Friday, April 19, 2013

I'm a little disappointed in my new Prius

Yes, very high ownership reviews won't satisfy everyone. I'm a little disappointed in my new Prius V, and here is why.

A few weeks ago, the old 1991 Toyota Camry we had been driving was stolen from in-front of our apartment. Annoying, yes, but we were in the market for a new car anyway, and this gave us the opportunity (read: imperative) to get our act together and finally get our new car. After an exhaustive cost-benefit analysis, we concluded that the models that made the most sense were the Honda Civic and Insight hybrids, and the Toyota Prius models. Because we're a growing family, my wife and I decided that it was time to be boring station-wagon parents, so we opted for the Prius V. Factoring in the cost of purchase, financing and gas, we concluded that the Prius V was going to be more expensive over the long-run, but the warranty for buying Certified Pre-Owned and the space it afforded made it worthwhile. Plus, with slightly higher EPA MPG estimates, we concluded that the more expensive gas becomes, the more it makes sense to buy Prius rather than another model.

I've been driving our Pre-Owned, Barcelona Red Prius around for two weeks now, and it's wonderful, especially when compared to our previous vehicle. I've also been able to out-perform EPA estimates on almost every average drive, getting roughly 49 MPG compared to the estimated 43. Thanks to a few driving tricks and a little patience, this is entirely possible. So why am I disappointed?

I expected more. I assumed, and partially-correctly, that the reason people can't make the most of their cars is due to their laziness. They don't want to wait for the car to accelerate, they don't care to back off the accelerator slightly to bring the car into EV mode, or they do silly things like accelerate downhill using the gas engine and then begin riding the brakes, essentially wasting the earth's natural gravitational pull. I expected that, using my tricks, I would be able to push my gas mileage up to 75 MPG or higher. But there is one problem that keeps me from doing this, and in general, prevents the Prius or any other hybrid from completely replacing the traditional Internal Combustion Engine: the electric motor just isn't strong enough.

If you want to accelerate to cruising speed, using only the electric motor, on your standard city/suburban road, it will take a while. Without traffic, and with great patience, this is possible. With traffic, or with a heavy foot, it is not. Until car companies can offer an EV engine that can get you up to cruising speed at the same rate as a traditional ICE, a hybrid engine won't be a suitable option for many people.

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