AD #3035 – Sienna’s Powertrain Disappoints; GM Battery Improvements; Hyundai’s Wild Van Concept

March 12th, 2021 at 11:48am

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Runtime: 9:48

0:08 BMW Invests in CO2-Free Steel
0:44 GM Teams with SES To Improve Batteries
1:46 Bollinger Reveals Class-3 EV Platform Pricing
2:38 Hyundai Unveils Wild Van Concept
3:35 Sienna’s Hybrid Powertrain Disappoints
5:46 ZF coPilot L2 Update
6:01 Australia Enacts Legislation to Protect Car Dealers
7:20 EVs Aren’t the Only Way to Fight Climate Change

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37 Comments to “AD #3035 – Sienna’s Powertrain Disappoints; GM Battery Improvements; Hyundai’s Wild Van Concept”

  1. Jon M. Says:

    What Toyota needs is for customers to complain about the powertrain. Though the media and outlets like this can be an influence, it’s really the buyers that make the immediate difference. As a long time customer owning numerous Toyotas I can attest that Toyota does in fact listen and respond. Whether regarding a vehicle, ESPECIALLY a dealer, or Toyota itself, they definitely respond.

  2. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It’s interesting how different things bother different people. I haven’t driven new Sienna yet, but I suspect the noise would be similar to my Camry hybred, with a fair amount of noise when it’s floored, but you barely hear the engine at all at constant speed. That doesn’t bother me, though significant engine noise at steady speed would bother me. It sounds like engine noise on hard acceleration is quite bothersome to Sean.

    As far as acceleration, CR got 0-60 in 8.2 seconds with the new Sienna, probably better than my turbo manual Caravan, which was the hot rod of minivans in 1989.

  3. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Also, with the Sienna, probably the way to buy it would be the lowest, or next to lowest trim level, MSRP ~$35K-37K. You wouldn’t get much for the extra money with the top trim levels.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    1 I’m not in the market for a van, but the next time I’m at the Toyota store for an oil change, I’ll test drive a Sienna. I’m curious about all this noise.

  5. GM Veteran Says:

    Interesting to see that BMW is partnering with a company in Boston on advancing steel production methods when Germany is home to the giants of the steel industry.

    Also, even though its been out for several years now, it would seem that the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid still has the best overall solution for a great minivan that gets really good mileage with no sacrifices in the driving experience.

  6. Lambo2015 Says:

    Driving any vehicle where you need to floor it to get up to HWY speed or where it sounds like the engine is being taxed hard to accelerate is bothersome to me. For an everyday driver I don’t need it to be fast by any means but I also don’t like the feeling of using everything its got, to get going.

    Totally agree with John on his segment today. The long debated environmental impact of battery technology vs ICEs will continue. Its very simple to just look at emissions going down the road but looking at the whole picture and taking into consideration the mining and recyclability of EV’s vs ICE, The “Greener” solution could still be ICE.

  7. GM Veteran Says:

    Wow! The Bollinger prices seem pretty high for a chassis cab. Seems like a well engineered and built product from what I have read, but those prices are going to keep this brand in the niche category.

    Its funny to hear that the Australian government is “hopping mad” (is that a kangaroo joke, Sean?). The Aussie gov’t is responsible for all of the changes in their automotive market. After they changed the financial supports for the OEMs that had been in place for a long time, all of the auto companies closed their factories and left. They warned the government that they would have to do this if they revised the financial supports, and the government went ahead and did it anyway. So, if they want to be mad at somebody, they should just look in the mirror.

    However, GM and the other OEMs should be respecting the agreements with their dealers in terms of warranty service and providing parts availability. Not doing so would be a significant ethical lapse.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    5 The Pacifica hybrid wouldn’t get the mpg of the Sienna, but would be more refined. For those who do short trips, the ~30 miles of plug-in range of the Pacifica hybrid would be very useful.

    I’ve always liked the idea of nuclear power, but I’m curious about how “green” it is, considering the huge amounts of concrete and other energy intense materials it takes to build a nuclear plant. I suspect a nuclear plant would “pay for” its energy use to build in a fairly short time, but I haven’t been able to find any info about it.

  9. George Ricci Says:

    Don’t get too excited about efuels, there are efficiency issues with making them that would have to be solved. https://theicct.org/blog/staff/e-fuels-will-not-save-ice

    Ultimately, all the different approaches to a cleaner world, comes back to getting the power grid mostly converted to renewable sources.

    The other thing to remember is that when you take energy in form and try and convert it into a different form, its never 100% efficient. So an EV can use the electricity without conversion (minus the battery loss) is still going to be must efficient. The best use of efuels might be in airplanes where low weight is the most important thing.

  10. Buzzerd Says:

    So many vehicles have been sales flops because the manufacturer didn’t give it enough power. Usually it’s more of a sports car or truck but lots of people use vans for towing of larger loads, hands capping it with a barely adequate motor doesn’t see like a good plan.

  11. David Says:

    Toyota is not known for exciting cars but reliability. Our 2015 Sienna [snore] was replaced by our similarly sized Tesla X which blasts the doors of our C7 My son test drove a Prius Prime and said “It’s a car” What can I say, Gearheads unite against boredom

  12. Kit Gerhart Says:

    10 The best selling non-pickups in the US, RAV4 and CR-V are no quicker than the Sienna. Yeah, the sound of those under hard acceleration is probably more pleasant, or might be. The best selling “Detroit three” non-pickup is Chevy Equinox, which is more than a second slower to 60 than a RAV4 or CR-V. I’m using CR acceleration numbers. They are easy to compare using their web site, and the vehicles are all tested the same way, so should be good to compare.

    The new Sienna is not rated to tow, and if towing more than a few hundred pounds, I’m sure there would be too-frequent loud engine noise, even for me.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    9 The best use of e-fuels is to burn used fryer oil in the trucks delivering to McDonald’s.

  14. Kevin A Says:

    Here are even more easy and effective ways to reduce GHGs without needing to wait for EVs.

    1. Switch coal generating plants to natural gas. Natural gas is inexpensive and plentiful and conversion can be as simple as re-jetting the boilers. You only need to build a completely new plant if you need the extra few points of efficiency a new plant would have.

    Also, coal mining is much more energy intensive and polluting than natural gas exploration, so you win twice.

    2. Ban all gasoline powered lawn care equipment. Electrical versions exist of all lawn care products, right up to ride on mowers.

    It is only a choice to use gas powered equipment. Most of that equipment is imported as well, wasting energy and creating pollution on it’s way here. This could be phased in by banning new sale and repair of this equipment.

    3. Ban ‘off road only’ exemptions for all transportation equipment. There is no reason that aircraft, boats, freighters, dirt bikes,
    ATVs, skidoos, Kubotas, portable generators and construction equipment can’t meet existing environmental standards.

    Again, this could be phased in by banning new sale and repair of this equipment. In some US states (Utah for example) you can get an ‘off-road only’ exemption that allows you to pollute, then drive the vehicle on the road anyway.

    4. Instead of subsidies for electric vehicles, add taxes to non-electric. This doesn’t change the amount of pollution, but should make people more aware plus help the government treasury.

    5. Ban commercial vehicles from non-corporate use. The whole point of the car vs truck distinction in the fuel economy and pollution regulations, was to allow businesses to have ‘more capable’ vehicles when they need those capabilities.

    A soccer mom does not have a legitimate need to tow 30,000 lbs in her Hemi or diesel pickup.

    6. Ban corporations from claiming fuel costs as an expense on their taxes. This is much like the restriction that prevents companies in Canada from claiming liquor and lunches as a business expense. It doesn’t stop them from spending the money, it just penalizes them if they do it wastefully. (especially when combined with #5)

    7. Only certify the top 50% of vehicles for sale based on pollution efficiency. People buy what is available in each ‘usage class’.

    If the worst polluters were not available, no one could buy them. People would still have lots of choice and electric, hybrid, CNG, and start-stop offerings would quickly become standard across the board.

    8. Require that ALL government owned or funded vehicles be the most pollution efficient ones available. No more Hemi-Chargers for police cruising. They use aircraft to follow serious speeders any way.

    9. Electrify or CNG all train routes. Just as fast and convenient. Way less polluting.

  15. Kit Gerhart Says:

    14 I was in the market for a riding mower last spring when up north, and checked out electric ones. The one I considered was a Ryobi, but it would be marginal for doing my lawn on one charge. Also, it used lead acid batteries which would probably last only 3-4 years. Some reviews I saw said less than that.

    I use a push mower for “trimming,”, and if I need a new one, it will definitely be electric. I use the push mower only about twice a month, and the one I have, while far from worn out, never starts very easily. Battery electric would be great for that use. I suspect if I hadn’t needed a new rider for another year or two, I would have gotten an electric one. I’m sure more, and better ones are coming to market all the time.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    14,4 As I mentioned yesterday, US states are adding “surcharges” for registering electric cars, that are more money than the gas tax for an ICE vehicle driven a “normal” ~15K miles a year. It’s crazy that even Georgia or Florida would enact a punitive tax on EVs.

  17. JWH Says:

    #8 – Nuclear Power – Many years ago I was a fan of this, however, while taking evening classes at U/M back in the 70′s some of the students worked in the nuclear power industry & I learned about the high decommissioning costs of nuclear plants.
    At the time, decommissioning costs were rarely mentioned. & learning how high these costs were changed my opinion. Having said all that, not sure if the situation is different today.

    Similar to how rabid EV fans don’t seem to acknowledge pollution from generation electric power, & only talk about how their EV’s don’t generate pollutants when they drive.

  18. Lambo2015 Says:

    15 Since we’ve had a couple days of nice weather I’ve been doing some much needed yard work and tree trimming. I don’t need or use a chainsaw much so I bought an electric one. Its not cordless but my yard isn’t so big that I cant reach anywhere without 100″ cord. My brother has a gas saw but much like me doesn’t use it often enough and so its always a PITA to get started and rarely runs right without a lot of messing around. This electric saw just needs plugged in and some bar oil and worked great. I even took down a 50′ pine tree about 16″ in diameter at the base. Never stalled the electric motor and I am impressed. Best part was it was less expensive than a gas counterpart (about half) much like EVs should be. When my mower needs replaced I will certainly look at an electric one. Quieter and also runs every-time no stale gas problems.

  19. Albemarle Says:

    The production of gas is just too carbon dense so ICE is not the long term solution. However, I agree with John. We need to do something now, not just wait around. The existing car fleet will be with us for decades. Lets clean them up fast with better fuel. It would be a big improvement.
    I don’t hold out much hope though. Remember the decades of stalling by the oil industry about getting sulphur out of diesel? Maybe the gov’t needs to threaten the $22B to $50B support given annually to the industry in the U.S.?

  20. MERKUR DRIVER Says:

    18) I’ve had a battery electric push mower for 5 years now. The brand is EGO. I have not needed to replace the battery or do literally anything. Just put the battery in and go year after year. So much nicer than anything gas powered I have had in the past. Much quieter too. I could mow at 4AM and nobody would know it. I won’t ever do that, but I could.

    Electric ride on would be a challenge though. Luckily my lawn is not large enough for an electric ride on mower. The commercial lawn care persons probably would not be able to do full electric due to the run time that they would need per day. Unless they carted around a trailer full of batteries and another with equipment.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    20 Does your mower have lithium batteries?

    An electric riding mower with enough run time to mow two acres or so should be easily doable with lithium batteries, but might be pricey. Where I am in Florida, it seems like most people use mowing services. For that type of use, mowers would need to have quick change batteries to get through a day’s use.

    18 A corded electric chain saw would be great. I have a 40-some year old gas one that will no longer run, and was always a pain, only being used about once every three years. The corded electric would be perfect, as long as you have a long enough cord. It could sit for 10 years, and then work perfectly. Gas ones certainly won’t, nor would a battery electric.

  22. Ziggy Says:

    I tried a small corded electric chain saw for pruning trees and it worked OK but the oilier kept leaking when I would store it so I got a Ryobi battery electric reciprocating saw that works great, no oil needed and I can change saw blades in about 5 seconds to handle whatever size branch or small diameter tree I need to cut. I’ve had pretty good luck with Ryobi tools and batteries over the years for all my yard work, they’re not perfect but so much more convenient than gas powered tools of the same size and cost.

  23. Mark Garnett Says:

    eFuels are a non starter, clearly they use a lot of energy and even if that energy was free/clean you’d get a lot further using it in an EV.
    I’m all for considering any zero (or close to zero) emission solution but still burning stuff is not the answer, you’ll still get pollution and even if you don’t believe in man-caused climate change, you can see/smell air pollution (even though much of the pollution is odourless and colourless).
    I don’t understand John’s enthusiasm to try keep burning stuff when it’s now clear EVs are already viable, affordable and the batteries (lasting longer than any one thought) can be 100% recycled. EVs are better than their ICE counterparts, it’s not like we asking folks to downgrade.

  24. Sean Wagner Says:

    Concerning the Toyota Sienna, Motor1 pinpoints the problem, quote: “Our only complaint is that the transition between the gas engine and electric motors can sound harsh, but it’s only an issue when you really give it the beans”. Unquote. Incidentally, the much-lauded RAV4 Prime features a very much bigger battery.

    As the grid gets greener, so do EVs. And the big corporations are at the forefront of dialing in supplies of utility-scale renewable power.

    VW’s Zwickau plant (where the ID.3 is built) runs on renewables, and Tesla’s Berlin/Brandenburg factory will benefit from the regions large-scale investments in wind energy. GM has similar ambitions in the US.

    I happened to see my first big electric garbage truck this week (in Europe) – it’s really no contest.

    That being said, for fun I still like my underhood explosions and manual gear selection.

    New nuclear power plants in Western countries regularly come in way over budget and colossally late (France, Finland, the UK, Vogtle in Georgia for the US).

    Maybe a new generation of smaller, simpler, and safer modular reactors will allow manufacturing cadence to pick up.

    But in the US, equivalently sized (onshore) wind and solar power plants are going up in record time, even compared with many other countries. It’s actually really impressive.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    23 Corn based ethanol is a big industry in Indiana, both for mega farmers that grow the corn, and companies that process it. It never seemed to make much sense, environmentally, given that it takes a lot of energy to process the corn into methanol, and it runs up food prices.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    24 A little surprisingly, for a new model, the Sienna’s battery is NiMH. I think Toyota is still using NiMH for some versions of Camry hybrid, and maybe Prius, though my Camry LE hybrid has a Li-ion battery. There would be plenty of space in the van for the smallish, 1.9 kWh battery, but I’ve read that Li-ion has a little better charge-discharge efficiency, so I’m surprised they don’t use them.

    I just read the Motor 1 review, and they seemed to like the powertrain in the Sienna just fine. Such things are in the eye (ear) of the beholder. Surprisingly, CR got a very good 8.2 second 0-60 with the 4585 pound Sienna, a tenth better than the V6 Pacifica hybrid, and better than most of the compact CUVs. I guess those electric motors help give the Sienna a good jump off the line.

  27. stryder13 Says:

    I agree with John! EV proponents never seem to consider let alone mention where the electricity comes from. I believe that non-green sources of electricity currently out number green sources which would minimize the advantages of EV powered vehicles. Nobody seems to mention the cost of upgrading existing power distribution systems either and surely that will be required as the number of EVs increases. And absolutely no one mentions the fact that each vehicle whether EV or ICE has a heat signature (ie: cooling system) that is warming the atmosphere of our planet. Like John says, i think as many solutions to global warming should be explored as are available and reducing/eliminating global warming should be the focus not the technology.

  28. Kit Gerhart Says:

    27. EVs are much more efficient than ICE vehicles, but the efficiency of the nat gas and coal power plants and distribution also matters. Of course, renewable power sources are best.

    The thing I’d like to know, is what is the total environmental footprint of making, and ultimately recycling the batteries? That comes in several forms, from greenhouse gas emissions to environmental damage at mining sites. It seems difficult to find information about that, at least from google searches.

  29. ChuckGrenci Says:

    I can’t verify the data (see link) but it remains, that the ‘elephant’ in the room is still southeast Asia (predominantly China). While our efforts are gallant, we’re still spitting into the wind in our effort (without a global approach). https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-worlds-coal-power-plants

  30. Lambo2015 Says:

    23 An EV certainly would be a downgrade for me. I would have to spend more money for a vehicle that gets less range takes way longer to refuel and without a home charger I would also need to upgrade my home electrical system and add a charger. I would probably still need to find some places where I could charge nearby which in the city of Toledo there are currently only 5 charging stations and 3 Tesla stations. Spending more money for something less convenient seems like a definite downgrade.

  31. Lambo2015 Says:

    28 I too would like to see a good breakdown on a true comparison of an ICE and an EV. Take away all the things that are similar like chassis, body, tire’s and interior that basically use the same materials and are capable of being made identical for recycle purposes.
    So the main differences are the (battery/motor) and (engine/transmission/fuel system). Take the carbon footprint to takes from start to finish and you would have a much clearer picture. I suppose it would be difficult otherwise it would have been done already. But when you try and decipher a total impact to drill for oil and mine for Ore and Bauxite to make iron and aluminum castings and then the machining and heat treating etc. Break all that down for a single vehicle and do all the same for an EV and the battery production and electric motor would be a huge task.
    Then comes in operating impact and as everyone points out depending how your electric is generated makes a huge difference.
    So someone could go through all those calculations and get a fairly good idea and discover that the overall difference isn’t that great, or maybe its huge but it still doesn’t resolve the shortcomings that are holding EVs back. I think the obvious result is we need more renewable energy and a way to replace the coal and NG burning electric plants. As our government is wasting billions of our dollars on support to other countries and pet projects under the guise of a stimulus check it sure would have been nice to actually have made an impact in this area.

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Lordstown Motors in the news, and not it a good way.

    https://www.thedrive.com/news/39755/lordstown-motors-faked-orders-for-electric-pickup-thats-years-behind-schedule-report

  33. Sean Wagner Says:

    The transition is going to need 15 years at least, and that’s just for the daily drivers. I think it pays to keep that in mind. Though it doesn’t follow new vehicles with ICEs will remain economically viable that long.

    Battery prices will continue their gradual descent while improving on other parameters, and recycling costs and capabilities will follow a similar curve.

    The latter is going to be a good business for innovative companies to be in. There’s quite some action in the sector, and that will only increase.

    While presently, a smaller EV can actually be nicer to drive than a bigger ICE with an identical price thanks to that insta-torque. But it clearly doesn’t work for everyone – yet.

    On the power production side, the price of renewables means only natural gas still stands a chance as an alternative. While some people are all agog about the magical 100% target (easy to postulate…) we really have a lot to learn, but getting nearer can be done.

    Germany generated 45% of its electricity with renewables in 2020. See https://www.statista.com/statistics/736640/energy-mix-germany/

    A small aside: even Texas’ big nuclear plant went offline during the recent fiasco.

  34. Lambo2015 Says:

    32 Well that’s not so surprising as many here mentioned when they were touting the 100k in pre-orders, that it seemed hard to believe. So Steve Burns “allegedly” got some of his buddies to create companies that placed pre-orders to the tune of 735 Million to drive up stock. Which I think a lot of the EV start -ups are doing.
    Even Tesla had enough pre-orders to cover 18 months of production before they even started but somehow people were able to order 6 months in and get delivery within the first year of production and no one ever questioned it. Luckily for Tesla the demand did seem to propagate as time went on. Sadly with these other EV truck manufacturers, investors may find a severe drop in sales month after start of production. Yeah this is not good news for Lordstown and I’d bet Sean will talk about this today.

  35. Carl Says:

    MotorTrend magazine also thinks the Toyota Sienna minivan’s powertrain sucks. Think they said it was down about 45HP compared to last years model.

    I would never buy ANY VEHICLE that uses a CVT. Bad technology. Period.

  36. Kit Gerhart Says:

    35 Down on power, but twice the city mpg, and barely slower acceleration.

  37. Bobby T Says:

    22, I haven’t used my gas chain saw since I bought my cordless Milwaukee Sawzall about ten years ago. Slower than a chainsaw but good enough for cutting most branches. I leave the big stuff to the pros.
    14,I worry about the fate of collector cars when the government starts talking about banning the sale of replacement parts.