Tags: car

firesea: self-portrait

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?
firesea: self-portrait

Car shopping

So we test-drove a Prius yesterday. It was nifty. We're definitely going to try for one of these. One unexpected advantage above and beyond the environmental benefits is how quiet it is. I've been having more and more difficulty hearing in the car, especially if I'm driving. In one of these, I might actually still be able to carry on a conversation!

Get this, though: because demand for these fuckers is so high, a 1 or 2 year old used Prius is up to $5k MORE expensive than a brand new one, which can take 3-6 months to get your hands on.

What's more, the economic decision by Toyota to keep underproducing the Prius makes a twisted sort of sense. They believe demand for hybrids is only going to increase. By making new ones scarce, they can 'recycle' the used ones faster and at a higher price point, while keeping up the image of the Prius as this luxury, hard-to-get status symbol.

Compare this to your 'normal' car, whose only advantage over the masses of similar vehicles out there is that it's new and shiny and right there in the lot this minute (if you take us up on our today-only, special just-for-you financing package...) - it doesn't make sense there to try to pump up demand for used ones, because people will just turn around and buy a slightly cheaper car from a different dealership.

With the Prius, there's no competition. Sure, there are a couple other hybrids out there, but the Honda Civic is the only one that targets a similar market, and its mileage and CO2 production are significantly worse, for about the same price.

In the meantime, though, our free car rental from the insurance runs out in a week. Our plan is to find a used 2005 Prius, with enough options to include the fog lamps (a near-necessity in this little river valley of Snohomish, we're discovering). For all that the salesman at the Kirkland dealer tried to convince us that we'd never find another one if we waited till next week, autotrader.com shows half a dozen within 25 miles, so I'm not expecting to have any trouble.