Is Toyota going to completely miss out on electric vehicles?

Discussion in 'General' started by Domenick, Jan 17, 2019.

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  1. Toyota North America president, Jim Lentz made some interesting statements at the Detroit Auto Show about electric vehicles. He's still unconvinced they're going to be "a thing."

    Thought this might be worth bringing up here. Like, how bad is Toyota going to suffer from no significant electric vehicle program? If the trend continues, as we believe it will, battery production capacity will be owned by its competitors.

    The price of entry into the sector might end up being quite steep for latecomers.
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  3. TheMagster

    TheMagster Member

    The Prius Prime is already a strong competitor in the PHEV market, and I do think that PHEVs still make sense for most Americans, who like to drive long distances (or at least like to know that they can drive long distances on a whim). Who makes the batteries for the Prius line?

    Prius is still probably the strongest brand name for 'eco-friendly' cars. I do wish they would make a full BEV version as well, but it probably wouldn't be as popular.

    Sent from my Pixel XL using Tapatalk
  4. If a BEV Prius had a 250+ mile range and an attractive price, I think it would get lots of takers. New BEVs need to at least match the value offered by Hyundai/Kia.
  5. TheMagster

    TheMagster Member

    I agree, but there are still some problems with BEVs to be ironed out before they will gain mass popularity. Range is a big one. Others are charging time, and cabin heat. I love my Leaf, but it really sucks as a road trip vehicle when you have to quick charge for 20 mins with no heat in cold weather, and barely use heat while driving to compensate for range loss.

    I do wish Toyota would expand or refresh the RAV4 EV, I think that could be a solid competitor to Kia/Hyundai. Even a PHEV model would make me happy, to compete with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV.

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  6. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The only reason Toyota came out with their plug-in Prius is because of the home-grown, plug-in Prius. If you want to see a Toyota EV:
    • rip-out the Prius ICE and replace with batteries
    • rip-out hybrid controller and replace with custom controller
    • give it a 0-60 time of 7 seconds (the easy part)
    • install 40A, 240VAC charger with NEMA 14-50 and J1772 interface
    • advertise
    • announce a Camry version coming
    You can't ask Toyota for the right car but you can shame them.

    Bob Wilson
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  8. gooki

    gooki Well-Known Member

    I get the impression Toyota doesn’t have the talent and vision to hold onto their market share the next decade.

    They seem to have awareness of the future (autonomous, zero emissions), but I get the impression Toyota think the future will come in 2050 not 2023.

    Will Toyota be able to pivot fast enough?

    Can they survive declining demand for four years while they build/secure battery supply?

    Will they have autonomous tech ready in time to secure their place in the autonomous ride sharing world?
  9. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Toyota seems to be caught in a corporate groupthink where they are in complete denial about the realities of the EV revolution.

    There was a time when I hoped that statements from Toyota like "There isn't any market for battery electric vehicles" and "Fuel cell cars are the future of automobiles", was mere spin by Toyota's marketing department, and that Toyota was secretly working behind the scenes to develop one or more compelling BEVs.

    But I no longer believe that to be the case. Look at Ford, which is in the same boat. Ford has just done a "Hail Mary" play, forming a technology-sharing alliance with Volkswagen so that Ford can get some EV tech from VW. But to get that, Ford has to give away its most valuable asset -- its pickup truck designs and, presumably, patents. Or at least, that's my interpretation of recent news; I could be reading more into this alliance than it actually indicates.

    It can be hard for outsiders to comprehend, but sometimes the management of large corporations do things which are every bit as stupid and self-destructive as what Joe Blow does from time to time. (Remember "New Coke"?) In every disruptive tech revolution, there are market leaders which develop a severe case of myopia, and stubbornly continue down the road they are on, attempting to milk just a few more years out of sales of the old tech... until they go over the cliff.

    In the Model T era, the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. didn't respond to the growing popularity of gasoline-powered cars, and kept right on making and selling its Stanley Steamer car, which at one time was the best-selling steam-powered car.

    When Apple released first the iPhone, BlackBerry responded with a half-hearted and definitely inferior attempt at a touchscreen phone, and didn't improve on that.

    And of course, Kodak infamously developed digital camera tech, but shelved it and left it up to its competitors to develop that, and steal the market away from them during the digital camera revolution.

    Yeah, sadly, it certainly looks like Toyota is headed down that same path to self-destruction. Now, I could be wrong; perhaps it's not too late for Toyota to take an off-ramp, away from the highway to self-destruction, and onto the harder path, embracing the less-traveled, uncertain road into the badlands of the EV revolution. But the window is closing on having sufficient time to develop compelling EVs, before Toyota's competitors have the entire EV market locked up. Jay Cole, former Chief Editor of InsideEVs, says it normally takes about five years to develop a new model of car, and that even a rush job generally takes about four years.

    Perhaps it's not already too late for Toyota, but if it's not, they had better not wait much longer to make a major move. And they are giving every sign of refusing to make any move at all.

    All just my opinion, and I hope that I'm wrong; I hope that Toyota sees the light and makes a strong move into the BEV market. I don't want to see Toyota fail just because of a groupthink stupidity among its current leadership. Toyota has established a fine reputation for quality, and its employees deserve better.

    manybees likes this.
  10. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Don't look now, but BEV sales are growing far faster than PHEV sales, and it's not all due to the Tesla Model 3, either.

    A few years back I would have agreed with you. From a practical standpoint, it does seem that PHEVs should be more popular than BEVs, until such time as batteries are somewhat cheaper and can be fast-charged appreciably faster than they are now. And time needs to pass before we see enough public EV chargers spread out across the land to make it possible to drive almost anywhere in a BEV, as it's now possible to drive almost anywhere in a gasmobile.

    But the market is speaking quite clearly that it wants BEVs, not PHEVs. Perhaps that's because BEVs can, and some do, offer a truly superior driving experience as compared to gasmobiles... and PHEVs don't. PHEVs are more practical, but they aren't compelling.

    At least, that's the way I see it. Differing opinions are solicited.
  11. gooki

    gooki Well-Known Member

    The problem is with most PHEV the cost premium is in your face. $10-20,000 over the pure ice.

    Where as for the popular BEVs: Leaf, Tesla's, Zoe etc there is no direct ICE equivalent.

    That and BEV is simply better if the range and charging infrastructure works for you. Talking to my co worker he chose a Leaf over a PHEV because it's simplier, with less to go wrong (he works in QA).

    Looking at my workplace parking lot (200 staff, 100 vehicles). We've got 6 BEVs, and no PHEV. The leaf owners get plentry of interest from other staff. One co-worker is set on a Model 3. I'd say we'll be at 10% EVs this year.
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  13. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    • $28k - Prius Prime, new
    • $29k - BMW i3-REx, end-of-lease
    I didn't find either 'in my face' in 2016.

    Bob Wilson
  14. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I don't consider the BMW i3 REx to be a true PHEV. In fact, BMW lobbied hard for the EPA to create the "BEVx" category specifically for that car. It's an extended range BEV, or perhaps (to steal GM's term for the Volt) it's an "EREV" (Extended Range EV).

    And the Prius Prime has too small a battery pack to be worthy of serious consideration. Not only is the AER (All Electric Range) too small, that small a battery pack can't possibly provide enough power for strong acceleration or hill-climbing without an assist from the ICEngine.

    Neither the BMW i3 REx nor the Prius Prime are true switch-hitters, as the Volt and the Clarity PHEV are.

    All just my opinion, of course.

  15. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    . . . the BMW i3 REx to be a true PHEV. In fact, BMW lobbied hard for the EPA to create the "BEVx" category specifically for that car. It's an extended range BEV, or perhaps (to steal GM's term for the Volt) it's an "EREV" (Extended Range EV).

    And the Prius Prime has too small a battery pack to be worthy of serious consideration. Not only is the AER (All Electric Range) too small, that small a battery pack can't possibly provide enough power for strong acceleration or hill-climbing without an assist from the ICEngine.
    [Actually we've only seen that behavior in specific cases when the temperature is below 50F. It isn't power demand driven as much as temperature dependent, edge cases in the control laws. It took a lot of testing to map this out but it explains why some reviewers using a 'loaner' reported this behavior. rjw]

    Neither the BMW i3 REx nor the Prius Prime are true switch-hitters, as the Volt and the Clarity PHEV are.

    All just my opinion, of course.

    In contrast, I see them as being bookends for plug-in hybrids:
    • Prius Prime - 25 mi EV range handled my work commuting before retirement and around town errands. The high MPG makes it our long distance choice and EV backup when the BMW i3-REx is in the shop.
    • Volt (discontinued) - 50 mi EV range and highway MPG are midway between the Prius Prime and BMW i3-REx.
    • BMW i3-REx - 72 mi EV range in the 2014 model can drive in EV the 120 miles between Huntsville and Nashville with a $3, two-hour charge session midway. The ~40 MPG on the highway and 2.3 usable tank makes long distance driving practical.
    Being an owner/operator, experience supports these summaries. As for the more recent plug-in hybrids, they are much improved over what was available in 2016.

    Bob Wilson
  16. gooki

    gooki Well-Known Member

    Worth a read to get some insight into Toyota's vision for the future.

    Interesting to hear their battery weight estimate for a BEV truck is off by 40%.

    My assumption is a 1,000kwh battery and a density of 207w/kg (model 3 cells) gives 4,800kg. Plus 500 kg for motors etc, total 5,300kg.

    Vs a diesel weight (what Toyota are aiming for with fuel cell) of 3,175 kg for engine, transmission, exhaust. Plus 750 kg of diesel. Total weight approx 3,925 kg.


    This difference in weight although significant is no where near the amount Toyota are expecting (1,300 vs 4,000 kg).
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
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  17. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    I've seen similar claims before, but I find them wholly unconvincing. GM engineered the Volt to be able to use battery power only to accelerate the car up to speed, and to do extended hill-climbing, using the electric motors only. The Volt had a 16 kWh battery pack in its first model year; the Prius Prime uses a mere 8.8 kWh battery pack.

    Can the Prime have the same power output as the Volt while using a battery pack with barely over half the capacity? If so, then Toyota would have to be using battery cells optimized for a much higher power output than the Volt's LG Chem cells, but presumably not at a much higher cost. Is it reasonable to believe that Toyota was able to do that?

    Now, that doesn't mean I can't be convinced, but basic engineering principles suggest to me this is unlikely, perhaps highly unlikely. I'd like to see a lot more data on this before concluding that the Prime can function as a pure EV, with no assist from the gas motor, when the "go pedal" is mashed to the floor. In fact, I'd like to see some testing by a qualified independent test lab. I doubt I would be satisfied with anything less. Comments I've seen on other forums, such as "I don't hear the engine noise, so it must not be running" do not convince me.

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
  18. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Thank you for the insights:
    Ok, I see the problem. They see electricity is generated by natural gas combustion, ~60% efficient. Then the energy is followed by the more efficient, electric grid to vehicle battery EV. If their vision going back to the well-head were accurate, a better solution would be to replace natural gas, combustion engine powered, generators with:
    1. Natural gas to hydrogen at utility scale (already done in refineries)
    2. Utility scale fuel cell consuming of that hydrogen to make grid electricity (experiments but not done)
    If the fuel cell advocates were focused on replacing natural gas fueled generators with utility sized, fuel cell power plants at higher than 60% efficiency, we'd be in agreement. Then use the grid to efficiently distribute power to BEV vehicles. But their mistake is trying to force fit hydrogen into the existing gasoline distribution system.

    In constant velocity applications, weight plays a minor role because the rolling resistance losses are a fraction of traditional inertial losses from acceleration and braking. Regenerative braking replaces hot brake-pads with reclaimed battery charge. Rather there is a tradeoff between revenue generating payload vs overhead of labor and capital equipment.

    There is an economic argument that for large, revenue generating vehicles, weight savings improves the return on investment. But the operational cost of hydrogen, ~3-4x higher than BEV also steals the return on investment. The only question is which is less bad.

    Bob Wilson
  19. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Here is my Prius Prime experience:
    I try to avoid commenting on vehicles I don't own but no problem with our Prius Prime:
    • ~5.6 kWh if staying pure EV
    • ~5.8 kWh if the ICE comes on
    It appears that when running in ICE-hybrid mode, the battery is drawn down ~0.2 kWh. Ordinary Prius hybrid operation has a battery charge range, 40-80%, to handle regeneration charging and extra power demands like acceleration and hill climbing. So in the Prime, the lower EV limit goes down into the battery range another 0.2 kWh.

    BTW, I have done the 'forbidden' experiment, running the Prime out of gas and continuing to drive:
    Batteries typically have two metrics:
    • Power density - how much can be taken out in a unit of time commonly part of "C"
    • Energy density - how long the power lasts like a zinc-air hearing aid battery
    Typically the power density is a function of the anode and cathode areas. The energy density is proportional to the volume of the anode and cathodes.
    I'm OK with that because I'm a curious engineer about the cars I own. Here are my primary sources:
    Bob Wilson
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
  20. 101101

    101101 Well-Known Member

    But a natural gas energy future is incredibly stupid. What needs to happen is natural gas fuel investors need to be zeroed out and its further development taxed away. It can be used for materials but it is only raw unmitigated criminal corruption that allows it to continue to exist when it will never be cost competitive (never actually was) ever again. It is a economic low aggregate efficiency technology and the tech needed to fix it would obviate its use. Get the hydrogen from wind or solar and then it makes more sense but it still doesn't remotely make enough sense to be economical competitive because you must transport the liquid and carry around the weight of a bunch of unneeded protons. It is pure delusion. The most important thing is the destruction of the political and economic power of fossil fuels followed by the criminal prosecution of that power.
  21. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Hey Bob, thanks for taking the time to write an extensive response to my comments.

    Okay, I read your account. That doesn't seem to provide any evidence either way, since your car refused to keep running after the gas ran out. As I recall, reports from Volt drivers indicate that car can and will continue to drive after running out of gas.

    This seems like nitpicking after you've taken the time to write such a detailed and well-supported treatise on the subject, but I have to quibble about that last sentence. Energy is stored in the electrolyte, not the anodes and cathodes. Energy density of a cell should be proportional to the amount of electrolyte in the cell, as well as proportional to the energy density of the electrolyte itself. Power density, as you say, will be proportional to the area of the electrodes (the anodes and cathodes), as well as proportional to how efficient the electrodes are at producing electricity.

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2019
  22. Pushmi-Pullyu

    Pushmi-Pullyu Well-Known Member

    Well, we would run out of cheap sources of natural gas eventually, but at least it would be less polluting to use that instead of petroleum distillates.

    I think it's a terrible tragedy that T. Boone Picken's plan to replace diesel with natural gas for running freight trucks never took off. :(

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  23. bwilson4web

    bwilson4web Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The Prius Prime (similar to all previous generations,) sets a flag that prevents starting attempts. In the previous models, three attempts and the Prius blocks start attempts even after adding gas.

    The Prime cut that down to zero which forces an expensive tow to the dealer. Happily a 12V, power-on restart clears the code and with gas in the tank, it starts.

    Bob Wilson

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