Driving the Red Rocket and watching the Consumption meter out of the corner of my eye, I've come to observe the following.
- It costs fuel, and lowered MPG, to overcome inertia and get the vehicle up to speed. How much? MPG drops down to the teens when getting started. A similar effect occurs when going up a hill, though not nearly as bad, unless you combine the two, and they MPG drops down to single digits.
- You get that initial energy expended from the regenerative system tied into the wheels. This occurs when you break or when you're no longer accelerating (coasting), i.e. your foot's no longer on the acclerator. You can tell this is happening because the instantanious MPG meter hits 99.9 MPG. If the vehicle is moving and you take your foot off the accelerator you can also feel the subtle release of the gas engine as it shuts down. Intertia, which worked against you when you wanted to start, is now helping you as the vehicle continues to move forward by driving the generator and recharging the on-board battery pack, as well as allowing the engine to be shut down during the coasting phase.
- When you come to a complete stop, the engine shuts off. It will start up if the voltage drops to too low a level due to internal loads such as the air conditioning, but so far it has stayed off until I have to start moving again, such as at traffic lights and stop signs. That single engineering feature probably saves quite a bit of gas just by itself.
The car is still quite comfortable to drive, and the interior space is more than adequate. I thought perhaps I might find the interior more claustrophobic the more time I spent in it, but that isn't happening. The Red Rocket rides smooth and with good precision down the road, with very low levels of noise (unless I'm playing
So far the Red Rocket has more than exceeded expectations. I'd thought I'd regret not buying the Honda Insight, but that worry is rapidly receeding as I drive into the future with the Prius.