across the masses is a far more difficult equation than the usual "mine is better than yours" argument.  They are pretty much doomed to lose every time.  The numbers don't lie.  It's an inconvenient truth... which I also like to point out:

Oil displacement is what stirs ugly behavior from some who once proclaimed "no plug, no sale".  Some have become EV purists, speaking out against PHEV offerings despite the significant usage of electricity.  Some Prius Prime owners, like myself, experience a 100% all-electric commute.  So what if its a vehicle with a gas engine?  That daily drive results in an outcome no different than an EV.

As the market advances forward, new choices like RAV4 Prime will become a very easy purchase for the masses.  39-miles of EV per charge from nothing but an ordinary 120-volt household outlet is simple, something basic enough that a showroom shopper will consider without much trepidation.

PHEV will pave the way forward too.  After awhile, the owner may become interested in upgrading their garage.  You don't have to at the time of purchase as with any long-range EV.  That delayed install of a 240-volt charger may result in a better outcome too, adding capacity to support multiple vehicles... an important an often overlooked aspect of oil displacement.

If a household can only support charging of a single vehicle, that's a very real problem.  Those who praise early-adopter sales don't want to acknowledge that low-hanging fruit.  Having a second 240-volt charger for the second vehicle in the household can be an expensive next step for consumers.

There's the very real problem of battery production/supply too.  A pack with a 17.8 kWh capacity (the rumored size of RAV4 Prime) requires far fewer cells than that of a long-range (300'ish miles) pack.  In fact, that's enough for 4 plug-in hybrids.  That makes the PHEV a much more effective means of phasing out traditional vehicles than EV quickly, representing a major reduction in oil much sooner.

1-14-2020 Wanting To Sell.  This sentiment about PHEV sales is understandable, but lacks context: " The Toyota salesman talked him [my father] into a hybrid one, without a plug.  I don't think they want to sell these things."  Not wanting to sell hybrids was the problem in the past.  I pointed how the shift away from traditional vehicles has taken hold:

That's called progress... which unfortunately, is painfully slow.  Some of us remember that very same sentiment for hybrids.  Salespeople didn't want to have to answer a flurry of questions, wasting their time trying to convince a customer to purchase a vehicle that they would get less commission for.  Now, 25% of RAV4 sales here are hybrids.

The same will happen with plug-in hybrids as the Prime offerings expand.  It started with Prius, extended to Corolla in China & Japan, and next will be available for RAV4.  The catch is waiting the many, many years it takes for that information about how they work becoming common knowledge and the intentional spread of misinformation finally squashed.

There's also misconceptions... which sadly, are spread by salespeople.  Think about the wide variety of configurations in the market.  Unless a person really makes an effort to learn about the technology, its quite easy to misunderstand how it operates.


Attack!  There are a few who just plain cannot stand their idea being challenged.  Their word is what dominates the venue.  So, when something is posted contrary to the narrative, watch out... especially if you do it repeatedly.  I have, which meant getting personally attacked today.  The most lame way to do that is claiming the person must be getting paid, with the hope that will draw attention away from the content itself.  I take that as an invitation to make sure the message being conveyed about the topic gets focused on even more.  In this case, that came with a terse insult.  Sometimes, you just shouldn't let the local enabler get away with stuff like that:  It has been interesting to watch you go after Toyota because you don't like their approach to BEV delivery.  Having to co-exist with fuel-cell technology and building from the bottom-up is too much to accept.  Now, you are attempting to spin a lie about me to cover up how poorly that has been going.  Well, too bad.  It's not about you anyway.  Toyota has two EV models in the works for this year and a new PHEV that's looking to be a very strong seller, all nicely targeted at their respective market.  That will set the stage nicely for the eTNGA platform to expand to offer more variety and very high-volume.  Again, too bad if you don't like their approach to plug-ins.  It's all about getting their customers (dealers purchasing inventory to sell) wanting to carry those choices.


Choice.  This sentiment is becoming more common: "Why GM didn't put a plug on the current design of Equinox is still a mystery to me."  It's a feeling of dismay that will likely grow in a rather profound way as this year plays out.  I piled on by adding some historical perspective:  The predecessor to Volt was Two-Mode, which already had a plug-in upgrade in the works on a SUV platform.  Rollout was expected back in 2009 as a Saturn Vue.  All lot of effort has been expended to conceal that past, to pretend none of the effort to electrify larger vehicles ever took place.  Instead, GM decided to rollout a diesel model of Equinox post dieselgate.  Two problems brought this about.  One was Innovator's Dilemma.  Success of gen-1 Volt praised by enthusiasts enabled GM to make gen-2 Volt even more of a niche, rather than making it into something for mainstream consumers.  Two was the Osborne Effect.  Any type of reveal like Toyota just did with RAV4 Prime could cause a great deal of harm to their profit from their traditional Equinox.  Since Toyota has a hybrid model of RAV4, which is both selling very well and produced domestically, they don't face the same problem.  In short, GM got itself into this mess by choice.  Seeing the next step will be a reboot of Hummer is just digging even deeper into the same hole.  Ugh.


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