Toyota Prius C Hybrid Car Test Drive and Review

Toyota Prius C Hybrid Car Test Drive and Review

John Addison Loading Bikes in Prius CBy John Addison (6/28/12)

 

I see a soaring hang glider as I look up through the sunroof of this sporty hybrid. This new Prius c is a pleasure to drive along the cliffs of Pacific Coast Highway overlooking the ocean. This hybrid has handled well through sharp turns, accelerating quickly on to freeways, and hitting the brakes hard when some nut cuts me off in heavy traffic.

After 130 miles of mixed driving, I am getting 48.1 MPG, averaging 33 miles per hour, and staying in electric-motor only mode 20 percent of the time. That’s real world mileage with a mix of highway, city stop-go, hills and descents, and windy ocean roads. This sporty hybrid car is fun to drive and saves at the pump. The car is honestly rated with fuel economy of 53 mpg in the city, 46 mpg on the highway, and a combined rating U.S. EPA rating of 50 mpg.

Prius continues to be the world’s best-selling fuel-efficient vehicle, with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold worldwide.  Since its U.S. introduction in 2000, Prius – when compared to the average car – has saved American consumers an estimated $2.93 billion in fuel costs, 1.1 billion gallons of gas and 16.1 million tons of CO2 emissions estimates Toyota. IntelliChoice selected Prius as the Best Overall Value Passenger Car of 2012.

The Prius has been so successful that Toyota has expanded it into a family of four Prii: the Prius Liftback, the new compact Prius c, the larger Prius v crossover SUV, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. In adapting the Hybrid Synergy Drive to the smaller Prius c platform, each of the system’s major components were re-designed to reduce weight, scale, and improve efficiency.

OAL

OAH

OAW

Wheelbase

Curb weight

2012 Prius

176.4 in.

58.7 in.

68.7 in.

106.3 in.

3,042 lbs.

2012 Prius c

157.3 in.

56.9 in.

66.7 in.

100.4 in.

2,500 lbs.

19 Inches Shorter and $4,000 Lighter

We can finally get a new Prius for under $19,000 ($18,950 + delivery cost – dealer discount). At 50 miles per gallon (mpg) overall, you can face down record gasoline costs with fewer trips to the pump. This new compact Prius uses the same fuel-efficient hybrid Synergy drive as its classic midsized cousin and is at least $4,000 less expensive to buy.

The Prius c is smaller and lighter than the midsize Prius Liftback with 19.1 inches less length (157.3 vs. 176.4 inches OAL) and 542 lbs. less weight than the Prius Liftback (2,500 vs. 3,042 lbs.).  The Prius C is roomier than some compact hatchbacks, but compared to the midsized Liftback the “c” has 7 less cubic-feet of passenger room and 5 less cubic-feet in the luggage area.

By lowering the 60/40-split backseat, my wife and I were able to fit our two mountain bikes in the rear. Although this is easy to do in the larger Liftback, and effortless in the larger Prius v, I was surprised that we had room in the Prius c. This smaller Prius has good cargo flexibility for one or two people. If you have kids, or demanding business or lifestyle needs, then consider a larger Prius. On the other hand, with kids or other demands that $4,000 savings matters.

World’s Leading Hybrid-Electric Drive System

The Prius c relies on a SULEV (Tier 2 Bin 3) rated 1.5-liter in-line, four-cylinder gasoline engine that utilizes an Atkinson cycle to increase efficiency. This engine produces 73 horsepower and 82 lb.-ft. of torque, contributing to a total hybrid system output of 99 hp. This proved plenty for my 130 miles of real-world driving.

Although Honda, Ford, Hyundai and others now use lighter lithium-ion batteries in their hybrids, Toyota is staying with the tried-and-true nickel-metal hydride, except for the Plug-in Prius. The Prius c’s hybrid system utilizes a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack that has been located under the rear passenger seat, near the center of the vehicle, and low in the chassis to help improve the center of gravity. When we loaded the two bikes, the backseat easily folded flat (no bump for the battery).

Prius c drivers seatPrius c offers three distinct drive modes: Normal, Eco, and EV mode.  Eco mode reduces overall energy consumption by governing climate control and throttle to improve vehicle efficiency. Most of the time, I drove in Eco mode by touching the “Eco” button once. The Prius c remembered my Eco preference when driving the car on different days. It was difficult to know that I was in Eco mode, with just a modest “Eco” being displayed in the upper corner of the dash.

When I touched “EV,” the car would only stay in EV mode a short distance, and only if I touched the accelerator with the weight of a feather. I had much more success with EV mode when I drove the bigger Prius Liftback and could stay in EV mode 15 miles in the Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Forget trying to tell the Prius c to be in EV mode. The hybrid’s computer determines when to engage the electric motor, the gasoline engine, or both. In my 130 miles, 20 percent of the time, the computer decided to only use the electric motor.

On step descents, I downshifted to “B” which uses the electric motor as a generator to capture added electricity and minimize the need to use the brakes. Driving was always smooth and braking effective.

The Prius c is available in four trim levels. Prius c provides many standard features such as automatic climate control, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth® hands-free controls, and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry among a long list of standard equipment. The Prius c that I drove had a suggested price of $25,140. It included power sunroof/moon roof, larger 16-inch alloy wheel package, and a $760 delivery and handling fee.

 

Gasoline Engine

Engine Output

Electric Motor Output

Total System

Output

Prius

1.8-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle with VVT-i

98 hp@5200 rpm

105 lb.-ft.@4000 rpm

80 hp

(60 kW)

134 hp

(100 kW)

Prius c

1.5-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle with VVT-i

73 hp@4800 rpm

82 lb.-ft@4000 rpm

60 hp

(45kW)

99 hp

(74 kW)

The Prius c’s body structure makes extensive use of lightweight, high-strength steel to help reduce vehicle mass and improve fuel economy. The strategic use of high-tensile-strength steel contributes to the vehicle’s ability to absorb and disperse impact energies helping enhance occupant safety. The high level of torsional rigidity afforded by the Prius c body structure allows the suspension to be more optimally tuned for ride and handling.

The front suspension uses a Macpherson strut design, and the rear rides on a tuned torsion beam. The coil-spring and shock absorber of the Prius c have been tuned to enhance handling, flat turning, and smooth ride comfort.  Prius c is available with 15- or 16-inch wheel-and-tire combinations.  The 15-inch wheels are available in steel with wheel cover for base model or in aluminum alloy for elevated trim levels. Prius c models equipped with the available 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels enjoy enhanced handling thanks to a faster steering ratio (2.28 turns lock to lock), which helps quicken the vehicle’s dynamic response.

The Prius c is equipped with nine airbags strategically located to help protect the driver and passengers in the event of certain types of accidents.  The new 2012 Prius c, like all Toyota models, is equipped with the standard Star Safety System™, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).

Toyota Goes for a Youthful Exterior and Interior Design

Prius C Best Hybrid Under $20,000The Prius c exterior design helps project a fun, youthful attitude for this all-new addition to the Prius family, while offering excellent aerodynamic performance. Extensive aerodynamic features were engineered into the Prius c to help achieve a 0.28 coefficient of drag. Adding character to this subcompact, the Prius c’s lower-body styling is wider below the beltline, featuring sculpted rear flares to help express a sturdy, athletic stance that communicates a more agile driving experience.

The Prius c’s available exterior colors include vibrant hues that are unique and expressive. The available colors for Prius c include three new colors – Habanero, Moonglow, and Summer Rain Metallic – along with Blue Streak Metallic, Absolutely Red, Black Sand Pearl, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, and Super White.

The Prius c interior design seeks to create a space that is futuristic yet passenger friendly.  Using black as a basic interior color, the door trim, seat surfaces, and instrument panel feature treatments in lighter colors to help create contrast.

Display Audio and Connectivity with Entune®

The 2012 Prius c will offer three audio system configurations. A base audio system features either four or six speakers, depending on the model, and includes AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology.

The Display Audio with Navigation and Entune™ has six speakers and augments capability with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio capability (with 3-month trial subscription to XM Select package), HD Radio™ with iTunes® tagging, and advanced voice recognition. Toyota’s Entune™ multi-media system can be controlled by a smart phone that is USB or Bluetooth connected. It also features real time information such as traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks.

Alternatives to the Prius c

In my opinion, the Prius c is the best hybrid that you can buy for less than $20,000. We all have different driving requirements. There are good alternatives to consider.

Toyota Prius Liftback gives you midsized room, over 30% more horsepower, 5-seats, more options, and more cargo starting at $4,000 than the Prius C. It still delivers 50 mpg combined and commands a premium at resale.

Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid will save you thousands in gasoline over the life of the car, because the first 15-miles is in electric mode from a garage charge. Toyota Prius PHV starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to  $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit.

Honda Insight is an alternative compact hybrid that has been selling for a few years. It only averages 42 mpg and is a bit less roomy than the new Prius C. You may be able to save at least $1,000 with the Honda Insight.

There are many good compact hatchbacks that deliver over 30 miles per gallon that are less expensive than hybrids. Yes, you will spend more on fuel over the years, but you can save thousands upfront with hatchbacks such as the Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, Chevrolet Sonic, Honda Fit, Mazda 3, and Ford Fiesta.

With the Prius C, you are likely to save thousands in fuel over the life of the car and do well at resale time. When needed you can comfortably seat four, or drop the back seat for surprising cargo space.  You’ll have fun driving this new member of the Prius family.

 

Toyota Prius C – Best Hybrid Car Under $19,000

Toyota Prius C – Best Hybrid Car Under $19,000

Prius c 2012(updated 4/5/12)

We can finally get a new Prius for under $19,000 ($18,950 + delivery cost – dealer discount). At 50 miles per gallon (mpg) overall, you can face down record gasoline costs with fewer trips to the pump. The newest member of the Toyota Prius family went on sale on March 12. This new compact Prius uses the same fuel-efficient hybrid Synergy drive as its classic midsized cousin and is at least $4,000 less expensive to buy.

Prius continues to be the world’s best-selling fuel-efficient vehicle, with more than 3.5 million vehicles sold worldwide.  Since its U.S. introduction in 2000, Prius – when compared to the average car – has saved American consumers an estimated $2.93 billion in fuel costs, 1.1 billion gallons of gas and 16.1 million tons of CO2 emissions estimates Toyota. IntelliChoice selected Prius as the Best Overall Value Passenger Car of 2012.

The Prius has been so successful that Toyota has expanded it into a family of four Prii: the Prius Liftback, the new compact Prius c, the larger Prius v crossover SUV, and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

New Generation of Toyota Prius Drivers

Toyota hopes that the new Prius c will find favor with younger shoppers seeking a smartly designed, fuel-efficient compact car packing advanced drivetrain and in-car technology including:

  • The highest rated city fuel economy estimate of any vehicle without a plug*; 53 mpg in the city, and 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 50 mpg
  • The most accessible Prius will feature a starting MSRP below $19,000 with proven hybrid powertrain and premium technology
  • Electronics including a standard 3.5-in. full color TFT multi-information display, hands-free phone capability, USB port with iPod® connectivity, and available Display Audio system with Navigation and Entune™

Prius c drivers seatThe Prius c is smaller and lighter than the midsize Prius Liftback with 19.1 inches less length (157.3 vs. 176.4 inches OAL) and 542 lbs. less weight than the Prius Liftback (2,500 vs. 3,042 lbs.).  The Prius C is more roomy than some compact hatchbacks, but compared to the midsized Liftback the “c” has 7 less cubic-feet of passenger room and 5 less cubic-feet in the luggage area.

In adapting the Hybrid Synergy Drive to the smaller Prius c platform, each of the system’s major components were re-designed to reduce weight, scale, and improve efficiency.

OAL

OAH

OAW

Wheelbase

Curb weight

2012 Prius

176.4 in.

58.7 in.

68.7 in.

106.3 in.

3,042 lbs.

2012 Prius c

157.3 in.

56.9 in.

66.7 in.

100.4 in.

2,500 lbs.

The Prius c will be available in four trim levels offering desirable features, equipment, and enhanced capability giving consumers a compelling value proposition. Prius c provides many standard features such as automatic climate control, tilt-telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate, Multi-Information Display and Bluetooth® hands-free controls, and remote keyless entry with illuminated entry among a long list of standard equipment.

Prius c Hybrid Synergy Drive Propulsion

Prius c drive systemThe Prius c’s effective packaging design strategically locates key drivetrain components within the chassis to help optimize interior space and handling.  The compact gasoline engine, transaxle and power-control unit are optimally placed within the vehicle to help enhance weight distribution and lower the center of gravity.  In addition, the hybrid battery and fuel tank are positioned together beneath the rear seat, ideally distributing their mass within the wheelbase to improve weight distribution to help enhance handling. By locating the battery and fuel tank below the rear seat, the Prius c is able to offer 104 cu. ft. of interior volume (87.4 cu. ft. passenger volume, 17.1 cu. ft. cargo volume).

The Prius c’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system integrates the operation of components that include a gasoline engine, an electric motor within a Continuously Variable Transaxle, a nickel-metal hydride battery, a power control unit (inverter), a DC-DC converter, a step-up converter and a hybrid control computer. The hybrid control computer governs the seamless application of gasoline engine and electric power depending on driving demands and selected drive mode.

 

Gasoline Engine

Engine Output

Electric Motor Output

Total System

Output

Prius

1.8-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle with VVT-i

98 hp@5200 rpm

105 lb.-ft.@4000 rpm

80 hp

(60 kW)

134 hp

(100 kW)

Prius c

1.5-liter, four-cylinder, Atkinson cycle with VVT-i

73 hp@4800 rpm

82 lb.-ft@4000 rpm

60 hp

(45kW)

99 hp

(74 kW)

The Prius c relies on a SULEV (Tier 2 Bin 3) rated 1.5-liter in-line, four-cylinder gasoline engine that utilizes an Atkinson cycle to increase efficiency. This engine produces 73 horsepower and 82 lb.-ft. of torque, contributing to a total hybrid system output of 99 hp.

The Prius c’s hybrid system utilizes a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack that has been located under the rear passenger seat, near the center of the vehicle, and low in the chassis to help improve the center of gravity.

Prius c offers three distinct drive modes: Normal, Eco, and EV mode.  Eco mode reduces overall energy consumption by governing climate control and throttle to improve vehicle efficiency. Under certain conditions, the EV mode allows the Prius c to be driven solely by electric power for a short distance (under 1 mile) while remaining below 25 mph.

Hybrid Car Improved Handling and Safety

The Prius c’s body structure makes extensive use of lightweight, high-strength steel to help reduce vehicle mass and improve fuel economy. The strategic use of high-tensile-strength steel contributes to the vehicle’s ability to absorb and disperse impact energies helping enhance occupant safety. The high level of torsional rigidity afforded by the Prius c body structure allows the suspension to be more optimally tuned for ride and handling.

The front suspension uses a Macpherson strut design, and the rear rides on a tuned torsion beam. The coil-spring and shock-absorber characteristics of the Prius c have been tuned to enhance handling, flat turning, and smooth ride comfort.  Prius c is available with 15- or 16-inch wheel-and-tire combinations.  The 15-inch wheels are available in steel with wheel cover for base model or in aluminum alloy for elevated trim levels. Prius c models equipped with the available 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels enjoy enhanced handling thanks to a faster steering ratio (2.28 turns lock to lock), which helps quicken the vehicle’s dynamic response.

The Prius c is equipped with nine airbags strategically located to help protect the driver and passengers in the event of certain types of accidents.  The new 2012 Prius c, like all Toyota models, is equipped with the standard Star Safety System™, which includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).

Youthful Exterior and Interior Design

The Prius c exterior design helps project a fun, youthful attitude for this all-new addition to the Prius family, while offering excellent aerodynamic performance. Extensive aerodynamic features were engineered into the Prius c to help achieve a 0.28 coefficient of drag. Adding character to this subcompact, the Prius c’s lower-body styling is wider below the beltline, featuring sculpted rear flares to help express a sturdy, athletic stance that communicates a more agile driving experience.

The Prius c’s available exterior colors include vibrant hues that are unique and expressive. The available colors for Prius c include three new colors – Habanero, Moonglow, and Summer Rain Metallic – along with Blue Streak Metallic, Absolutely Red, Black Sand Pearl, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Classic Silver Metallic, and Super White.

The Prius c interior design seeks to create a space that is futuristic yet passenger friendly.  Using black as a basic interior color, the door trim, seat surfaces, and instrument panel feature treatments in lighter colors to help create contrast.

Display Audio and Connectivity with Entune®

The 2012 Prius c will offer three audio system configurations. A base audio system features either four or six speakers, depending on the model, and includes AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability, auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod® connectivity, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, and music streaming via Bluetooth® wireless technology.

The Display Audio with Navigation and Entune™ has six speakers and augments capability with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, SiriusXM™ Satellite Radio capability (with 3-month trial subscription to XM Select package), HD Radio™ with iTunes® tagging, and advanced voice recognition. Toyota’s Entune™ multi-media system functions through select smart phones’ interface that brings applications such as Bing and Pandora® to the vehicle audio display. It also features real time information such as traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stocks.

Buyers Can Test Drive Alternatives

Toyota Prius Liftback gives you midsized room, over 30% more horsepower, 5-seats, more options, and more cargo starting at $4,000 than the Prius C. It still delivers 50 mpg combined and commands a premium at resale.

Honda Insight is an alternative compact hybrid that has been selling for a few years. It only averages 42 mpg and is a bit less roomy than the new Prius C. You may be able to save at least $1,000 with the Honda Insight.

Volkswagen Golf Diesel gets 42 mpg on the highway and only 30 mpg in the city. The new diesels are an excellent alternative for those who mainly drive at freeway speeds, but they lack the fuel economy and regen of hybrids in the city. You might save a bit or spend more than a comparable Prius C.

The new fuel-efficient gasoline engines give you a number of choices at over 30 mpg combined that allow you to get a well-featured hatchback without the added initial cost of the 50 mpg hybrids. Choices include the Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Ford Fiesta.

With the Prius C, you are likely to save thousands in fuel over the life of the car and do well at resale time.

Toyota Sells One-Millionth Prius in U.S. – Best Hybrid Car

Toyota Sells One-Millionth Prius in U.S. – Best Hybrid Car

Toyota PriusBy John Addison (4/6/11)

One Million Toyota Prius hybrid cars have now been sold in U.S. Over 2 million Prii (yes, the plural of Prius) have been delivered globally. Over 3 million Toyota hybrids have been sold globally.

Since the Prius was introduced to the U.S. in 2000, more than 97 percent of all Toyota Prii sold are still on the road. At a time when our energy security is threatened and oil is over $100 per barrel, the Prius uses less than half the gasoline of typical cars. While other automakers worry about 2016 CAFÉ standards of 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg), the Prius delivers 50 mpg – that’s not just on freeways, that’s 50 mpg overall.

As California implements its Climate Solutions law, my region struggles with a plan to reduce transportation CO2 emissions by 15 percent by 2035. The average car in the region produces 430 grams CO2/mile. The Prius is only 178 grams CO2/mile. How tough can 15 percent be over 25 years?

Toyota and Lexus hybrid family

By the end of 2012, Toyota Motors will offer at least eleven Toyota and Lexus hybrid and electric cars. If you don’t like the looks of the Prius, you can order a Camry hybrid. If you need to seat seven, the Highlander is a versatile and roomy SUV. If you need an SUV with the best AWD mileage, the Lexus RX450h is the champion with 30 mpg in the snow and ice.

Lexus offers five premium cars for those who do not want to sacrifice leather, wood, and luxury inside. The Lexus CT200h is exciting to drive and delivers 42 mpg combined. Performance enthusiasts can get their own custom kit GS450h or LS600h hybrids.

Over 60 percent of all U.S. hybrid sales continue to be the Prius. Toyota’s Synergy hybrid drive system is so good that it is licensed by other automakers. The Ford Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ deliver around 40 mpg thanks to Toyota hybrid technology.

Prii Family from Compact to Crossover SUV

The best selling Prius has expanded into a family of four Prii models. Prius V, which goes on sale in third quarter of 2011.  If you’ve been looking for great mileage from an SUV, crossover, or wagon, take a look at the new Prius v. It will share the current generation Prius’ platform and Hybrid Synergy Drive technology.  Featuring a compact exterior yet spacious interior, the Prius v will feature over 50-percent more interior cargo space than the current Prius, while being almost as aerodynamic. The Prius v will compete with new crossover hybrids like the Ford C-MAX Hybrid. The Prius v will use NiMH batteries, just as the 2011 Prius.

The Prius V seats five with sliding second row seats allow for easier ingress and egress and rear-storage flexibility.  The 60/40 split, folding rear seats present four different seat arrangements that provide excellent usability for passengers and luggage, while a fold-flat front-passenger seat allows for extremely long cargo.

Despite the spaciousness of a family friendly midsize vehicle, the Prius v will deliver estimated EPA fuel economy ratings of 42 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 40 mpg combined, the best fuel economy ratings of any SUV, crossover, or wagon on the yet EPA rated.

The Prius C will go on sale next year with the best mileage ever delivered, even outdoing today’s Prius. The “c” is a compact city car that will allow Prius drivers to secure precious parking spaces now secured by MiniCoopers, Fits, and the Yaris.

Plug-in Prius and New Toyota Pure Electric Cars

600 Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrids are now being driven daily in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Commercial, government, and university fleets and individual drivers are putting this advanced Prius through its paces. Toyota is targeting 50,000 unit commercial sales in 2012 of this PHEV with a 14-mile electric range.

In the new Prius Plug-in with 5kWh of lithium batteries, you can drive 14 miles before the engine engages without special driving effort. When it leaves electric mode and engages the gasoline engine, it drives hundreds of miles with better mileage than a standard Prius.

The Prius Plug-in can be charged in 3 hours with a normal 110v outlet, which may be appealing to those who live in multi-tenant buildings with difficulties in installing 220 volt Level 2 chargers.

The Plug-in will be initially offered in 14 states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Virginia and New Hampshire) where nearly 60 percent of all Prius models are currently sold. Availability in all 50 states will be in 2013.

The RAV4 EV Powered by Tesla was Toyota’s center stage announcement here at the Los Angeles Auto Show. In 1997, 1,484 RAV4 EVs were sold. Remarkably half of these early EVs are still in use and their owners love them. Toyota, which owns 2 percent of Tesla, is bringing back this popular SUV in a stylish new body. It will have an electric range of 80 to 110 miles using 30 to 40 kWh of Panasonic battery cells integrated into a Tesla pack – impressive for an SUV. The body will be built by Toyota in Canada, the drive system by Tesla in California, and the final assembly site has yet to be determined.

In 2012, a stylish city car iQ-based EV will also be introduced in the U.S., Japan and Europe. Launch preparations call for road trials in Japan, U.S., and Europe starting in 2011. Launch in China is also being considered, with road trials planned for 2011.

An interviewer once asked me, “Why someone would buy a Prius when they could not cost justify the premium.” I explained that I did pay about $5,000 more for my 2002 Prius than a comparable sedan. My wife and I drove the Prius for 7 years, saving about $5,000 in gasoline. We then sold the car for about $4,000 more than a comparable sedan.

Since it was introduced in the U.S. in 2000, Prius, when compared to the average car, has saved American consumers more than an estimated 881 million gallons of gas, $2.19 billion in fuel costs, and 12.4 million tons of CO2 emissions.

Toyota Prius Plug-in – Two Weeks of Test Driving

Toyota Prius Plug-in – Two Weeks of Test Driving

Toyota Prius PHVBy Tom Bartley (3/24/11)

My two weeks were up yesterday and I had to pass the car to the next Clean Fuels Coalition board member. I liked the experience and it saved me money. This dual fuel (electricity and gasoline) Prius is all about having a nice ride and being energy efficient. The car I drove was a Toyota factory prototype that was essentially a 2010 basic Prius modified to accommodate a 5kW Lithium ion battery that could be charged through a power cord from an external 110 VAC standard 20 amp circuit.

I liked the car. If you are not a numbers person, skip to the Nice Ride section.

When I plugged the charging cable into my external 110 VAC house socket it tested out ok, but after 5 minutes of charging it tripped the GFI breaker and it wouldn’t reset without tripping.  I tried a different circuit and everything was fine. I have not yet diagnosed the problem. The current draw was 12 amps leading to 3 hours for a full charge (3.96 kWh). This is less than the full battery 5 kW capacity and is probably part of the battery management strategy that stays away from the top and bottom SoC (State of Charge) to assure a long battery life before replacement. The dash board display indicated 14 miles as an estimated average full usable charge EV range. (The 14 mile EV range estimate could vary significantly depending on elevation change, speed, and driver style.) This works out to 3.54 miles/kWh or 283 Wh/mile. The larger battery capacity in the Plug-in Prius makes the normal hybrid mode even more efficient by providing more storage to recycle deceleration energy while going down grades or slowing from high speed driving.

This compares to manufacturer estimates of 240 Wh/mile for the Nissan Leaf and 400 Wh/mile for the Chevy Volt. While the larger capacity battery packs in the Leaf and the Volt qualify for a $7500 federal tax credit, this Prius is projected to have a $3000 tax credit.  I estimate the price of the Plug-in to be somewhere in the $33,000 price range to compete nicely with the Volt.

Energy Efficiency

I managed to drive 423.1 miles on the 6.762 gallons of 87 octane E10 that I pumped into the gasoline tank. With the current high prices, I paid a total of $26.67. So, here are the petroleum numbers:

  • 67.52 mpg
  • 6.3 ¢/mile

The electric numbers will only show up integrated into my overall utility bill at a cost of 15.5 ¢/kWh. I estimate the efficiency of the car, including the battery losses, at an average 300 Wh/mile leading to an electric cost of 4.65 ¢/mile. How does this add to my total cost/mile? Most of my trips were less than 15 miles. I had one long roundtrip over 75 miles of mostly high speed freeway driving. I can only estimate that 20% of my miles were electric. The onboard display indicated that 12% of the previously driven 12,000 miles were driven in EV mode. Adding (20% of 423.1 miles) 84.62 miles @ 4.65 ¢/mile results in $3.93 for electricity yielding a total cost of $30.60 for 423.1 miles or 7.2 ¢/mile. In comparison, my Toyota Sequoia SUV at about 29 ¢/mile ($4.00/gal / 13.6 mpg). That makes for a whopping $92.00 fuel savings over two weeks! That’s some nice extra pocket money. True, this is not the whole picture and did not include purchase price and maintenance costs, like the cost of the batteries, but the immediate impact is significant. Also, knowing that my cost was less I drove more miles than I otherwise would have.

Side Note: I found the fuel economy displayed and calculated by the on-board computer for each car was optimistically overstated as 77.7 mpg for the Prius and 15.6 mpg for the Sequoia. One mitigating factor is that I may not have received a full tank of gas with the Prius. The odometer should be accurate because, according to the owner’s manual, the Prius automatically calibrates the odometer (using the GPS navigation system?) to compensate for tire wear.

Nice Ride

Overall, I liked the Plug-in Prius and didn’t want to give it back and I love the power of my 2004 Toyota Sequoia Limited and a 1970 classic big block Chevy Corvette, both with their high power V8s and plenty of “go-power” torque throughout the driving speed range. The Prius Plug-in compares favorably with my many ride-n-drives in electric vehicles, hybrids, and high priced hydrogen fuel cell hybrids.

For the driver’s pleasure the Prius has push button selection of three different driving modes, ECOnomy, normal, and PoWeR. At first these different settings seemed to be scaling the accelerator pedal movement to better match the drive style, i.e., more push to get smaller acceleration in ECO, and less push to get greater acceleration in PWR. However, the actual driving experience felt like the PWR mode actually allowed the drive system to put more torque into the drive wheels to the point of spinning the tires with engine and electric motor combined. Knowing that electric motors produce max torque right from the “get go”, I expected more performance of the line without much push on the accelerator, but, because I wanted to stay in EV mode without starting the engine, I didn’t ask for more start up acceleration by jamming the pedal to the floor.

The PWR mode was fun to drive in urban traffic congestion at all speeds. The normal mode was comfortable in almost all driving environments easily keeping pace with other standard 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder gasoline engine cars, especially in the 25 to 50 mph speed range.  I wouldn’t recommend the ECO mode in heavy traffic. The ECO mode was there to sooth my energy conservation conscience when I was sharing the road with only a few other drivers. Cruise control is available to make it even easier.

This car has a sports car feel and it’s easy to parallel park. The ride is smooth, the suspension is tight, and the steering is responsive.  Braking is very responsive.

The gear shift lever has a D for normal forward movement and a B to select more coasting drag. I think the B should be the default position because it felt like I was able to capture more of the deceleration and braking energy into the batteries for recycling. I also liked the B more positive control feel of the car before I had to use the brake pedal.

Rather than a “gear shift” lever it is really a joy stick that always returns to a fixed center position. The position of R and D was a safety problem for me. The position of R at the top or forward and D at the bottom or back is traditional for many transmissions’ gear selection. However, because the control lever is on a raised center console deck and almost horizontal it felt more like a joy stick where DRIVE would be forward and REVERSE would be back. Several times I selected the wrong direction while backing out or parking. Fortunately, it was at low speed and the annoying repetitive beep of reverse provided a helpful alert

Driver Displays and Steering Wheel Button Controls

The main display panel looks like it is digital and programmed for the subject matter information. It is sunk into the middle of the dash for, what looks like, the best viewing of all the vehicle occupants, not just the driver. I had two problems with that positioning. With everything offset to the right side of the driver’s view, the separation between the left and right turn signal indicators is too small to see clearly without taking my eyes of the road to look at the actual arrow. Also, one of the information displays gives immediate feedback to the driver about the torque demands and the EV and hybrid modes of charging and discharging the batteries. Again, the information was not easily seen, down and off to the right, without taking my eyes off the road. Placement in front of the driver would be a nice improvement and a heads up display would be superb.

The standard parts of the driver display included gasoline fuel level, digital speed (analog and digital would be even better), turn signal indicators, odometer, real time mpg, and various mode indicator lights. Being somewhat of a techie, I would have liked to see the engine rpm and temperature; and the electric motor rpm and some appropriate critical temperature. Battery SoC in addition to the estimated EV miles would have been nice too. The display has five selections stepped through by one of the steering wheel buttons:

1. Battery level and number of EV miles, and horizontal bar graph showing real time torque demanded by the accelerator pedal. This display was useful in raising my awareness of the energy effects of changing elevations up and down hils, and the effects of air drag at higher highway speeds.

2. A graphic of the car showing the real time energy flow between the engine, electric motor and battery.

3. Longer term averages of fuel economy

4. Percentage of miles driven in EV mode.

5. Settings that could be cycled through and changed with the same steering wheel display button.

Additionally, when I put my finger on one of the steering wheel buttons there are two cool looking pop up displays that illuminate the button functions. However, if I have to take my eyes off the road to see the pop ups, I can just as easily look at the steering wheel. The left hand steering wheel button was like my Sequoia, operating the radio modes, presets, and volume. The right hand steering wheel button operated the display selection, trip odometers and resets, temp up and down for heating and A/C, and recirculate control for ventilation. I found the temp and recirculation controls redundant to the other same controls close by on the dashboard.

Lights, Wipers, Mirrors, and Visibility

I am spoiled by the light sensing automatic turn-on head light control in the Sequoia. This basic Prius did not have them and several times I had to return to the car to turn off the lights. As in many other cars, these controls were located on the turn signal lever. The emergency 4-way flasher control was a nice big button on the console.

The interior lighting was superior with several different automatic modes that anticipated the entry and exit of the vehicle. It took a while to discover, but just pushing on the light lens is a nice switch feature. Also a nice touch is an indirect beam of light out of the ceiling that illuminates the console while driving at night.

One place that could use a light is the electric charging compartment to illuminate the socket and cover. It would have made it easier when I was trying to insert the charging plug at night in the dark.

I had one wiper and lights problem that turned out to be pilot error. California law requires the headlights to be on any time the windshield wipers are on. While driving in the rain one day I did this only to have the driver display go dim and unreadable. The automatic dimming control expects a reduced ambient light level if the head lights are turned on. The manual dimming control is a thumbwheel on the left side of the dash. If the thumbwheel is advanced into the maximum brightness détente, the display will stay bright even if the headlights are turned on.

The electric positioning left and right external mirrors are the same as my Sequoia, but the control was located on the left side lower dash panel next to the display brightness thumbwheel instead of the center console. From my best position setting of the outside rear view mirror without repositioning the mirror I couldn’t see the curb position when parallel parking. Ok, it is a little picky.

The visibility out the rear window from looking at the inside rear view mirror has an irritation shared by almost all Prius drivers. The rear spoiler required for that nice low aerodynamic drag coefficient puts a horizontal bar across the rear vision.  For the extra mileage at highway speeds it was acceptable, but I never got used to it. I heard that some late model Prius’ may be offered with a camera and a screen that I hope eliminates the bar in the view. My recent experience driving a Volt exposed a similar bar. Adding additional irritation to me was the manual lever for day/night viewing of the mirror. The automatic transitioning of my Sequoia mirror is another nice thing to have.

Driver visibility is good except for two blind spots at the rear corners. I solved this problem on the Sequoia with the addition of small round stick-on wide-angle mirrors to the standard outside mirrors. I elevated the driver’s seat to its highest level for my best outside viewing angle.

Navigation and Entertainment

Your children and grandchildren will love the screen and controls. I liked the large navigation screen, which automatically shifted from a light background to a dark background when the headlights were turned on. After reading the navigation manual for over an hour I decided that I was not going to become a proficient operator during the time I had the car. To prevent driver distraction, several of the functions were not available while the car was moving.

The angle of display has a cute little shift control to help minimize glare reflections. The whole display tilts forward to expose the CD insertion slot. It looked like only a single CD at a time. I prefer the 6-CD changer I have in the Sequoia. The sound system was great when using the radio.

Other Amenities and Comments

Keyless entry, locking, and start-up were new and enjoyable for me. I now look at my other keys as archaic. Three people could fit in the back seat with reasonable comfort, but only two could be there to have the cup holders that were in the center pull down armrest.

The center console cover had a latch that slid back to expose a cup holder in addition to the one with it’s own cover door in front of it. More pulling on the latch exposed a compartment with a tray and a 12 VDC 120 W power socket and an aux port for and iPod. What at first confused me was that the latch had to be depressed again to slide the cover forward for complete closure. I forgot and left my Bluetooth wireless phone earpiece in the tray because it was not completely visible.

In front of the console under the joystick platform is an open tray that has another 12 VDC socket along with switches for the heated seats.  I found the switch placement inconvenient for the driver but ok for the front passenger. The heated seats get hot fast! While more pleasing for the leather seats in the Sequoia, the seat heaters may not really be necessary for the soft cloth seats in the Prius.

Normally, the car was ready to go in total EV mode after putting my foot on the brake and pressing the START button. However, I found that leaving the front defroster selected from prior driving caused the engine to start after pushing the START button.

There are upper and lower glove boxes for added flexibility.

All four side windows have automatic up and down modes. I quickly closed the windows after trying them down during highway driving. The car body aerodynamic airflow is sensitive to window position and my ear drums were taking a beating.

The steering wheel has a “scope” adjustment in and out for comfortable arm positioning.

Fortunately, I had my Sequoia experience to understand the Toyota HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) control strategy. The only difference was that the Sequoia has a knob for setting the desired temperature rather than the up and down buttons of the Prius.

Best Electric Car or Hybrid Car

In 2012 there will be several plug-in car models to choose from, each slightly different to match the driver’s needs and wallet. From the ones I have driven, going from low to high purchase cost:

  • Mitsubishi iMiEV – All electric (no petroleum) short range no frills basic gets the job done, smallest, lowest weight and most efficient. Low cost because of credits and grants.
  • Nissan Leaf – All electric (no petroleum) medium range, excellent feel and performance, virtually no service required, perfect for urban commutes and short trips, some longer trip options. Lower cost because of credits and grants.
  • Toyota Prius – The standard with great mpg and long range, but doesn’t utilize grid energy
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in – Better mpg and hybrid efficiency, long range and short EV range
  • Chevrolet Volt – High end luxury quality feel, performance, and features, serial hybrid design has lower efficiency and mpg.

Top 10 Electric Cars including Plug-in Hybird

 

 

10 Hybrid Cars with Best Miles per Gallon

10 Hybrid Cars with Best Miles per Gallon

Prius c 2012Toyota Prius c now starts for less than $19,000 and saves with fewer trips to the gas station. The “c” is the compact sport member of the Prius family – officially known as Prii. This new compact Prius 5-door hatchback uses the same fuel-efficient hybrid Synergy drive as its classic midsized cousin and is at least $4,000 less expensive to buy.This fuel economy champion leads with 53 miles per gallon (mpg) city, 46 highway, and 50 combined. If you want better mileage drive in Eco mode. Toyota Prius c Review and Features

 

Toyota PriusToyota Prius Liftback continues its 12-year hybrid car leadership with the best fuel economy, lowest carbon emissions, and in hybrid sales. Customers keep voting for the Prius with their pocketbooks. This fuel economy champion leads with 51 miles per gallon (mpg) city, 48 highway, and 50 combined. If you want better mileage drive in Eco mode. The 5-door Prius Liftback seats 5 in its midsized interior. The 60/40 split backseat can be lowered to make room for lots of work gear, home improvement projects, 2 bicycles, and other stuff. Manufacturer suggested price starts at about $23,520 MSRP (all prices in this article are starting points for negotiation, are subject to change, and can be higher due to destination, handling, and options).  Toyota Prius Review

 

Ford C-Max HybridFord C-MAX Hybrid 2013 is a new crossover with more room for cargo and 5 passengers than some small SUVs. Drivers will make fewer trips to the gas station. This crossover delivers 47 mpg city, 47 mpg highway, 47 mpg combines. It prices a bit lower than the new Prius v crossover and gets better mileage. Drop the back seat and you have major cargo space for work, home projects, and sports. Ford will go the Prius v one better and also offer the C-MAX Energi, a plug-in hybrid where your first 20 miles can be from a garage charge. Ford C-MAX Hybrid and Ford’s Electric Strategy

 

2013 Ford FusionFord Fusion Hybrid 2013 is the most fuel-efficient sedan you can get without buying its plug-in hybrid cousin the Ford Fusion Energi. The Fusion Hybrid midsized sedan achieves 47 city, 47 highway, and 47mpg combined. Accelerate carefully and you can even stay in pure electric mode for a while. The Fusion Hybrid provides a smooth, quiet, and comfortable ride with the a third-generation drive system that includes 2 electric motors and new lithium battery pack. The trunk only holds 12 cubic feet and the backseats do not lower. Ford has included a number of telematics and infotainment electronics. $27,200 MSRP. Fusion Hybrid Test Drive

 

Honda Accord Plug-in HybridHonda Accord. I was impressed with my test drive of the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid that will go on sale in early 2013 in California and New York for about  $39,800. I also expect Honda to announce a 2014 Accord Hybrid that should get an impressive 47-mpg. This new 4-door, 4-seat sedan, will price for less than the plug-in alternative.

 

VW Jetta HybridVolkswagen Jetta Hybrid was fun for me to drive. For 2013, you get the Jetta with good mpg, better if you mainly drive on highways with the Jetta TDI diesel, and best if you do mainly city driving with the Jetta Hybrid, which delivers 42-mpg city, 48 highway, and 45-mpg combo. Starting at about $25,000, this 4-door, 5-seat hybrid sedan, with more trunk space than many is giving the Camry and Fusion Hybrids something to worry about.

 

Lincoln MKZ HybridLincoln MKZ Hybrid is an entry-level luxury sedan with a plush interior and the smoothest test drive that I have experienced. Now you can have luxury appointments and roomy midsized interior without sacrificing fuel economy. Using the same drive system as the Fusion Hybrid, The 2013 Lincoln MKZ offers 45 city, 45 highway, and 45-mpg combined. The trunk only holds 11 cubic feet and the backseats do not lower. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid starts at about $36,000 for this luxury hybrid – the same price as the Lincoln MKZ non-hybrid! Lincoln MKZ Test Drive

 

Honda Civic HybridHonda Civic Hybrid is new for 2013 with improved styling, handling, and electronics. With a lithium-ion battery the new Civic Hybrid delivers 44-mpg city, highway, and combined mpg while starting for about $22,000..  Honda Civic Review

 

Toyota Prius v Crossover – My test drive of the new Prius v convinces me that you can get 42 MPG with comfort for 5 people and the flexibility toPrius v Windy Road hold the cargo carried in most SUVs. The Prius v is shaking-up the crossover SUV and wagon market, selling for only $26,400. At 44/40/42 MPG combined, the Prius v delivers double the mileage of many SUVs with more cargo flexibility than most. Toyota Prius v Test Drive and Specifications

 

Lexus CT200h delivers great mileage in a premium sport 5-door hatchback with 42 mpg by using the Prius Synergy drive system. I was delighted with my test drive of this in Sport mode on the track and Eco mode on the streets and Lexus CT200hhighways. Now you can enjoy the premium features of a Lexus and still get 43 city, 40 highway, and 42 combined mpg. Legroom in this compact is fine for most, but a 6-foot, 3-inch driver complained about wanting more in the front and back seats. Lexus CT200h Owner’s Driving Experience and Review

 

Honda Insight

Honda Insight is a 5-door hatchback and a hybrid price leader under $19,000, competing with the more full-efficient Prius c. The Insight delivers 41 city, 44 highway, and 42 mpg combined. The Insight is sportier in looks and handling than the Civic. Unlike the Civic Hybrid, the backseats can be lowered for more cargo in the Insight. An alternative to the Insight is the Honda CR-Z, a fun sports coupe with good handling and performance. Sport car lovers are likely to get the 6-speed stick, although the CVT automatic transmission includes paddle shifters. Insight Test Drive

 

Toyota Camry Hybrid LE 2013 delivers 43 mpg city, 39 highway, combined 41 mpg. Touch the EV button and drive over a mile in electric mode. The Camry is so popular that 15 million have been sold. It has been America’s best selling car for 9 years. Starting at $25,900, The Camry Hybrid LE  with excellent fuel economy will not take long to pay for the roughly $3,000 premium over the non-hybrid Camry. Toyota Camry Hybrid 2012

 

Lexus ES 300hLexus ES 300h puts you in an entry-level luxury sedan that requires fewer expensive stops at the gas station. Your friends will be impressed with the quiet elegance of the exterior, Takumi hand-stitched leather, and beautiful bamboo steering wheel. This luxury sedan delivers 40 city, 39 highway, and 40-combined mpg. The Lexus ES 300h starts at less than $38,900. Pay extra for a panoramic sunroof and safety features such as adaptive cruise control and lane keep.

 

Avalon HybridToyota Avalon Hybrid gives you the same hybrid drive system as the Lexus ES 300h but costs almost $3,500 less due to a premium rather than luxury cache. It has more room and premium appointments than the popular Camry Hybrid. The new Avalon Hybrid offers a big-boost in mileage with 40 city, 39 highway, and 40 mpg combined. Sorry, you can’t lower the back seat for more cargo.

 

 

With high oil prices, hybrids are more popular than ever.  People have their favorite hybrid. Perhaps your favorite does not have quite the mileage of the above. Car owners that really want to reduce their gasoline use and carbon footprint are lining up to buy new plug-in hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt and pure battery-electrics such as the Nissan LEAF. Best Plug-in Hybrids and Battery Electric Cars

You can get good mileage without having to spend over $20,000 for a hybrid. Good mileage is available with the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, Chevy Cruze, and MiniCooper. If you spend most of your time on freeways, turbo diesels are appealing alternative to hybrids.

This top 10 hybrid comparison includes the hybrid cars available for sale in the United States this year. Therefore it does not include the Honda Fit Hybrid and Toyota Yaris Hybrid, which we hope to see in the U.S. in the future. The list is commercially available cars and not specialty and conversions that might show-up in a few fleets and garages.

Cash Savings and Carbon Footprints

As I was being video taped, an interviewer asked me why anyone would buy a hybrid when they could not cost justify the added cost. I answered that when I bought my 2002 Prius, I paid about $5,000 more than a comparable non-hybrid, saved $1,000 per year for 7 years, then sold it for $4,000 more than a non-hybrid. For me it was a money maker. For those that don’t drive much, a hybrid may not save. Some hybrids are about performance and not saving money. In cities like San Francisco and New York, where taxis cover 90,000 miles per year, most buy hybrids and pay for the hybrid in months with major fuel savings.

Hybrids with the best mileage save at the pump year after year. They make the United States more energy secure. The U.S. is presently quite vulnerable to oil supply disruption, since 95 percent of U.S. transportation now depends on oil. Hybrids help clear the air with lower emissions.

The best hybrids emit less than half the greenhouse gases of average cars, which produce 400 grams CO2-equivalent per mile, and a third of most SUVs. For example, the Toyota Prius c only emits 179 grams per mile; add another 43 grams per mile to include the lifetime emissions required to mine the materials and manufacture the car. This 222 g CO2e/mile (US EPA GREET 2) gets us close to the 2025 U.S. CAFÉ standards, twelve years early.

From practical hatchbacks, to crossovers with the room of SUVs, to luxury sedans, you now have unprecedented choice in hybrid cars. Enjoy the drive.

Best Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars