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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?



( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
My diesel VW Golf (with surprising amount of backseat and trunk/hatch room) gets about 35mpg, sometimes better.
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
I have an old Ford Escort (1993), and on my recent 6 hr drive between VA and Charleston, SC, I got 400 miles out of 10 gallons of gas. Result! If they could make cars like that in 1993, what's up with mileage now? I'm convinced that we can do better :D
Jan. 8th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
I've read that part of the reason is because cars are made larger now, to comply with various safety standards that didn't exist 10-20 years ago.

Jan. 8th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC)
Larger? I have to say that's not one I've heard before. Mini cooper's aren't what I would call large cars but they have a reputation for safety (anecdotally, I have no source. bad me.) I know _performance_ has improved greatly and maybe that has kept apace with the fact that automotive technology has gotten more efficient and led to no improvement in gas mileage, but I have no idea if it is all down to size. Honestly I would question that, so if you have a source I'd be interested to see it because it's not something I have heard before.

I also don't know anything about safetey standards but I do know that cars sold in Japan and Europe get far better mileage than American cars do and I don't imagine the safety standards can be so radically different as to cause a 60% discrepancy (statistic found on quick google search for 'gas mileage usa vs europe').
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
Well, if'n'when you need help cleansing the garage, give me a shout.

Another way to check'd be to take a longer road trip and see what it averages out as... Heh heh, who's being self-serving, moi?...nah, couldn't be... ;-P


Oh, and in this year's biggest space-monkey maneuvor (so far - other than missspelling words), I've got a bill burning a hole in my wallet that I forgot to pass along to you for those photos you posted 'bout wanting to get 4 of that I wanted 2 of. This Sat I SHALL hand it to you, sheepishly. Bahhhhh.
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Even just going the 20 miles to Seattle it tends to average 45 or higher.... so yeah, the trip length has got to be at least part of it.

Re the photos, no worries :) He' shipping them out tomorrow, so I *might* have them by Saturday if we're lucky.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC)
Except I don't remember the mileage dropping last winter.

Granted, this winter it seems a fair bit colder. And I could see the temperature having a more significant effect when you're driving shorter trips - more of that time is spent just warming the engine up to the point where it can shed any heat at all.
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:34 pm (UTC)
This is great info. I have been considering a Prius but this gives me some things to consider that I didn't have before. Thanks!
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:49 pm (UTC)
Well, at least you still get the benefit of a quieter car.

Hrm...my guess is that it's probably a combination of all of those factors. (The "every little bit counts" theory in action.)
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
Including the aliens?

Hmm.. I suppose that explains those odd dreams I've been having...
Jan. 8th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC)

With you, anything is possible.
Jan. 8th, 2008 07:17 pm (UTC)
another option is that the batteries have aged enough they are not keeping the charge they used to but I agree it is most likely the temperature

Jan. 8th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
less gridlock = less chance to use the battery power???
Jan. 9th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
A dear friend ...
in Berkeley bought a first-generation Prius, and her mileage was below that advertised. However, she spent a lot of time doing freeways, so she did not benefit much from the braking-regeneration. I don't know if your highway travel has increased with your move, but that's a possibility.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )


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Heather Keith Freeman
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