This morning, I hit 50,000 miles on the Prius. We’ve had the car for four years now, and it still feels like a new car — or at least, it doesn’t feel old yet. That’s why, though I’d love to have the plug-in hybrid model launching next year (and Toyota keeps sending me ads for it), I don’t feel any need to get onto any waiting lists. There’s plenty of life in this one yet, and no reason to trade it in early.
For the record: Typically around 43 MPG on an eight-mile commute that mixes city streets and freeways, plus errands and occasional longer trips. It was a bit higher when I was commuting 25-40 miles each way, mainly on freeways, but I don’t remember exactly how much. I think it was around 48 MPG.
Posted in General
Tagged driving, prius
I’ve driven a 2007-model Toyota Prius for two and a half years, so you can bet I’ve been following the news over the recalls and reports of uncontrolled acceleration. Monday’s runaway Prius incident, which involved a car that looks exactly like mine, has made me think even more about the problem.
Now, I’m not overly concerned, because the number of incidents is still small compared to the number of cars out on the road. And in the entire time I’ve been driving it, I can only think of two circumstances in which the car accelerated in a way I didn’t expect, both of them when driving on an incline:
- The transmission has been kind of sluggish a couple of times when starting, causing a slight lurch once it switches gears.
- Hitting an incline with cruise control. The car has to work harder to maintain the same speed, so it feels like it’s accelerating.
From what I’ve heard previously, the acceleration problems have had to do with malfunctioning cruise control, and I don’t really use cruise control anymore. (Not since I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for actual driving conditions.) Annoyingly, none of the articles I’ve read about James Sikes’ experience say whether he was using cruise control at the time or not.
They do say that he wore out the brakes, but refused to turn off the car or put it in neutral (as the 911 dispatcher advised him during the 23-minute call), and finally got it under control when a CHP officer had him apply both the regular and emergency brakes together.
So, what to do in this situation?
- Brakes aren’t enough, but they’re a good start.
- Turn off cruise control if it’s on. Some reports of cc-related problems have said that tapping the brakes didn’t disengage it as it’s supposed to, but manually disabling it did.
- Putting it in neutral should cut off the engine from the wheels and still leave you steering. Sikes’ reason for not doing this when the dispatcher told him to — that he was afraid the car would flip — doesn’t make any sense to me.
- Turning the car off locks the steering wheel, or at least turns off power steering. Not ideal for 90 MPH, so I understand Sikes’ reluctance here, but if the computer has essentially hung, push-and-hold for a hard shutdown might be the only thing you can do. I’d rather skid to a stop with minimal control than slam into a wall at 90.
- The parking brake can double as an emergency brake. It might not stop you completely (it didn’t for Sikes), but it should help get the car under control again.
I don’t expect any trouble, just based on statistics, but at least now I have an idea of what to do if I ever do find myself in this situation.
We’ve started watching the first season of Leverage on Netflix instant. Last night we watched the second episode. At one point the “good guy” character explains that yes, he really did give away most of the money he got from the last job, after buying a couple of things. Like a new car. Electric. Just being responsible. He then gets into his car, the camera pulls away, and you see that it’s a Tesla Roadster — an all-electric, high performance (and very expensive at $128,000+) sportscar.
I made some remark about how the Tesla was intended to make people rethink the electric car.
Katie’s response: “Every time a Prius gets pulled over for speeding, people rethink the electric car.”
Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran an article about the fact that, in response to soaring gas prices, smaller cars are outselling light trucks (which include SUVs, pickups, and minivans) in the US for the first time since 1996. Last night I was going through old magazines that we’d just tossed in a bag before moving. I found the September 2006 issue of Westways (the California Auto Club’s magazine), with a cover story about the new breed of small cars, wondering when the market would shift in response to the high prices. Now there’s timing.
On a related note, 9 months of driving a Prius has given me a somewhat different perspective on “good” and “bad” mileage. When I see averages of 38–48 MPG over the course of a tank of gas, and can get up to 60 MPG on straight, flat stretches of freeway, advertisements touting 25–30 MPG just don’t sound that enticing.
I’ve been driving a 2007 Toyota Prius for a little over two months now. My old car was a 1997 Nissan Sentra that I’d had for years, so just driving another car is a change. Then factor in the switch from a plain gas engine to a hybrid…
Thoughts on the Car
Very smooth, very quiet ride. Lots of nifty little conveniences, like the fact that it remembers different volume levels for radio vs. the line-in jack (for the iPod). Far roomier inside than it looks. Oddly enough, I think it may be wider than the old car.
Not big on the hatchback, though I’m getting used to it. Cargo space is limited, though it makes very efficient use of the space it has. Lots of extra little compartments, hooks, etc. Cup holders are a bit too loose* for most purposes, including my travel coffee mug (yeah, big deal, I know).
I’ve found myself changing the way I drive. I used to focus on maintaining stopping distance. Now I’m focusing on making the most efficient use of acceleration. The Prius dashboard displays the point MPG, and a graph of 5-minute averages over the past half-hour. It makes you acutely aware of which actions are most efficient. Continue reading