Op-Ed: Perfect Is Often The Enemy Of Good In The Plug-In World


2017 Chevrolet Volt

2017 Chevrolet Volt

This phrase has been coming to mind a lot lately when I read comments both on InsideEVs and my own personal YouTube channel after creating a video review of my 2017 Chevy Volt. Somewhat a coincidence, the phrase originated in France from a guy named Voltaire.

The reason the phrase comes to mind is due to the large amount of criticism I am now seeing regarding various plug-in vehicles from, oddly enough, within the plug-in community itself. I mean, we all expected the Koch brothers to be criticizing EVs. But I never expected it so soon from within. In many ways it reminds me of infighting between iPhone vs. Android, Mustang vs. Camaro, Apple II vs. Commodore 64, etc.

Toyota Prius Prime Debuted This Past March (InsideEVs/Tom M)

Toyota Prius Prime Debuted This Past March (InsideEVs/Tom M)

Toyota Prius Prime's 11.6" HD Multimedia Unit

Toyota Prius Prime’s 11.6″ HD Multimedia Unit

I want to start off with the upcoming Prius Prime. Yes, it has a barely-adequate 22 miles of range. Yes, it only has 4 seats, and apparently a lot of people believe it is ugly. Myself, I dislike the center-oriented instrument panel. And I would never personally buy one unless it was the only plug-in car on the market. But I’m still really excited about this car. I am pretty sure a lot of the plug-in crowd is not seeing the bigger picture.

First of all, we need to put into perspective who the real enemy is. And that is, traditional internal-combustion-engine cars and trucks. Any vehicle with a plug on the side is moving us in the right direction. Imagine yourself on an ancient battle ground, preparing to do battle against the opposing army. And you have a few hundred really strong guys on horses in your army. And imagine this army of 10,000 little people (or vertically challenged, or whatever the politically correct term is these days) with swords offers to join forces and fight with you. Sure, one midget by himself isn’t likely to make a difference. But 10,000 of them will! And the Prius Prime is that army of midgets.

Have plug will travel (Toyota Prius Prime arrives late fall in US)

Have plug will travel (Toyota Prius Prime arrives late fall in US)

I’ve seen a lot of people saying the Prime won’t sell well because of this or that. I’m convinced it will sell. In fact, I firmly believe that once it is well stocked at all Toyota dealers, it will be the #1 selling plug-in on the market until the Tesla Model-III arrives. But that isn’t because it is the best car, rather because it will be at the right place at the right time. I’m going to give you two fictional stories that I predict will be sort of a guideline for what will be happening every hundreds of times a day at two different average dealers somewhere in the USA.

At the Chevrolet dealership:

But what about a Chevy Malibu?

But what about a Chevy Malibu?

SALESMAN: Hey there, welcome to our dealership. Can I interest you in this great Chevy Silverado here? We’ve got great deals on Tahoes right now.
CUSTOMER: I’m looking for something more fuel efficient.
SALESMAN: Oh, we have the Chevy Cruze, it gets 42 miles per gallon on the highway.
CUSTOMER: I’ve been hearing about those Tesla cars. Do you have anything electric?
SALESMAN: Oh no. We don’t sell anything like that here, you want a gasoline car anyway.
CUSTOMER: What about the Volt?
SALESMAN: Oh, we don’t have any of those here (as he hopes they don’t see the one they have hidden in the back). You wouldn’t want one anyway, they’re very expensive and can only go 50 miles before stranding you. Let me show you this Malibu over here.

At the Toyota dealership:

Toyota making a big deal out of the Prius Prime

Toyota making a big deal out of the Prius Prime

SALESMAN: Hey there, welcome to our dealership! What are you looking for today?
CUSTOMER: I’m looking for something fuel efficient and affordable, maybe a Prius.
SALESMAN: Sure, let me show you all of the different models. Here’s the Prius C, the Prius V, and here’s the Prius Prime. It’s an electric car that can also run on gas so you’re never stranded. And look, it has a big touch screen in the center just like the Tesla.
CUSTOMER: Really? it’s just like the Tesla? I thought those were expensive.
SALESMAN: Oh, they are. This is better than a Tesla because it has no range limitations, and costs much less. Plus with the government credit it costs no more than the regular Prius.

This is seriously what will be happening. Sure, there are a few exceptional Chevy dealerships that like to sell the Volt. But it is very clear that most dealers don’t, for various reasons we’ve discussed in the past.

Toyota "Made It Rain" In May In May of 2014 For The Prius PHV

Toyota “Made It Rain” In May In May of 2014 For The Prius PHV

Toyota dealerships will be selling these cars. Many customers who walk onto the lot may not have really even been looking for a Plug-in car, yet may drive away with one after test driving it. Besides this obvious huge advantage, there are some other things going for the Prius Prime.

1) The regular Prius already sells an order of magnitude more than any plug-in car on the market currently. After the government credit of around $4,000 the Prime probably won’t cost any more than a regular Prius and might even be cheaper. With the exception of the seating issue, there is almost no downside to the Prime.
2) Toyota will likely advertise the car along with its regular Prius line.
3) After reading hundreds of comments about the Prime, the consensus seems to be it is slightly more attractive (or slightly less ugly, depending on who you are talking with) than the regular Prius. Again, helping to draw attention to it both on and off of the dealer lot.
4) Toyota has a reputation for reliability and fuel efficiency.

"Let me tell you about the car you are selling..."

“Let me tell you about the car you are selling…”

When I bought my 2017 Volt recently, the salesman flat out admitted that most of the customers coming in to buy the Volt knew more about the car than their salespeople did. So it isn’t our imaginations, Volt buyers are INFORMED buyers. Tesla buyers are also informed buyers. But you have to keep in mind that 95% of the car buying public are NOT informed buyers. And so, we cannot count on people doing their homework to find the best plug-in car at the best price, with the best range. So what we need are compelling plug-in cars available at every dealership from every manufacturer.

That means we need to see more PHEVs from every manufacturer, even if they are short-range. Keep in mind that even somebody with a short range PHEV will probably eventually realize that they are driving a lot on EV power and eventually get to where they prefer that to gasoline. Their next car will likely have more range, and likely be a more informed purchase.

Not only that, but there is a lot of bickering between the pure electric elitists and the PHEV crowd. I was surprised when I put out my Volt review that on my own YouTube channel. 90% of the viewers liked the video. 5% hated it because the car was electric. Another 5% hated it because it wasn’t “electric enough” and complained that 53 miles was pathetic compared to a Tesla.

This kind of thing really baffles me. Especially when I hear the comments about carrying around a few hundred pounds of engine that you don’t use every day. I really don’t see how that’s different from carrying around hundreds of extra batteries that you don’t use every day. Except there is one difference, the engine makes the car more versatile.

Myself, I try to like every EV out there. Every one advances the cause some more. There are some I don’t really care for much. I’ve been known to insult the Mitsubishi i-Miev from time to time, because I think it gives EVs a bad name. But if people were buying that car in droves, then I wouldn’t insult it. And I think that’s where we all need to be with the upcoming Prius Prime.

22 miles of EV range may not sound like a lot, but that’s better than 99% of the new vehicles being sold on the market today. Multiply that by the thousands likely to be buying and driving them and the overall benefit to the plug-in market. We cannot be telling people not to buy a good car, just because a perfect car is somewhere on the horizon. Not only that, but what is good for one person isn’t always good for another.

Categories: Chevrolet, Sales, Toyota


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124 Comments on "Op-Ed: Perfect Is Often The Enemy Of Good In The Plug-In World"

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Not only that but the 99% need to used to a plug to begin with, once they are used to plugging in and used to the “new tech”, they might just make that step across that we all want to see happen !

I made the transition to Outlander PHEV and love the idea, now I can’t wait to go all in on BEV only as soon as a suitable 200 mile EV arrives that’s affordable.

Exactly. What I was thinking is that PHEVs will get many mainstream consumers to step into an electric vehicle, and the addiction begins!!
Great write up Jay! Very good and on target. Thanks!

Most of the people that buy any car usually know more about it than the salesman!

I wist that were true.

I still see the majority of people buy a car based more on color, than on facts.

Or, they let the dealership play the finance game and will buy whatever the dealership says they can afford.

I am a dealers worst nightmare. I don’t trade, I don’t finance, and I don’t let them play games. They have no idea what to do with me. Oh, and I actually read the entire contract. I have yet to *not* find mistakes.

“Yes, it has a barely-adequate 22 miles of range. Yes, it only has 4 seats, and apparently a lot of people believe it is ugly. Myself, I dislike the center-oriented instrument panel. And I would never personally buy one”

So, no argument then.
Instead of recommending a car you wouldn’t buy, recommend a car you would.

-I recommend leasing an i3 for 3 years, and then deciding.
Or, if you are single I recommend a Volt if you don’t need the rear seat headroom.

In one year, there will be a Bolt out and a much better Leaf.

Now, this Prius, with just 20 miles of range, that’s ok for California and the lower 20 southern states. But, in the northeast, it will lose have it’s range in winter. And as come CMax Energi owner has pointed out, if you can’t get 10 miles of range in winter, then many will simply NOT Plug It In.

So, 20 miles is Insufficient for many.

Recommend what you’d buy.

Aside from the Tesla Model 3.

Correction: The Prius will lose HALF it range in winter.

Well thought out article. I’m one of those “don’t call any car with an ICE an EV”. You do make many great points to the value of ALL plug ins. Now If we can just get the majority of owners to actually plug these cars in daily, we’d make even more inroads to reducing pollution. I had an idea where the ICE engines would have a somewhat annoying sound or vibration so people would plug in for more driving pleasure (or something similar).

People already plug in PHEVs to avoid the gas engine coming on. In fact, PHEVs plug in more often than BEVs, because of the shorter range and the desire to not use gasoline. You should read some of the reports from the EV Project analyzed by Idaho National Labs, they found that Volt owners drive nearly the same number of electric miles per year as a Leaf owner, it was 9100 compared to 9500 miles I believe. The only difference is you know the extra miles driven by the volt are 40 mpg, the leaf owner’s second car remains a mystery.


Offer choices, but recommend, as others note, “what YOU would buy.”

Always there are compromises, but a recommendation should, IMHO, be for the alternative that seems “best.”

Not perfect…..but best at this moment in time.

By “Jay Cole”?

Jay bot a Volt? Jay wrote the article?
hmmm, I don’t think so.

Sorry, that is my bad. I edited the piece for David and accidentally left my ID on it.

All credit to David Murray obviously…and author tag changed, (=

It’s Mr 8 bit. I heard Jay Cole drives a Hummer?

I’m sitting in front of an Apple IIe right now with Oregon Trail running on it. I don’t think I can save the game, so I just left it running for three days until I can get back to it again. I just hope no one pressed 1, and told it to keep walking.

I agree though, when I tell people about our Leaf, ‘perfect’ stops most of them. I suppose if I had a Volt, the price would stop them. Buying one used though may offer the best of both worlds. You’re paying half the price of a new car, so how perfect does it really need to be at that point. My used Leaf was $20k less than MSRP. Is it perfect as new car? I don’t know. I like it for what I paid though.

European point of view

Good contribution .
Just to say that as a “French guy” I checked “le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” . It was first written by Saint Thomas d’Aquin at the 13e Century.
Voltaire is one of the prominent 18Th cent. philosophers .
Anyway , thanks for this French touch .


Very nice piece indeed. Thanks a lot. I too like that phrase. Having moved to France lately I am just working on getting rid of my German tendency for perfection.

I even convinced myself that it is not a necessity to paint one complete room in one rush. (funnily enough my wife had that insight even before me so no need for discussion…) man you should take a look at that house. I even decided that I don’t use that fancy laser stuff (which was hard for me) no rectangular degree here! And guess what. I love it!

Back to the topic: this is one of the best written pieces ever seen.

Let’s all stop fighting and work together for a (possibly slow but steady) transformation to a better (cleaner) future for us and our children!

Yes! Excellent piece. Thank you David for such a well-written and balanced article. Don’t let the bickering few (1%) influence the reality. No one car is perfect for every task, or every person. My driving needs would fit perfectly with the original PiP or new Prime model. However, the Leaf arrived in my area first (yup, even before the Volt), so that’s what I’ll be driving until the battery won’t make 10 mi RT to the grocery store in the winter. I’m guessing 2030, about the time I stop driving.

Low AER is not OK! It makes little sense for “clueless public” to go through researching EVSE and the trouble of plugging in when AER is so low. PiP for most parts will be just a typical gas car.

More infuriating is them taking EV charging spots without plugging in, thinking they’re entitled to “park” there! Again, “clueless public” that you mention who don’t bother finding out about EV in the first place.

What is doing better is creating buzz, especially the likes of P90DL. In my case, the big buzz came when Chevy’s lower lease pricing hit the popular media. Before then, I was one of the “clueless”, though I was more informed than the salesman after 30 minutes of web search. Interestingly, insideevs and other EV oriented web sites had lot to do with that.

So nyet to Prius plugin (or Prime), yay to insideevs!


I could not concur more wholeheartedly. Yes, perfect is sometimes the enemy of the good. But to claim that asking for more than 22 miles of AER is to demand perfection (the impossible!) is absolutely ridiculous!

By the way, the contention that the Prime will matter more than any other car until Model 3 arrives appears insanely optimistic. Toyotas sales target is 20,000 cars. Considering that most of these displace other variants of the Prius, it is a little bit difficult to understand how this is supposed to have more impact than the 70-80,000 BMW 7-series, Mercedes S-class and Porsche Panamera that are displaced by Model S and X this year alone.

Great article. When I discuss EVs with folks, I always mention the Volt if they have a negative reaction to the range of my Leaf.

Leaf beat out Volt for me due to Volts tiny back seat.

The Volt is technology that will be obsolete long before the car itself is worn out. If we look only at the static picture right now, with big batteries for long range being so expensive, the Volt actually does make sense. It can be driven like a BEV the *vast* majority of the time by the *vast* majority of owners. Since it minimizes the damage caused by its own ICE tech remnants it is an acceptable proposition. However, from an engineering point of view… what a tragic, tragic thing a hybrid is. Serial hybrids are admittedly a little less stupid than parallel ones, but still, it is difficult to regard any hybrid as anything but an extremely clumsy workaround. Which of course is what they are – workarounds. Basically we admit we’re not really able to solve the problem of affordable ZEV today, so we made this workaround. And this pragmatism is probably fine. But I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy such a workaround-based thing when the very same manufacturer is delivering a car later THIS YEAR that shows the time for workarounds is already over! Well, let me moderate that. For some very few people, like… Read more »

Car such as Volt solves more than range problem. It also solves the problem with lack of infrastructure by using existing ones, gas stations.

That is why Bolt won’t work as it doesn’t have the infrastructure support like the Volt.

Yes, the “compromise” is there for the lack of infrastructure.

Also, your comment about parallel hybrid being worse is stupid. Parallel hybrid will always be more efficient than series hybrid.

ModernMarvelFan said:

“Parallel hybrid will always be more efficient than series hybrid.”

Then why are all diesel-electric train locomotives pure serial hybrids, rather than parallel hybrids?

I think you’re vastly over-generalizing. Just because we haven’t yet seen a compelling pure serial PHEV passenger car, doesn’t mean we never will.

Diesel electric trains don’t have large batteries to power the electric motor independently. Without batteries, parallel hybrid is meaningless.

MMF is correct. Parallel hybrid will always be more efficient in scenarios where you can run both gas engine and electric motor simultaneously, independently.

“Then why are all diesel-electric train locomotives pure serial hybrids, rather than parallel hybrids?”

That is because of the torque needed for low end/low rpm. It would require a tons of gears to achieve those high torque and far more complex to do so than using electric drives. Also, with high number of gears, the service requirement and weight will increase as well.

“I think you’re vastly over-generalizing. Just because we haven’t yet seen a compelling pure serial PHEV passenger car, doesn’t mean we never will.””

It is simple physics. Direct drive only has loss of gear box. That is the case of parallel configuration. In series configuration, the loss of converting power to generator (90%) and then back to electric motor (90%) will have at least 19% loss which is unavoidable.

Ah, but a pure serial gas-electric design allows the generator to run at its ideal speed.

With mechanical transmission, the engine has to run slower or faster than its ideal speed, and as a result suffers a loss of efficiency. This loss can be greater than 19%, depending…

I wish it were different, but the article described reality it pretty well 🙂 Can’t wait to see the Optprius Primes sales numbers.

I think what is being missed isn’t the EV crowd dismissing anything short of perfect, I think what may be going on is the battery technology is so far advanced past a paltry 22 miles that we’re no longer content with what was considered game-changing 10 years ago. Personally, I think a lot of ICE manufacturers are grudgingly increasing battery range in tiny increments (like the Prius) while 200-300 mile range EV’s are well on the way, or already here. Essentially, we’re not impressed with cars like the Prius any more. And I think it’s that impatient quest for a better mousetrap that’s created the rising tide lifting all boats. The Prius of today would be very impressive 10 years ago, but the car (and other hybrids like it) aren’t evolving fast enough to satisfy the changing expectations of the typical EV driver/follower. Hence the Leaf ain’t selling much any more, at least not until it approaches 200 mile range, now an unofficial industry standard. Oh and by the way, I’m sure Toyota and other ICE producers love when folks champion the cause for it’s car thats only added about 5-10 mpg over the last 10 years. Remember, at the… Read more »

… and our 2000 Honda Insight has averaged 65 mpg over its lifetime. But both our Insight and your Metro are tiny featherweights compared with the Prius, and neither has the Prius’ safety equipment and tech, all of which add weight. So the Prius is an impressive car in its own ways.

Geo Metro aka Suzuki Cultus didn’t have better fuel consumption than Prius at that time:
And Prius improved over the years significantly. Somobody’s personal average means little, it may be significantly different from EPA just because of driving conditions.
And my bicycle averages 0 mpg, 0 mpge and 0 kWh 😉

You must not eat then.

I bet your daily intake is at least 2500 kcal, which is roughly 3 kWh.

If we now do “MPGe” the way Volt drivers calculate their “fuel consumption” (dividing miles driven by gallons put in fuel tank, ignoring electrical energy completely) we simply assume that 100% of the energy you consume goes to biking (and certainly none to weight gain!). Furthermore, you bike on average just half a mile per day (I’m pulling numbers out of thin air of course)… and voila, you are in fact consuming 6 kWh PER MILE.

You are, in other words, tragically inefficient – about 3 MPGe!

It assumes that I would not eat if I would not “drive” bicycle. It is not the case, I would eat anyway. And not likely I will eat less. More likely I would eat the same and would need exercise. To exercise I would need to drive a car to gym and it would waste even more resources. Or I would get fat and sick from lack of exercising and would get constantly driven by ambulance to closest hospital, and it is a big waste too 😉

You’re presuming that the statistic we care about is “total energy consumed,” which is not necessarily the case.

Suppose that there is a worldwide carrot famine and the only available source is a fascist South American dictatorship that uses slave labor to harvest carrots. In such a scenario, “How much food did you eat last week?” and “How many carrots did you eat last week?” are not remotely the same question.

This is what many Volt drivers are referring to when they reference their MPG. And many BEV owners brag about “never eating carrots at all”… as long as you ignore the fact that whenever they take a long trip, they eat nothing but carrots the whole time.

Bevo said:

“I think what is being missed isn’t the EV crowd dismissing anything short of perfect, I think what may be going on is the battery technology is so far advanced past a paltry 22 miles that we’re no longer content with what was considered game-changing 10 years ago.”

Thank you for stating that position so well.

The article takes the position that “Half a loaf is better than none.” While I agree, I think the time has passed when a 22 mile range PHEV is half a loaf. The bar has been raised; a mere 22 miles of all-electric range is more like a mere quarter of a loaf. And while a quarter of a loaf is still better than none, it’s settling for less. A lot less.


I agree that the Toyota Prius Prime will be a popular seller, because the Prius brand is strong and people like Toyota reliability.

But it is disappointing to see Toyota trail the entire auto industry fifteen years after producing one of the most popular gen 1 EVs made (RAV4 EV).

About 50% of the tips made in 20-mile electric range cars are all electric. That goes up to about 70% st 35 miles and will probably be about 90% or better at 53 miles (Volt).

I agree. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. But also don’t settle for half-assed solutions when you can get the real deal.


There isn’t any other real deal for regular pragmatic buyer, who doesn’t have religious demands to avoid gas at extra expense.
1. The plug gives most perks from governments even if it is short distance.
2. Price isn’t much different from regular Prius.
3. Fuel expense isn’t significantly different between $2/gal gas for 55 mpg car and $0.13 electricity, so who cares really. So what is the point to pay more for longer distance plugin hybrid that probably will have worse fuel economy on long distance travel? And cars like Volt are not even available in every country. Bigger battery is not free and weights extra. Pure battery car is fine as dedicated commuter car and can be bought relatively cheap used, but it looses any sense if you need to maintain additional gas car as backup both for economical and environmental reasons – most people either don’t have parking space for it or don’t want extra maintenance trouble & insurance costs.

These are the reasons Toyota sold 9 million hybrids that make some real difference in the world, even if it didn’t made anything amazing or whooping or sensational, just big numbers that add up.

I guess most people don’t run spreadsheets with projections of gasoline and electricity prices for the next ten years.

I do.

We aren’t going to be seeing $2 gas and $0.13 electricity forever. Gas will go up for the next few years, and then go down again but not that much.

Electricity, however, will go down, down, down, down. The price of electricity is capped by the LCOE of rooftop solar, which is currently $0.14 in shady areas of the snowbelt, and dropping.

With these trends, it makes sense to buy a car which is capable of running on electrity for daily usage. A Volt can and most Volt drivers do. A Plug-in Prius… probably can’t, unless you have a very short commute. If you do have a very short commute, it may make sense. Or if you plan to replace your car after 4 years.

You don’t what price of oil will be next year. Assuming it will go significantly up and will create new bubble is totally irrational wishful thinking. No market analysts expects it. Limited increase during couple of years, yes. Return to $100/barrel bubble for significant time, no way. If batteries somehow magically will drop in price soon, so will the oil.

Yes solar and wind electricity goes down in price very quick. You are assuming grid electricity will go down too. It is proven wrong in multiple countries. Germany, Denmark got high share of renewables. Their residential electricity went to 0.30 EUR/kWh. California, electricity is far from cheap too. You have no batteries that would make economical sense to store solar and disconnect for grid, or for grid to store electricity for long time. Don’t expect price of electricity to drop significantly within next few years. After few years it is likely you will be looking for another car anyway.

Love the Volt, both I and II.
Don’t like purism of any kind.
Like you, I think it’ll be great whenever a Prime gets sold instead of an ICE Toyota.
But I think that Toyota could have made a much better effort than the Prime, and much sooner.

I accept that Toyota dealerships likely push Prii more than GM dealerships push Volt, but much of the Prius constituency has already moved on to BEVs or to the Volt.

The Prius as a brand is on a sharp down-swing. I’m afraid that the Prime won’t be as big of a deal as you think it will be. But before 2016 ends we’ll have a much better idea about that 🙂


+ 1

Fully agree.

As I mentioned in a previous comment, Toyota and the Prius did not contribute to advancing the EV cause. Their dealers are just as sucky (Roseville Toyota in Sacramento is the worst of the lot – they’ll con you and then bully you).

For this article to suggest that the Prime is a lesser Tesla is grossly misleading and wholly inaccurate.

There are better PHEV’s – Volt, Fusion Energi. The fact that the Prius sold as many as it did is because they are strangely enough, a good percentage of people here in California who would never consider anything other than Toyotas and Hondas.

[Standing and Clapping] Bravo, Bravo!

Everyone here needs a reminder that we are all on the same team.

+ 100!

BTW, the writer is shown as Jay, but I am pretty sure based on the YouTube video that David wrote this.

Can anybody confirm? Maybe fix the author?

Yeah, this would have made sense in 2011.
In 2016 it is behind the times.

“with the government credit it costs no more than the regular Prius.” That’s what the federal tax incentive was supposed to do in the first place. It was supposed to make EV’s just as affordable as their gas counterparts, spurring massive growth in plug-in vehicles in order to bring the cost of mass production down. Frankly, the whole plan to transition over to plug-ins isn’t going to work until all that becomes a reality. So while many of us enthusiasts are fine spending extra money to get extra range, the higher price is exactly why plug-ins are still sold mostly to enthusiasts, and have not broken into the mass market. There is no plug in with 9 million units sold, like Toyota’s line of hybrids. If we as enthusiasts want to stay the only people buying plug-ins, we can continue to bash plug-ins that we think are below us because they aren’t green enough for us. And we will continue to pay a price premium because the full benefits of mass production never get realized. Or we can embrace PHEV’s like this (which when plugged in twice a day (at work and at home) are capable of 10-15,000 miles a… Read more »

Excellent article. Thank you

So…folks hate to admit this, but most of the “EV” websites/forums are only modestly different than all the other car forums. The folks who frequent them end up being fans of that specific car as much as they are fans of “electric”.

It won’t be long before folks will have to acknowledge its a car…not a “cause”. That day isn’t here yet, but with every passing year we’ll see greater electrification of automotive fleets and Camaros/Mustangs/Jeeps will be electrified and that will cease to be a differentiator. I guess InsideEVs disappears then too! Sorry Jay!

To get rid of burning fossil fuels is a cause. They are killing the planet and they are killing us. To delay that, especially when the technology exists, is an accessory, an enabler of that and many of us cannot agree with it on a moral standpoint.

The more plug-ins on the road, the more pressure it puts on infrastructure. Workplace charging, home/apartment charging, public charging.

It also increases familiarity, making them less weird.

“the real enemy is. And that is, traditional internal-combustion-engine cars and trucks” Folks, please don’t try to convince your friends of EV tech (or PHEV for that matter) by calling their current ICE cars (and thus them too) an enemy. I know it makes for powerful internal group dynamics to have a common enemy (us EV owners against the baddy ICE drivers). But this is not about uniting against / for a common cause. This is about making reasonable arguments and purchasing decisions. Battle talk (as employed throughout the article) does not aid in making/keeping friends, even less in convincing them of buying EVs. It primarily aids in making enemies. The reason is in psychology: you are turning a former choice they have made against them as a form of an attack and make them look stupid/evil/irrational/environment-destroyers/money wasters/ whatevs. That feeling of being called-out will make them want to defend themselves and thus only turn them against you/us and your/our EV-centred opinion. It will make you come across as somebody who is “lecturing” them about what they should be doing. And you know how much people love being lectured to. (I know that all too well from the lecturer perspective… Read more »

Ohh, very nice. Very well written

Good writing Joe!
This is a good cool down piece.

I nominate this for Comment Of The Year! 😀

Joe said:

“[quote] the real enemy is. And that is, traditional internal-combustion-engine cars and trucks [unquote]

“…I know it makes for powerful internal group dynamics to have a common enemy (us EV owners against the baddy ICE drivers). But this is not about uniting against / for a common cause. This is about making reasonable arguments and purchasing decisions.”

Hear, hear! Thank you, Joe, for an excellently written and excellently reasoned post. (There are a lot of very well written posts in this comment thread!) I too think that argument in the article is out of place here.

The Enemy is Big Oil. Those driving gasmobiles are not the Enemy. Every one of them is a potential convert, who hopefully someday will be persuaded to drive a plug-in EV!

I generally agree with the thesis of this article, but if the author really wants to understand why some people criticize the PHEV, he need only look in the mirror and carefully examine why he sometimes criticizes the iMiev. I have a Tesla and my daughter has an iMiev so I am very familiar with both extremes of the EV market. The iMiev is an excellent urban vehicle that serves my daughter’s commuting needs perfectly. Every point you made about non-criticism applies to her situation and yet you were critical. Guess we’re all just human.

Regarding the dealership situation: Early adopters are almost always enthusiasts. No surprise they are better informed than the people who have much more to do than learn about “just one new offer from one manufacturer”. Not all sales people are enthusiasts. And not all are any good. I remember very well when I bought my first DVD player and had to tell the guy in the shop what he was actually selling. He liked my introduction so much, he bought one for himself. And that was in one heck of a huge electronics store. People adapt slowly. It is uncomfortable, it requires effort to adapt to something new, often the education alone is not enough. I agree if car makers are serious about selling EVs/PHEVs they need to work with their dealers to change things. The scenario in the article sounds all too possible indeed. So, I myself do not like the mechanics of incentive-induced behavioural change – I prefer understanding-induced self-will to change. However, as an initial strategy, dealerships could be rewarded more/special commission if they send they staff on EV trainings and sell EVs/PHEVs. That would certainly change things from a sales perspective. But, from a different perspective,… Read more »
Just a comment regarding incentives. You speak of it as if it’s a bad thing. But it is neither a bad thing or a good thing – it is just a fact. For example, if a car can go very far or is very fast or is much cheaper than another car, that provides an INCENTIVE for you to buy it. Incentives aren’t simply policy. And policy isn’t necessarily “technology-neutral” to begin with. Fossil fuels are MASSIVELY discounted because the user of the fuels carries only the cost of extracting, refining and distributing the stuff. The greater part of the cost falls on everyone collectively, regardless if they choose one way or another. It is difficult to calculate how much the fossil fuel discounts amount to. Nevertheless the International Monetary Fund had a go at it. Now, this is a bunch of economists. They are nor sandal-wearing tree-huggers (which are much nicer people btw). I don’t see why they’d attempt to exaggerate the actual costs of fossil fuels. Still their best attempt to estimate this came up with HUMONGOUS sums: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/18/fossil-fuel-companies-getting-10m-a-minute-in-subsidies-says-imf Now, regarding EV incentives policies, which is of course what you were alluding to, I happen to agree they… Read more »

Oh, I did not make myself clear enough. I was referring to dealership incentives, i.e. the incentives that the manufacturer pays to the dealer for making certain sales. I was not referring to consumer incentives.

With regard to consumers, I totally agree with you. Also in that respect, BEV incentives are just levelling the playing field given the hidden subsidies that IMF study pointed out.

Whether incentives or tax measures are “better” is a question depending on so many variables, it’s hard to even discuss it “in general”. I think with regard to EVs and hidden ICE subsidies, I would think it’d be a good start if the latter stopped while the former were implemented just as they are now, decreasing over time. A carbon tax system would be even better, but I think removing the hidden subsidy from fossil fuels will already increase their price enough to make the balance better (EVs after all require much less maintenance).

I really like basing the op-ed on a concrete thought experiment (dealership experience, in this case) — makes it very easy to relate to. Pass on the word to other folks who write op-eds! As to the actual subject, I actually doubt the Prius Prime (PRiP) will make any kind of big splash. The first time I saw a (non-PiP) Prius & read about the drivetrain in any detail was when a friend got one as a company car in 2005. It had a 1-2 mile AER at slow urban speeds. I immediately asked him, given the highly complex drivetrain with all the modes, whether Toyota had a bigger traction battery option with plug-in. It seemed the most natural thing to do — nothing in the drivetrain would need to change. It turned out “no”, but there were quite a few people doing their own (expensive) conversions. This car would have made the big splash you’re predicting in 2005… Or 2010. Right now, I think the PriP is already a has-been, and non-PHEV hybrids are out of fashion. They’re no longer the approved method for Conspicuous Conservation. The PriP itself isn’t exactly cheap either, with a ~US$31K MSRP, and eligible… Read more »

Ouch. For those who get the full tax credit, the MSRP for the Prius Prime puts it only $500 cheaper than a Model 3. For those who don’t, it’s still only $4000 cheaper.

I suppose they’ll probably discount it, but the marketing optics are still really bad. If you’re going to make a plug-in which has shorter electric range than the Model 3 and less interior space and less trunk space, it really should be cheaper…

“Ouch. For those who get the full tax credit, the MSRP for the Prius Prime puts it only $500 cheaper than a Model 3.”
Exactly. In the last 10 years, the environmentally-leading-edge to do has become “get an EV”, rather than “get a hybrid” (*). And the Bolt, with similar specs/price (the Bolt’s base price is higher, but I suspect at similar trim will end costing the same as a Model 3) is an even closer threat, given initial sales are expected this year.

(*) Of course, anyone really caring about the envcironment should, if at all possible, get rid of his/her commuter car and replace it with an e-bike / e-scooter. They take a lot less energy to produce and e-bikes use 10x less energy per mile. There are even cargo electric bikes capable of carrying 200lbs of groceries or tow small kids.

One long-range-capable vehicle should be enough for most households.

If I lived in a big city, I’d take the subway or light rail everywhere, and get a taxi when that didn’t work.

But I don’t. I live in the suburbs of a small town in a rural area. So, automobile.

The Prius Prime will suit people who commute about 20 miles each way and can recharge at work. For their long trips, they will get exceptional mpg. Owners will also benefit from Prius reliability and low servicing costs.

A lot of people are overlooking just how energy efficient the Prius Prime is. Toyota claims electricity consumption at 120 mpge, which is excellent and is particularly important if you have solar pv.

One limitation of the Prius Prime is that the electric motor is a lot less powerful than the Volt or i3, so it will fire up the gasoline engine under hard acceleration. Hence the epa rating is likely to be 0-22 miles rather than 22.

It is just a pity that the new Prius is hideous. I would expect some potential buyers to buy a Hyundai hybrid or plugin hybrid instead. I will be interested to see if Hyundai can attract trade-ins from Prius owners. So far, the Hyundai plugin hybrid is selling is small numbers.

Yeah, I too think the Hyundai Ioniq has good potential. Any EV or PHEV with decent room for passengers and cargo is the type of vehicle that many consumers are looking for. Family friendly and some utility.

The “can recharge at work” condition might be a big issue, esp. given the instability of most higher-paying jobs (e.g., the entire tech sector) in the US.

In the mid-priced segment, people who buy/lease new hold on to the car for at least 3-4 years, whereas the typical tech worker’s tenure at a job in the US is only 3.

If I cared about reducing carbon footprint, I wouldn’t buy a car that couldn’t do the roundtrip commute for my current specific job, or 1-2 standard deviations from the US mean commute, whatever is greater, plus a safety margin.

Also, I suspect there’ll be at least a couple of “real” Volt-AER-level PHEVs within the next 1-2 years (as opposed to the Euro-compliance ones the Euro manufacturers insist on doing).
The Chrysler Pacifica belongs here (for SUVs/minivans, acceptable AER is a bit lower), as does the Mitsu Outlander, and I’d be surprised if Ford doesn’t introduce a real MPV/CUV PHEV.

An army of inadequate PHEV with 3.3kw charger, or even one, can more than inconvenience BEVs due to few EVSE resources

ICE vehicles are not the competition. Yet. We need to get ANY plug-in vehicle on the road, but, they will only appeal to buyers of similar form-factor conventional drives.

Cadillac may be going (at least in lip-service) a positive direction by expousing that the entire lineup will offer PHEV versions. We’ll see how that weak commitment competes against BEVs from Audi, MB, BMW etc.

“We need to get ANY plug-in vehicle on the road”
Strongly disagree. A lackluster vehicle from a major manufacturer with the attendant reviews / feedback from first owners will leave the mainstream, non-EV-aware, public thinking
“Even Toyota, a highly respected name in real-people cars, can only do an EV with all these compromises (AER, seating for 4, cargo space) vs. the standard Prius — I guess EVs aren’t ready for prime-time yet. Kinda like the fuel-cell cars the science TV programs talk about.”

This might actually cause more near-term damage to EV adoption than if the car didn’t exist… I’m hoping they don’t sell at all.

Thanks David! Completely agree.

Aces op-ed. Thanks!

There is only one “enemy of the good” …. and that is a crap battery.

Nissan, ….. you’re starting to look like an enemy.

I’m sorry, I have zero interest in GM products, they’re a criminal company. The worst of the worst. They should be bankrupt right now. For years they were against electrics and now that they see they can’t prevent it anyway, they have a “me too wannabe” mentality. The volt is still a gasoline car. You know why they don’t sell their products around here? Because people find they’re built too cheaply…

“Perfect” post/reply to a great article!
Sorry, Rick, but you look like a fool and you make David’s point in a refreshing, amusing way!
You are the enemy.
I am surprised you didn’t throw in a gratuitous, highly original “Government Motors” comment…

I’m surprised there are so many that agree with the article in supporting Prius Prime. You’re assuming the Prius driver will plug in, either home/work, but that won’t be the case for most. As the article points out, these buyers will be uninformed and looking for low cost option. They get the car home only to find that they need EVSE and electrician work (remember, these are uninformed buyers), totaling over $1000. Meanwhile, their gasoline bill for a years is under $500. They still have to regularly service the gas engine. Would they spend over 2 years of gas money to install charger while also going to gas station and oil change like a regular car? If we assume most people drive over 44 miles a day, recoup cost is over 4 years if electricity is free. In reality, some households may end up costing more to charge than simply running the gas engine. I doubt “uninformed” buyers would put up with this hassle or even finding out. If there’s work place charging, it’s probably there due to demand (ie, other EV who use them). Would “uninformed” buyer plug in? Probably yes initially if it’s free. Then they find out… Read more »
Prius Prime can be charged from regular 110V outlet within 5.5 hours really as every review is claiming. So no surprises here, if somebody is going to pay premium for it over regular 55 mpg Prius Eco, they would know what they are doing and where they are going to charge it (or not). It doesn’t make economical sense it the US with $2/gal gas but maybe somebody has too much PV panels and net-metering incentive, or want some noblemen lane access. Yes, it is still government incentive sucking. But if government wants it, it gets what it wants. You can say the same about most electric cars for now – they would be a waste without incentives, other than scaling up the market for some future benefit for the society. It may be different e.g. in Europe where gas has high taxes and costs some $5-$6/gal. OK, electricity is also expensive but even some countries have 0.30 EUR/kWh cost, others like Norway may have only half of it. So you have both lower electrical cost for first 20 miles (if your electrical rate is cheap and you are not bored to plug/unplug it each morning), and high mpg car… Read more »

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz is 100% right. Most truly uniformed owners won’t even know there is a faster way to charge it besides just plugging it in to 110.

It will always be fully charged in the morning using 110, so they won’t even miss a $1000 dollar fast charger anyways. Many Volt owners with their longer EV range get by fine with 110 too.

Even if they get up really early in the morning to drive to the Airport or forget to plug it in one day, and the battery isn’t fully charged, they won’t notice anyways because the gas engine will take care of everything.

I could see the Prius Prime becoming popular with in the Northeast, where many people commute to work by local subway and local buses if they live in the city, and by regional transit bus or regional rail if they live in the suburbs, especially is they are a one-car family. The lower AER wouldn’t matter as much to them since they don’t use the car for their daily commute to work. The densely populated areas where they live mean that they don’t have to drive as far to for local shopping, entertainment venues, fine dining, and other after work activities, and therefore wouldn’t need as much AER. However, when they want to get away for the weekend or travel long distance for other reasons, the Prius Prime gets excellent gas mileage on the highway, reportedly 59 mpg when cruising at a steady 65 mph according to Consumer Reports.


Uninformed buyers won’t know better than Ll charging, yet they’ll go through the hassle of plug in regularly? That makes no sense. Most will not plug in. And if they have extra solar capacity, they would’ve done the research and get BEV or Volt.

In places where there are no plug in other than Prius, it could be a possibility, though I’m not aware of any such area.

As a gas car, Prius is very good. For those who need to travel long distance on regular basis, Prius would be better than Volt. But normal Pruis would do just as well. I suppose tiny bit higher post subsidy might make plug-in attractive.

But the problem of uninformed Prime drivers ICE’ing EV charging spots still remain, and I say that’s an overall negative to EV.

I completely agree with the author David Murray. I hate seeing battles between fans of different kinds of electric or hybrid cars. I have a 2016 Volt and would not have bought a Prius Prime. But that’s me. I don’t think plug-in cars have reached the tipping point; i.e. the time when it’s acceptable and almost normal to seriously consider a plug-in car. And when dealers, especially Chevy dealers, know how to promote Volts and Bolts. I want us to promote all kinds of EVs.

I haven’t read all the zillion comments that were stirred up, but I have put a PHEV on hold because of range limitations in the ‘competition’ and limitation to 4 seats. I have actively pressed my local dealers for Malibu Hybrid inventory.
I am going to save the link to this article and attach it to any and every email to a Chevrolet dealership. They are clueless as to what an electrified vehicle is. I just hope the service departments are not as ill-informed. This applies to Toyota also. The dealer where I got my Prius took 5 hours to finally give up fixing a trunk light short that had no fused circuit. Maybe in 5 years electrified vehicle feasability will reach even the salesmen.

Volt seats 5.

Wow.how true.this article was written about me.(lol) my interest in the Prius started with my wife burning through 2 16 gallon tanks of gas a week in 2011 ouch!. We got a 2012 Prius and started saving on gas loved it. I work the 4-12 shift and on the mostly empty roads home started to play with how far I could go on electric only ( slowly I crept inch by inch). The quiet drive on electricity hay I like this. Started to read more about electric cars and found inside ev.com and others. As I learned more you can say the electric bug bit me. As our family was 1 short on cars ( teen though stop spelled skid tires on pavement). Instead of another ice ( learned that hear lol) . I found a used 2013 leaf that was 14 months old with 14 k miles for a good price. And now drive electric. Compared to the Prius it has some get up and go,to a tesla s not so much. But a great commuter car for me. Now all my midnight runs home nice and quiet. As for the Prius the least was up last January. Well… Read more »

Author, just come right out and say it – you’re ranting against the insufferable, immature behavior of the Tesla fanboi’s that dominate the comments on this site.

Thanks, great essay! The bit on the dealerships really nails it. I went into a Chevy dealership earlier this year to ask about a Volt and the sales droid showed me one that was already sold, so no test drive. Then while I’m oogling it he asks me why I want a Volt. I tell him about efficiency and the technological prowess of the Voltec drivetrain and so what does he do? He tries to sell me a Malibu hybrid!

I say “yeah that’s also a Voltec drivetrain but it’s got no EV range” and he didn’t have the slightest clue what I was talking about. “No, that’s a hybrid, it doesn’t have the Voltec.”

I walked out.

Well David, the ICE is not my ‘enemy’.

Many Tesla X and S purchasers are so well healed their upscale homes have GENERAC or other branded home backup generators with internal combustion engines that are a classic pain to maintain. At least with the Prius Prime, and Volt you get an engine that is put to practical day to day use – instead of having to have constant maintenance for something that may never happen.

And many DIE HARD BEV only people cannot protest too strongly for the above reasons, and especially if you live in Hawaii or some other place that uses ICE for the commercial power for your home or business.

The Prius is a HUGE seller in my area. The PRIME should really sell here.

Perhaps the treatment at a dealership can be pre-empted by the following statement which is always my first sentence after the initial greeting.

“I’m looking for a Plug-In Car. You can show me any car you want as long as it has a plug on the side of it.”

Sooner or later, dealers will get the message.

Range is the new horse power – everybody wants more but the top selling cars are not the most powerful for the price.

The thing that worries me about the prime is it is a new separate model in the Prius line. 4 seats and a big screen scream low selling halo car to me. I hope I’m wrong.

There’s really no one size fits all…Some care about range some don’t…Currently the Tesla Model S is the king of range and offers a fast 0-60 and if you get the more expensive models you can go even quicker…

What’s really bad is that BMW didn’t put the i5 on the market to protect the sales of its other seating 5 cars. Not only that but they ironically covered the two extremes with at one end the i3 and at the other hand the i8. Two cars that show the one in between was perfectly possible but they simply didn’t want to do it. Other manufacturers like Toyota could have continue the Prius trend by offering a Prius 2 plug-in version with 100 miles ev range instead of a repeat. Now this 20 miles one is just pathetic greenwashing since Tesla and even GM are going to bring a 200 miles ev car at about the same moment for about the same price. Actually cheaper if you count the gasoline difference. Plug-in hybrids on biofuel where a good idea to get rid of oil early in the nighties but now it is simply to late because ev batteries are now able and cheap enough to cover all the needs. Ev are now going to impose a disrupt since plug-in hybrid’s softer change was never allowed to proceed.

Did the Chevy dealer try to steer him away from the Volt he bought to a Silverado? And how does he know the Toyota sales staff would necessarily be as smooth and knowledgeable as he portrays? PIP’s did not exactly fly out the door in numbers that suggest Toyota salespeople were superior to Chevy salespeople. Didn’t the Volt sell in substantially greater numbers than did the PIP in spite of GM hate and Toyota brand reverence?

No. EV success does not need to rely on the Toyota Prime’s sales success. In fact, it shouldn’t. I would be happy if it flops while Volt sales surge upward. And that the arrival of the Bolt is received with many open pocketbooks and many open minds. And that it sparks other companies into putting more effort into electrification.

I agree that any plug is better than none.

But cars like Prius Prime still relies heavily on gas where cars like Volt or BMW i3 REx don’t.

That is the key difference. We should push for more cars like the Volt (EREV) and i3 REX (BEVx) rather than low AER PHEVs…

Because in order to have more EV experience, you need to have a car that is capable to to give you a FULL EV experience. That is Volt or i3 REx, NOT Prius Prime.

I think I see a trend in opinions expressed here. It’s roughly between BEV owners where public charging is mandatory and PH owner (mainly Volt) whose public charging is optional.

When you’ve been ICED by gas cars, oh well. But when you get ICED by Prius plug in that you NEVER see actually plugged in, yet take up charging spot as parking spot presumably they think Prius plugin is an EV, that forms highly negative opinion of the car. That negative opinion is justified. Low AER cars for uniformed buyers actually hurt EV!

I tried to get information that was not online about a Volt (what’s this about adaptive cruise control: “see dealer”?)
I got something between disinterest and hostility – no answer. I don’t see how they sell ANY Volts when there are alternatives with dealers that act like they want to sell you a car.

Last I checked, Adaptive Cruise Control is not available to order yet… or at least, it wasn’t being produced yet when I bought my 2017 at the end of March. Things may have changed, though.