Three Reasons You Should Hate the Prius ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: Three Reasons You Should Hate the Prius

Monday, July 02, 2007

Three Reasons You Should Hate the Prius

Toyota PriusThere are good points and bad points for every technology, and for the most part, I focus on the good points of hybrids. But for this post, let's take a look at the bad points.

  1. If you drive like you always do, you'll never get those EPA numbers.
  2. Toyota gets to look like the good guy in automaker circles. But really, they are no better or worse than the others.
  3. Hybrid Electric Cars may not be the best choice for you.
The EPA and the Prius
The truth is, the EPA tests do not reflect real world driving. Any driving on a test track or in a lab is going to be biased and just plain off for most drivers. So, you should never expect the EPA mpg ratings on the sticker to reflect what you will get in your everyday driving.

Having said that, the Prius (as well as other hybrid cars), seem to be farther off than other cars. Why? First note that they have farther to fall. Going from 60 to 48 seems more drastic than going from 15 to 13. But really they are not much different if you look the percentages. Even so, the Prius will drop more percentage-wise than most other cars.

Hybrid cars, because of their design, excel at the stop and go testing the EPA does. Gradual stopping recharges the batteries, allowing them to run for longer at low speeds on the batteries. Since the 'city' driving tests allow for gradual acceleration followed by slow stopping, the Prius is right where it wants to be.

Prius ReadoutIn the end, most test car drivers (i.e. for magazines and newspapers) will not change their driving habits in order to take advantage of a what a hybrid can offer. They want to be consistent with their other cars, and with what they (rightly) believe how others drive. And so you're always going to see those eye-catching by-lines on how hybrid don't live up to their hype.

For a driver to get closer to the EPA numbers, they would need to relearn how to drive and learn how to take advantage of what a hybrid can do. That's not easy for everyone to do. Driving with buffers and driving without brakes are tough concepts to learn.

Toyota Looks Like the Good Guy
Toyota dominates the hybrid marketplace. Three out of every four hybrids sold in the US are from Toyota. Around one half of every hybrid sold is a Prius. They were willing to pay the research and marketing price tag and, as such, they get to pull in the accolades for doing so. But in the end, that doesn't make them any better than any other automaker.

They, just like GM, Ford, Honda, Nissan, etc... are looking to make a profit. They sell the trucks and cars that people buy. Yes, Toyota sells a lot of small cars, but that's because their home (Japan) market wants them. They build reliable cars because they would be cited by their home government for not doing so. They are looking to build more hybrids because they have the advantage and they know it.

That doesn't make them any better than the others. Every other carmaker would do the same thing. Other automakers will jump on the flex-fuel bandwagon because they feel like they can have an advantage their. And others will look to build and market diesels because they feel they have the competitive advantage. And all of them will tout how their way is best and that they have the cars with most to offer (fuel economy wise) because that's what the marketplace wants right now.

Remember all those ads for safety just a few years ago. Where did they go? Keep that in mind when you think about your favorite automaker.

Hybrid Electric Cars Are Not Your Answer
Just because you can get 60 or even 70 mpg with a hybrid (if you learn how to hypermile) does not mean you are saving the earth. Just because you get access to the HOV lanes, or free parking, or a tax rebate, doesn't mean you are better than anyone else.

Hybrid cars are expensive and are not for everyone. If everyone just bought the most fuel efficient car in the class they wanted, whether it be compact, midsize, truck or SUV, everyone would benefit. If you want a (small) midsize car, then the Prius is the right car because you can do the most with it. If you need to have a truck or a minivan or a van, then buying the most fuel efficient vehicle in that class is doing just as much, if not more, than the person who bought a Prius.

Going from a vehicle that gets 10 mpg to one that averages 15 mpg means a lot more than picking a car that gets 50 mpg rather than 40 mpg. If you drive 15,000 miles a year, choosing the vehicle that gets 15 instead of 10 will net you 500 gallons in savings. While going from a 40 mpg to a 50 mpg will only save 75 gallons a year.

Note that the 50 mpg car will only use 300 gallons, while the 15 mpg vehicle will use 1000 gallons a year, but that's not the point. If you need a bigger car, then you need a bigger car.

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of hybrids? Follow the label 'pros and cons.' If you're looking to maximize your driving habits to save fuel, follow the label for 'hypermiling.'

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Unknown said...

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Norak said...

You say that you should hate the Prius because its rating fuel economy differs from its actual fuel economy, but all cars suffer from that problem. This is because how the tester tests it will likely be different to your unique way of driving and how you drive a car affects how fuel efficient it is. A Prius in the hands of a pro can get 100 mpg.

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting John.

but all cars suffer from that problem
I thought I was making that point. The problem with the Prius (and the Civic Hybrid, for that matter) is the percentage they are off is higher than for most other cars.

A Prius in the hands of a pro can get 100 mpg.
As for hypermiling, you should check out the posts I have on that. See the category in the sidebar.

Anonymous said...

I like what you have to say in the most basic terms: Buyer beware. Many people who don't care to educate themselves about the true benefits of a hybrid car give the Prius, and Toyota, undue praise. Furthermore, the Prius doesn't get the miraculous mileage indicated on the sticker by most drivers. However, that's not a good reason to HATE the Prius.

Anonymous said...

I have a Ford F150 and a 2006 Prius. The Prius allows me to drive my 45 minute commute to work without worrying so much about the price of gas that month. I drive it the same as my Ford F150, except that I can't always afford to fill up my F150 tanks (it has two tanks).

I get 50 mpg and love the vehicle stability control. In the winter I put on snow tires and get around great. I paid $24,500 and with the tax break that cost me $21,000.

I actually really like my Prius and am sorry that some people have such a strong negative feeling for it--I'm still trying to figure out why. Is it change? Something new?

I can say that it's taken a load off of my mind regarding predicting my monthly expenses.

Unknown said...

Good questions, perk23. I'm not sure why people feel so strongly about hybrids. Is there a perception of 'smugness' about Prius drivers?

Anonymous said...

I notice you forget to mention that the production of a single battery for the prius alone produces more carbon dioxide and pollution than the production of 10 humvees. in the long run these hybrid cars will be worse for the environment than any other alternative

Unknown said...

That's a myth about the humvee and Prius comparison. It's based on a 'study' by a marketing group and just isn't true.

Anonymous said...

How can you say in your top 3 reasons that toyota is no better or worse than other hybrid makers?
The prius has been public ROAD tested for 10 years now. All the american companys with all these flex cars and hybrids just now hitting the market (mostly still to come) are just trying to throw something on the market to compete with no history... dont hate toyota because they're beating the pants off our american companys, honda, toyota and bmw have been electric testing for a very long time. its now time for the usa to play catch up...

Unknown said...

I meant that Toyota, the company, is no better than any other car maker. Toyota gets to say they are a 'green company', just like Honda does. But really, even the most fuel efficient car like the Prius doesn't make the company Toyota 'green'.

BTW, Ford has had hybrids for years now, too.

Anonymous said...

I CANT STAND THE PRIUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Makes me want to key a prius >:]

Anonymous said...

I bought a used Prius with 150k, looks and runs amazing for $5393.00 tax, license and fees included. For a year I've been routinely averaging 50 mpg and can get 57 if I take it easy. This car has far more torque than anything in it's class and those cars get only two thirds the mileage. In two more years this car will have literally paid for itself in savings over what I was spending at 20 mpg in my Nissan.

All that said, many of your comments are clearly biased, ie: "driving without brakes". (This comment clearly demonstrates your ignorance of how the 10kw and 50kw motor/generators play their roles during normal braking.) I pretty much drive totally normal to get the 50 mpg. When I let my teenage boys drive the Prius the mileage will drop from 50 to 43/44 (Which is still fantastic) and they pay absolutely no attention to "how" they're driving. (The mileage drpos on any vehicles they drive.) They race to the speed limit and hit the brakes like the stop signs magically appear.

I think, like a racist, you're just searching for things to dislike. It's irrational. The Prius has a 94% customer satisfaction rating, the highest of any car ever made. The whole premise of your article is irrational, that somehow hybrids may not be suited for some people. The Prius is a top-notch car in it's class and being a hybrid has little bearing on it's usability.

Unknown said...

Hi anonymous, I think you need to look around the rest of the site to see how I really feel about hybrids. Getting about 50 mpg is very good for normal driving and you should be proud of it. I've seen many reports out there for those who don't get that, however.

As for driving without brakes, that's a phrase I've picked up for planning out your driving, so you don't have to brake unnecessarily. It helps boost your fuel efficiency enormously, once you get the hang of it.

It's true the Prius has a high satisfaction rating, but that does not mean it's for everyone. If you're going to be traveling on vacation with a family of five, the Prius is not the car of choice. If you're towing a boat or you live in a mountainous area, the Prius is not going to be your best choice.

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