Personal Log  #987

January 18, 2020  -  January 25, 2020

Last Updated:  Mon. 2/10/2020

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Time & Money.  When cornered, an antagonist will attempt to change the topic.  When it comes to Toyota, they'll draw attention to fuel-cells, spinning a narrative of EV neglect.  That almost always results in several bites.  It's a classic troll move.  They simply introduce something to undermine the discussion.  Fortunately, the slow & steady success of fuel-cells is messing up that effort.  Ignoring certain facts is a dead giveaway of struggle for them to come.  Fuel-Cells have their place, a position of co-existence with plug-in vehicles.  Antagonists hate the idea of multiple solutions for a diverse market.  It's always of one-solution-for-all from them.  That's why Volt died.  Their inflexible approach prevented support of anything outside of their narrow focus.  From their point of view, that was thought of as a sound choice.  Their focus would result in a well-proven technology.  Problem was, the world is constantly changing and there's a wide variety of needs.  So, they ended up backing themselves into a corner as a result.  Oh well.  Their loss.  All I can do is just continue pointing out how diverse our world really is and how many solutions will be necessary to satisfy everyone's requirements.  Long story short, I hit back with a simple post:  It's called advancement through real-world data.  Personal transportation is only one application of hydrogen.  There is also fleet & commercial use. They don't provide anywhere near as useful data as just letting enthusiasts randomly drive around though.  The resulting fuel-cell technology can also be used for industrial power.  Starting on the small scale with Mirai is an effective means of exploring a diverse opportunity.


Bothered.  I kept my response to the point: "What bothered me was the narrative to spin short-term marketing for the luxury market as representative of the long-term plan for the Toyota brand."  It was about the on-going trouble we get from antagonists clearly not interested in anything beyond the current hot topic.  Difficulty toward dealing with such narrow-minded views is quite a challenge.  They simply don't care about taking the time to spread the technology across an entire product-line or the consequences change has on dealer support.  It's like they expect profit to come effortlessly from anything carried in stock.  The logistics of properly training staff are blown off as no big deal.  They really don't have any clue how challenging it can be to ensure information is understood & conveyed well.  Remember how many problems I had trying to get the message across to Volt enthusiasts?  That type of resistance is far too much for any dealer to want to address.  Not only is their many assumptions to overcome, there is also the very real problem of coming across as condescending.  That's why the "bother" topic needed to be intercepted immediately.  They've been spreading the same story for years.  What did it accomplish?  What do they hope to accomplish?  Notice how it always comes down to stating goals?  They feel it isn't necessary to bother.  Ugh.


Prius Prime - Full Winter Commute, part 2.  After having been parked all day in the ramp while I worked, the battery got cold.  Notice the temperature indicated by the device shown in the lower-right.  Despite those affects of winter, driving in EV is still available.  Watch as I enter the highway and climb out of the river valley.  Then later when the engine starts, witness what happens as the coolant is warmed to provide cabin heat.  The engine shuts off and stays off for a surprisingly long time.  Notice how low of a temperature it is able to utilize that warmth from coolant.  It's quite an efficient commute, even without the benefit off plugging in while away at work...  Prius Prime - Full Winter Commute, part 2


Video:  Prius Prime - Full Winter Commute, part 1.  With the outside temperature below the electric heat-pump minimum and such beautiful weather, this was the ideal opportunity to film my commute to work.  Watching the resulting video, you get to see the engine cycle on & off while the system takes advantage of as much EV driving as possible.  The lower-left shows the dashboard of my Prius Prime.  The lower-right shows an aftermarket app reading data from the ODB-II port of the car.  This provides a wealth of information about engine, motor, and battery use.  Pay particular attention to the coolant temperature, which reveals a lot about how very cold conditions affect electricity use.  When the drive concludes, I park in the ramp without plugging in. Part 2 of the video shows the commute home, without the benefit of using the electric battery heater while away at work...  Prius Prime - Full Winter Commute, part 1


The Test Of Time.  That's the ultimate measure of success, especially when longevity is an essential aspect of developing a technology.  That discussion thread went from being fairly constructive to an outright rant.  GM enthusiasts don't take criticism well... hence being enthusiasts, rather than supporters.  Anywho, it came to this: "The Volt is gone, yet the Prius is still around; I think the answer is right in front of our noses, the Volt was a money-loser."  A well-known antagonist felt the need to vindicate himself upon getting called out by one of the more sensible-headed contributors.  That ultimate price was paid (yes, I say that ironically).  Volt was never affordable.  The design sacrificed too much for range & power.  That wasn't a tradeoff to achieve balance.  It was greed & obsession.  They didn't want to admit it; yet, the only thing we're hearing about from GM now is that their upcoming EV offerings will be profitable right from the start.  The reason Prius survived is it was designed to be profitable right from the start.  It wasn't, since the early 2000's was a very different time... before "climate change" had even been coined.  Heck, that was even years before "global warming" was given any attention outside of green discussions.  Nowadays, that's a liability insurance companies and investors talk about all the time.  The reason why is simple, money.  So when Prius achieved profit with its first-generation design, it got noticed.  That was just prior to the second-generation rollout.  It's what sparks the fires of animosity, which we saw get quite ugly years later... still before Volt was even a concept.  Now, Volt is dead and we have rants to deal with.  Getting acknowledgement of the source of the problem is nice, but we'll never get an admission that he was among though feeding that fire.  It's nice to know that time eventually reveals the true story, even if he doesn't want to.  Having someone step up to help prevent aspects of history from re-igniting would be nice.


Should GM Have Kept Volt?  That was the question asked yesterday, originating from an article in a popular financial publication, on the big GM forum.  This was the standout comment on the discussion thread made from it: "The Volt was never a big seller, but while it's a shame that GM ended production, the Volt-Tech components really should have found a new home - perhaps in the Chevy Equinox."  I find it incredibly ironic how someone stating that now can get 27 likes right away and I got attacked in the past for saying the very same thing.  I pushed and pushed and pushed for enthusiasts (those terrible enablers) to use their influence on GM for that very thing.  Diversification is an absolutely essential part of growing a technology.  A one-hit-wonder like Volt is not sustainable.  That's how you get attention.  Spreading to the rest of the fleet should have happened long before the obvious deadline of tax-credit expiration.  In fact, that's what the federal subsidy was for... to help fund the establishment of a new technology.  Automakers were free to use the money on whatever technology they deemed viable for sustained profit, to help then into the greener market.  Instead, GM wasted the opportunity and everyone now sees it.  That same wisdom shared years ago was treated with hostility.  Ugh.  Reading through several pages of posts, a pattern emerged.  Those GM supporters never really understood what Prius represented.  In fact, its purpose still remains a mystery.  They so blindly followed the rhetoric, there was never really any critical thinking.  They just blew off advice thinking it was just Toyota obsession coming from outside commenters, not actual suggestions for helping GM.  We now have an archive in blogs & forums showing how wrong they were to blindly believe the hype.  Lack of substance should have raised warnings for them.  Merit is earned by actions, not posting "vastly superior" claims.  My takeaway from reading through all the posts is how much detail has been forgotten; specifically, that sales of Volt were always a struggle.  It never delivered upon it own original goals... 40 miles of EV range, 50 MPG following depletion, for a price nicely under $30,000.  That promise unfulfilled made it a contradiction to the promotion we got all throughout development.  It wasn't efficient, which made affordability a major challenge.  Now that Toyota is on the precipice of achieving those fundamentals, game over for GM.  Keeping Volt was pointless, since those goals were abandoned.  That made any next move, like offering the tech in Equinox, a daunting challenge... one far greater than they could handle.


Video Quest.  I don't expect a lot of views.  It's all about teaching the teachers.  Each one strives to deliver higher quality.  To achieve that, I have to carefully consider details of what I'm trying to show and how I'm going about presenting it.  The content itself gets refined along the way in the process.  I'm now to the point where I can look back and not have any upset or regret about basically starting over.  The past 10 years of effort was practice, my own schooling.  It's was learning about the technology available at the time and making the most of it.  Those 10 years prior to that worked great for photos.  I was on the bleeding each of digital photography, watching it become an everyday tool along the way.  The same is happening now with video, as impressive resolution & lighting in the 4K realm becomes common.  That puts some perspective on the 89 videos I ended up publishing over the years.  I wonder how many attempts it actually took to get that many worthy of keeping?  And now, I'm looking to recapture the same drives with far more detail & quality, along with informative narrations.  Again, I don't expect a lot of views.  But for those who watch to learn, I was enjoyed putting together that content to share with you.


New Narratives.  I was stunned to come across a published article with an entirely new twist.  My guess is this came about from anecdotal observations, since nothing about it relates to statements about the past.  In fact, much of it doesn't make any sense.  Read it for yourself, then consider the actual history: "Toyota believes batteries and the precious earth metals used to make them will always be bad for the environment.  The charging infrastructure will be costly and electric cars will always have severe limits on their range.  So, it restricts battery use to self-charging units in a hybrid combined with efficient petrol engines.  This is a stop-gap before making hydrogen cell cars, possibly by 2030."  What does that "bad" even mean?  Toyota's effort to make as much of the vehicle recyclable as possible, including battery-pack components, has always been a priority.  How does striving to reuse become an "always" problem?  The second statement is just blatant rhetoric.  Using words like "costly" and "severe" are dead giveaways of that.  They are so vague, the intent to make you assume exaggerated scale.  Following that was great.  It's just an outright lie.  The writer clearly hoped you wouldn't discover the PHEV already available (Prius & Corolla), the PHEV coming this summer (RAV4), and the BEV models in the works for late this year (UX300e & CH-R).  That last statement is the clincher though.  It appears to reveal this is really some type of anti-hydrogen propaganda at play.  Typically, that comes from a source unwilling to accept a world of diverse choices.  Watching Toyota gain success in their effort to reach fleet & commercial vehicle use of fuel-cells, as well for industry power, frustrates them to no end... since starting with ordinary passenger vehicles is the most effective & affordable means of achieving a wealth of real-world data.  So, they invent new narratives with the hope of preventing people from noticing the goals Toyota is really striving to achieve.  Ugh.


Change.  Some people just don't get it.  He just threw a bunch of statistics at me, without any explanation how it applied going forward.  What happens in a subsidy stage, one that targets early-adopters and fails to establish any type of standard, is nothing to build mass-market expectations upon.  It does a great job of identifying what is capable technically, but by no means does it represent the mindset of ordinary consumers.  Measuring change is complex.  You must continuously strive to see the big picture, because it keeps changing.  Knowing that the target itself is moving is something enthusiasts fail to understand... because they assume it is always in the same direction.  That's why knowing stating goals is vital.  You must reaffirm them on a regular basis.  When something in the market changes, you must evaluate impact.  Those darn enthusiasts put blinders on, assuming focus on the destination would allow them to someone avoid obstacles along the way.  Eh?  That makes no sense.  Yet, they'd argue it doesn't matter.  Volt died as a consequence, taking along its technology in the process.  Hoping production cost will get reduced enough to justify an insufficient design isn't a solution.  I fired back today with my own rant:  There's more to the GM cost equation than just simply reaching a tipping point with BEV.  The system GM delivered after 3 generations of trying was still too expensive and too inefficient compared to what Toyota had delivered.  There was simply no way to compete in that market, especially with Honda and Hyundai/Kia also showing potential.  Imagine if Two-Mode, then Volt-1, then Volt-2, had finally delivered something competitive.  An Equinox with the same characteristics of the upcoming RAV4 Prime should have been GM's ultimate achievement.  Watching Toyota patiently wait for that fallout to pass while setting the stage for their next step sure has been interesting.  There are still many naysayers are not paying attention to what is actually happening in the market and not aware of what it actually takes for mainstream change.


Stages.  It makes you wonder if some people online have any clue how new vehicles come about: "I think that any company designing hybrids of any flavor now is making a mistake."  We witnessed Toyota's design evolve as battery-technology improved.  The long-term goal was to deliver EV driving, which is exactly what we are seeing now from the PHEV rollouts.  I stated the situation this way:  Fortunately, Toyota is long past the design stage.  In fact, they are so far into the mature stage, the technology is returning a profit dealers desire.  RAV4 hybrid is overwhelming proof of that.  RAV4 plug-in hybrid will help bring about the phaseout of the non-hybrid model.  (Again, remember PHEV use smaller & lighter engines, while also eliminating complex geared transmissions.)  It's the S-curve you mention above, but misunderstand the timing.  BEV will follow, but that's many years off still due to infrastructure and battery technology limitations.  It will happen, but that stage will take quite a bit more than the single generation you claim.  Transforming an entire fleet of choices takes a lot of effort.  The diversity of vehicles means a variety of configurations, which complicates matters across the entire production/sales spectrum.  A simple look at what ordinary consumers have for priorities makes that a bitter pill to swallow.  It's far more than just a matter of delivering the necessary technology.  There's a very delicate balance at play that's easy to overlook.

1-18-2020 More Spin.  They keep at it: "PHEV sales are not keeping up..."  Must of that rhetoric comes from BEV purists, those who don't believe PHEV have a place in our market.  It's sad, especially when PHEV make such a great first plug-in vehicle.  You immediate gain the benefit of all-electric driving (some, their entire commute) without having to do anything special or any extra expense.  They don't see it that way though.  In fact, they often quarrel amongst themselves about range.  I jumped into that discussion today with:

Range isn't the only factor at play, as the countless sales articles continue to portray.  Price plays a major role in what happens with the reach out to mainstream consumers.  That's where PHEV will thrive, especially as tax-credits expire.  Settling at upper 30's for range seems a good balance.  It covers most daily commutes and doesn't necessitate a level-2 charger.

Toyota's effort to diversify will work well in that regard.  Prius Prime targets the affordable pricing (nicely under $30,000) and RAV4 Prime will capitalize on those wanting to spend more on a loaded SUV but don't want any plug-related risk or expense.  Being able to just use an ordinary household outlet for a full overnight charge is an easy sell for timid consumers.

As for timing, waiting until GM's fallout from tax-credit phaseout still makes sense.  No one really knew what their next step would be and surprises can be costly.  Remember, it's about how the dealers respond, since they are who purchase vehicles from automakers, not consumers.  Keep in mind, that is also how regulations are factored (dealer inventory, not consumer purchases).


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