Prius usage: week 1

2009 Prius ConsumptionI've had a solid work week to drive the new Prius around Orlando (hereafter referred to as the "Red Rocket", so named by of my friends and former co-worker). It's been driven up and down the freeways (I-4, the 408, and the 417), as well as up and down surface streets from my neighborhood to the area around U.C.F. and points in between. Average MPG since the day I drove it home from the dealership stands at 46.2. I actually had a 5-minute slice hit 100 MPG today while driving around my neighborhood, something I probably won't see very often.

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.
I've also gotten used to keeping the keys in my pocket and using the keyless entry system as it was meant to be used. That is, I walk up to the car, touch the inside of the driver's side door handle to unlock it, climb in, press the power button, then toggle the tiny shifter on the dash to either back up or drive forward. Driving the Red Rocket is utter simplicity.

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 ancient timeless Led Zeppelin tunes).

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.


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