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djberg96 (2603)

djberg96
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Journal of djberg96 (2603)

Thursday May 13, 2004
12:45 AM

Hybrid controversy

[ #18729 ]
I noticed the Wired Article that discusses the mileage issues with regards to Hybrid cars. In case you've missed any of my previous journal entries, let me summarize my experiences with my 2001 Toyota Prius.

First, let's talk about mileage. The sticker said 52 mpg city, 45 mpg highway. Presumably they listed the city mileage higher because of the braking energy reclamation that occurs with this car. The reality has been that I only get about 44 mpg in the city, but I get better gas mileage on the highway. My record is 57 mpg, though I probably average about 47, even in the mountains. The latest models get even better mileage.

My daily commute consists of about 13 miles (6.5 each way) with about a dozen potential stoplights between here and work, with several hills along the way. My daily commute in Minneapolis was longer, though flatter, yet I managed roughly the same mileage.

The one thing that really kills the mileage on this car is the heater. My all time low was about 30 mpg during a long, cold Minnesota winter, though on average I generally get about a 4-5 mpg drop in the winter. The AC only drops it a little - probably 1-2 mpg. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that they cause mileage drops on *all* cars. Also, driving style can make a big difference - up to about 5 mpg based on my personal experiences testing out slow acceleration vs fast, quick braking versus gradual, etc.

Next, let's talk about power. My car has a total HP of about 95. It sounds low, but it's a non-factor. Why? Because the electric motor generates a lot of torque, which means that I can out-accelerate most 4 cylinder, and some 6 cylinder, vehicles on flat roads *and* steep hills. Only the turbo diesels can outperform me cylinder for cylinder I'd dare say. Oh, and the 2004 model has a combined HP of about 135.

Lastly, let's talk about space. My cab space is as big, if not bigger than, most small and mid size cars. Don't believe me? The first thing to realize is that the engine compartment is *small*. Most of this car is taken up by the cab. The second thing to realize is that it has a slightly bubbled top, which gives you more head room. I've had 4 people in the car, no problem, and the all say they're surprisingly comfortable.

Lastly, let's talk about emissions. My car, mile per mile, generates fewer emissions that other cars. Why? Because when the Prius is idle the engine *shuts off*. So, when I come to a stoplight, or I'm backing out of the parking lot, the Prius generates ZERO emissions.

I haven't read the Prius message boards in a while, but I suspect the bulk of the complaints come from the Honda Insight crowd. It's a dumb little two-seater with no power. I suspect the lack of HP causes the engine to work overtime, which is why the gas mileage generally sucks under anything less than ideal conditions.

One final note. Although hybrids are a good way for people like me to feel good about themselves, environmentally speaking, automobiles only account for about 10% of worldwide emissions. The vast majority of emissions come from power plants. The worst air polluters, from what I understand, are the old coal plants that haven't been upgraded in 40 years. But, that's another story.

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  • I don't know jack about cars, but my co-worker does. He talked recently about some of these issues here [denovich.org] and here [denovich.org].
  • Very cool that you've got a Prius and are enjoying it. My car is slowly dying and I'm on the waiting list for a new Prius. I'm 13 at the dealership and they're getting about 1 per month. That means I could be waiting a year.

    I also read the Wired article and while it did seem to focus on the Honda, I was a little concerned about actual performance of the Prius. Nice to hear about your actual experience. Not that I would have cancelled my order. There are a ton of other amazing features to make it a cool ca

    • What I would *really* like to see is a diesel hybrid. Chrysler was working on one that was going to get 80 mpg, but cancelled the program because they didn't think there was going to be enough ROI.

      I'm surprised the Germans haven't come out with a hybrid diesel. Imagine a hybrid turbo diesel VW Beetle . All that power, plus gobs of torque. Scary.

    • Are there any problems with hybrids when you're living somewhere where it can get way below freezing in the winter?
      • The first winter I spent in Minneapolis was long and cold, with every day below freezing in December and January, and many days below zero. I never once had a problem with it and it never failed to start.

        The only thing that happened was that my mileage dropped to the low 30's because I was running the heater full blast all the time.

      • I can also pass along one of the features the salesman told me about. Apparently, the engine contains a large thermos that sucks in all of the hot engine fluids when you stop the car. This thermos keeps the fluids hot for up to 5 days so when you start the car again it can get warm again quickly.

        My guess is they need to do this because the small engine doesn't throw off a ton of heat, and when you are on electric, they must run an electric-based heater.

        Living in a cold climate, my question is why isn't

        • It's possible, but not something I remember reading about. I suspect it's a newer feature, because my car takes a few minutes to get warmed up, though it's still relatively (and surprisingly) quick - probably 3-4 minutes on average. It's a non-issue.

          My main complaint with the 2004 model is that they went overboard with the computer controls. The 2001 model kept a simple manual layout for the A/C and heater controls, while I think the 2004 has gobs of buttons to push, plus an unusual ignition system.

  • I wouldn't mind a hybrid or some other alternative fuelled car, but I need a large car for all my stuff. We have a Suburban. Someday, maybe there will be a suitable vehicle for me. Today, there is not.

    But yeah, cars are not the real problem anyway, either in terms of pollution or oil consumption. They are a minority of the problem in both. However, cars are the things we can most easily, as consumers and voters, control.

    The funny thing I almost never see people mention is that a geek who has a lot of