Friday, December 03, 2004

First Fill Up For The Prius

(c) Andy Ternay
  • Our beautiful Diana.

  • When I look back and think, when I ponder and ask why, I see my ancestors spend with careless abandon assume an eternal supply . . .
    Bad Religion, Modern Man

    First fill up for Diana yesterday. Yes, we did decide to name the Prius after the Moon Goddess, the Huntress/Protectress of the forest and animals. The Huntress part, I think, recognizes that we are still consumers of resources. The Protectress part is our way of acknowledging our responsibility to each other and to those yet to come.

    Diana went 383 miles on a single tank of gas at an average of 42.44mpg. I'm not disappointed - to the contrary, we have driven her fairly hard, some of that due to learning, some of that due to showing off. Yesterday when I filled up the tank I also learned that the dealer had, as is common, underinflated the tires severely. All tires were at 32psi. The two front tires of the Prius should always be 2psi higher than the back. It comes with tires rated for 44psi, most Prius owners favor 42 for the front and forty for the rear, which is what we did. I expect, based on the reports of others, to get an addditonal two to three mpg out of that.

    I have not checked the oil yet. For reasons unclear to me, the Prius takes 3.8 quarts, not four (I think Toyota did that to screw with non-Toyota mechanics). How much difference does a couple of teaspoons make? About two mpg.

    There are a couple of other factors that impact mileage negatively. One is the cold weather which impacts all vehicles. Another is the "break in" that occurs between 5,000 and 7,000 miles on the Prius. This kinda sounds like voodoo to me, except that I am hearing it from so many Prius owners. It apparently means that the hybrid motor and parts kind of get worn enough to loosen up a little. I am hearing of mpg increases from two to four mpg from the "break in."

    So, at a minimum, I am expecting about a five mpg increase over the next several months, probably a little more. After all, none of this includes using Prius specific driving techniques to increase mileage. Pulse driving, feathering, lightfooting, deadbanding, stealth mode and brisk acceleration are all methods I have read about, but not really tried. The folks using these methods, at speeds that are comparable to other drivers on the road (so no, you're not driving below the speed limit, in fact, most of these guys report driving above to go with the flow of traffic), are reporting things like 53, 55 and even 60 mpg!

    My goal is to get an average of 50mpg, but my dream is 55mpg. I won't go below the speed limit, both as a safety thing and as a courtesy to other drivers on the road. It's just selfish to hold everyone else up so that I can be a mileage stud.

    I do face one obstacle to this goal, and it is an obstacle other hybrid drivers trying to achieve the vaunted hypermiler status face as well. This one I might not be able to overcome. It is the dreaded spouse uses the car syndrome. Fortunately, there are techniques to overcome this as well. One hypermiler tells his wife that his doctor wants him to walk "a mile or two a day" and parks his car a mile from his house. Getting up earlier, hiding their car keys, turning off the alarm, these are all ways of insuring that your mpg average stays as high as you intend.

    Me? I'm doomed. My AA program does not allow me to do things like that, so Laura will have Diana today and I will cringe at the thought of jackrabbit acceleration and sudden stops. Overall, as much as I like the car, I would rather have Laura in my life than the car. So mileage gets sacrificed on the altar of love.

    Driving a Prius is like wearing a kilt. You get a fair amount of friendly smiles and waves. A significant number of people stare. One thing surprised me: a few people scowl and are hostile. Seriously. I did not expect that shit, I don't hate them because they drive an Expedition or Suburban! Really, I don't. I have had one coworker make a really rude remark to the effect that you can spot the environmental idiots in the overpriced hybrids.

    It occurs to me that this might be like the very few people I know who act very defensive about me being in AA. Almost invariably they turn out to be worried about their own drinking. Maybe the glares come from guilt feelings? That's their problem, not mine. It seems silly to let the car I bought ruin their day, but again, that is their issue.

    One final comment, the Prius is not as efficient as it could be I am learning. It may surprise some, but high mileage was not the primary goal of the Toyota engineers. The primary reason for the Prius was to reduce emissions. As a result of that some fuel efficiency is lost. You know what?

    That is fine by me. Goddess, thank You for another day sober! Blessings to ya'll.