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January 8th, 2008

Hybrid Chill

So we've owned a 2005 Toyota Prius for about two years now. For all but the last three months of those two years, we've averaged 50-52 mpg on it, noticeably better than the 48/45 it's rated for. It was awesome - the instant feedback made driving efficiently into a video game, and I'm a far less aggressive driver as a result. And as far as the difference between the rated mpg and what we were getting, well, I thought we were Just That Good.

Then we moved from Snohomish to Bothell, about 10 miles closer to both Seattle and Redmond. And our mpg plummeted, to where we're now getting 38-40mpg.

It's taken me a while to parse out all the factors that could be affecting this, but here are some of the contenders, in descending order of probability:

-The car is no longer being kept in a garage, and baby it's cold outside.
-Since we live closer to most of our destinations and Andrei is now bussing to work, our average trip in the car is far shorter (like 5 miles instead of 20).
-The battery-recharging dynamic is worse living at the top of a short steep hill rather than the bottom of a long-and-shallow-sloped valley.
-At the last car maintenance (about 3mo ago), they said the engine filter would need to be changed next time; maybe it's going faster than they thought and is negatively affecting gas usage.
-Our ability to drive efficiently has been surgically removed. By aliens.

Probably the only ways to tell for sure will be to note a) if the mpg gets better again come warmer weather, or b) get the garage cleaned out and see if storing the car there helps.

In the meantime, it's frustrating. We're still using less gas than we were when we lived in Snohomish, but not by nearly as much as I'd like; and the difference between our shiny hybrid and an "ordinary" car has diminished to negligibility.

On the bright (??) side, if we ever get a second car while we're living here, I won't feel quite so bad about it not being a hybrid. If a 10+mpg difference can be made just by where you live and how you store your car, what's a few mpg on the sticker?

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