The Truth About Cars » toyota prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 07 Dec 2014 13:37:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » toyota prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Honda Insight Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-insight-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-insight-dead-heres/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 12:32:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=900858 More than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on. Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t. The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror. Though it has […]

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2012 Honda Insight greyMore than two years after American Honda last produced meaningful sales volume with its first Insight, a second Insight arrived to tackle the Toyota Prius head-on.

Only it didn’t, because it couldn’t.

The Insight’s death was reported here at the end of last month. There was no accompanying shock, surprise or horror.

Though it has competed with a much lower base MSRP than the core Prius model, the Insight is a 42 mpg car fighting against the hybrid, a 50 mpg Prius.

Those are the numbers that mattered most to potential customers, not cargo capacity or horsepower or airbags. (The Prius, incidentally, has more cargo capacity behind the rear seats and with seats folded, more horsepower, and more airbags.)

Think of this way. The Prius was akin to the establishment candidate for the ruling party, a guy who’d led the country for years, a policy wonk with a certain charm. In comes Insight, somebody who was once known as a revolutionary politician but disappeared for a few years before returning with fewer baby kisses, less foreign affairs awareness, and no real plan for reducing the deficit.

In 2008, the Toyota Prius was America’s tenth-best-selling car. In 2009, the Insight arrived to take on this hugely popular car but brought with it significant on-paper disadvantages.

The results were as anticipated. Honda sold 20,572 Insights in 2009; Toyota sold 139,682 Prii. Prius sales rose slightly to 140,928 in 2010; Insight volume rose to 20,962 units. Insight volume plunged 26% to 15,549 in 2011; Prius volume fell 9% to 128,064. Prius volume then jumped 15% to 147,507 units in 2012 while Insight sales plunged again, falling 62% to just 5846. Insight sales fell again, 18%, to just 4802 units in 2013. Prius sales slid slightly, just 2%, to 145,172 in 2013.

Through the first seven months of 2014, Insight sales have fallen 6% to 2624 units. Prius sales have fallen 18% to 75,903 as we approach its turn into a fourth-generation iteration.

There won’t be an immediate, overlapping replacement for the Insight. It’s not that Honda needed to sell the Insight at Prius-like levels for the model to succeed. Honda doesn’t sell as many Accords as Toyota does Camrys, and there’s no one implying that the Accord ought to be killed off.

Yet during the time period in which the Insight has steadily waned, Toyota has expanded the Prius lineup. There’s a plug-in variant of the regular Prius that has sold 10,671 copies this year, quadruple the volume Honda has done with the Insight. Toyota USA has also sold 101,715 Prius C hatchbacks since February 2012 and 101,276 copies of the Prius V wagon since the fourth quarter of 2011.

Toyota is trading off the Prius’s name brand to generate genuinely high U.S. sales. There was equity in the Insight name, but by introducing an underwhelming half-measure in 2009, Honda may have extinguished that equity along with the car itself.

The Insight, of course, isn’t the company’s only hybrid. Honda has reported 8250 U.S. sales of the Accord Hybrid through the first seven months of 2014, 221 Accord Plug-Ins, 2904 Civic Hybrids, 263 Fit EVs, 306 Acura ILX Hybrids, and 2355 CR-Zs.

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Ford’s Also Readying A Prius Fighter, But Don’t They Already Have One? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fords-also-readying-prius-fighter-dont-already-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/fords-also-readying-prius-fighter-dont-already-one/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:31:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897482 Our Ford sources have confirmed a Reuters report that claims Ford is readying a new lineup of dedicated hybrids to take on the Toyota Prius. The new range, set to debut in late 2018, will ride on the next-generation C-platform that underpins the current Ford Escape and Focus. Dubbed “C240″, volume has been pegged at 120,000 […]

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Our Ford sources have confirmed a Reuters report that claims Ford is readying a new lineup of dedicated hybrids to take on the Toyota Prius.

The new range, set to debut in late 2018, will ride on the next-generation C-platform that underpins the current Ford Escape and Focus. Dubbed “C240″, volume has been pegged at 120,000 units annually, with production taking place at the Wayne, Michigan assembly plant.

In addition to a range of bodystyles, both regular hybrid and plug-in versions are set to be offered. Although much talk has been made of the distinct nature of these new vehicles, Ford already offers the C-Max as a hybrid-only vehicle – though the C-Max was originally set to be offered as a gasoline-powered minivan in varying lengths, with 5 or 7 seats.

The C-Max was originally offered with the 1.6L Ecoboost and 2.5L I4 engines, but in between its 2011 debut and its 2012 on sale date, Ford pivoted to a hybrid-only strategy. TTAC sources claim that Ford’s $5.9 billon loan from the government’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program was used to convert the C-Max (and its assembly facilities) into a hybrid-only offering that would ostensibly offer Ford numerous regulatory benefits (in the form of an increased CAFE rating and regulatory credits) as well as a unique marketing edge.

Although look is more akin to the larger Prius V, the C-Max is Ford’s de facto Prius competitor, by nature of its hybrid-only powertrain and odd (for North America) shape and footprint. But sales have been modest, with 35,000 units sold in 2013, and questions regarding its fuel economy figures, coupled with disgruntled owners, have hurt its image. Perhaps Ford is looking to launch a clean sheet Prius competitor backed by a clean-sheet design and marketing effort.

 

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Is Hyundai Readying A Prius Fighter? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hyundai-readying-prius-fighter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hyundai-readying-prius-fighter/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 20:47:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=895490   While the next big product on Hyundai’s horizon is the long-rumored compact CUV that could take on the Nissan Juke, it seems that Hyundai has not one but two potentially significant products in the works. AutoGuide.com has spy shots of two Elantra GT mules with slightly askew bodywork. According to their photographers, the mules […]

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While the next big product on Hyundai’s horizon is the long-rumored compact CUV that could take on the Nissan Juke, it seems that Hyundai has not one but two potentially significant products in the works.

AutoGuide.com has spy shots of two Elantra GT mules with slightly askew bodywork. According to their photographers, the mules appear to be testing out powertrains for two new models that will compete with the Toyota Prius and Prius V respectively. Rather than be part of the Elantra lineup, the new cars will apparently be distinct models.

Furthering this notion are photos of the kind of orange high-voltage cables commonly seen in hybrid cars. No timetable has been discussed, and this is the first that we’ve seen of a dedicated hybrid lineup.

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There’s A New Queen Of California http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/theres-a-new-queen-of-california/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/theres-a-new-queen-of-california/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 14:17:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=821058 Oh, California, the trend-setting coastal paradise that once sparked a revolution in the American car market. Fully half of cars sold in the Golden State are from Japanese brands, and for a couple of years, the top dog was the Toyota Prius – about as opposite as could be from the rest of the country, […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Oh, California, the trend-setting coastal paradise that once sparked a revolution in the American car market. Fully half of cars sold in the Golden State are from Japanese brands, and for a couple of years, the top dog was the Toyota Prius – about as opposite as could be from the rest of the country, where the Ford F-Series reigns supreme. But there’s a new leader in the sales charts, and it’s a bit more mainstream (or “normcore” as the kids are saying these days).

In the first few months of 2014, the Honda Accord has managed to displace the Toyota Prius as California’s best-selling car. The Los Angeles Times reports that 15,611 Accords have been sold, giving it a lead of roughly 300 units over the Prius. The Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla rounded out the top five.

That’s not to say that the race is wrapped up already: the Prius, or any of the other cars mentioned, could snatch the crown – no other nameplates have sold more than 10,000 units so far.

At 1.8 million units, California’s car market is bigger than Canada’s, and import brands make up nearly three quarters of all sales. But Chrysler saw a big gain in 2014, with Jeep sales up 57 percent, Ram trucks up 49 percent and Fiat up 78 percent. The big losers in California included Tesla, which saw a 36 percent drop in sales. Perhaps the novelty of being an “early adopter” is wearing off, at least until the Model X arrives next year.

 

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Chief Engineer: Next Gen Prius Will Get Better Gas Mileage, Cost Less http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/chief-engineer-next-gen-prius-will-get-better-gas-mileage-cost-less/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/chief-engineer-next-gen-prius-will-get-better-gas-mileage-cost-less/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 10:23:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502089 The chief engineer for Toyota’s Prius program, Satoshi Ogiso, who is also managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp, gave some hints about the next generation of Toyota’s highest profile hybrid car at a presentation held as part of Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour, a press event that gathered together all of Toyota’s hybrid cars sold around […]

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Toyota’s Satoshi Ogiso and Bob Carter address the global media gathered in Ypsilanti for Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour press event

The chief engineer for Toyota’s Prius program, Satoshi Ogiso, who is also managing officer of Toyota Motor Corp, gave some hints about the next generation of Toyota’s highest profile hybrid car at a presentation held as part of Toyota’s Hybrid World Tour, a press event that gathered together all of Toyota’s hybrid cars sold around the world for the first time in one place, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, not far from Toyota’s large R&D center in Ann Arbor.

Ogiso, who oversees product planning and chassis engineering for Toyota, said that while the company continues to work on fuel cell cars and expects to be selling 10,000 or more fuel cell cars a year by the 2020s, Toyota is committed to the concept of hybrid cars that combine electric motors and combustion engines. Due to refinements in Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, the next Prius will get “”significantly better fuel economy in a more compact package that is lighter weight and lower cost, Ogiso said.

“The performance of this next generation of powertrains will reflect significant advances in battery, electric motor and gas engine technologies,” the Toyota engineer said. He also said that while hybrid components will get smaller, the footprint and interior dimensions of the Prius will remain the same.

Comparing a 10% gain in fuel economy to sprinter Usain Bolt taking a second off his world record in the 100 meter dash, Osigo said that Toyota is aiming at 55 mpg for the next Prius, compared to 50 mpg for the current model. In response to a question about when that next Prius will arrive in showrooms, Osigo gave the standard ‘can’t comment on future product plans’ response but then pointed out that the first three iterations of Toyota’s flagship hybrid were spaced six years apart, hinting strongly that the new Prius will be launched in 2015.

That car’s traction batteries will have a higher energy density, and its electric motor, though smaller, will put out more power. Toyota is also aiming for a thermal efficiency of 40% for the gasoline fired combustion engine, which would be the world’s most efficient.

Future models of the Prius may also feature a wireless charging system that Toyota will being testing next year.

Ogiso said that the next Prius will be the first Toyota to use the company’s New Global Architecture platform and it will have a lower center of gravity and better structural rigidity.

Ogiso also addressed other alternative energy developments at Toyota, including hydrogen fuel cells and supercapacitors. While Toyota is already planning production fuel cell cars within the next decade, supercapacitors, which are used in Toyota’s TS030 LeMans racer, also on display at the event, are not yet ready for use in a street car.

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Review: 2013 Chevrolet Volt (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2013-chevrolet-volt-video/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495593 The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of […]

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2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Chevrolet Volt may be the most maligned and least understood car on the market. After a week of strange questions and bipolar reactions to GM’s plug-in hybrid, I came to a conclusion. GM’s marketing of the Volt stinks. By calling the Volt an “Electric Vehicle (EV) with a range extender,” a huge segment of the population can’t get past “Electric” and immediately cross the Volt off their list. There is also [strangely] a segment of the population that says, “that’s great but I want a hybrid.”  Guess what? The Volt is a hybrid.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Aerodynamics dictate the shape of modern high-efficiency cars, and as a result, the Volt has a profile very similar to the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. Like the Japanese hybrids, the Volt is a liftback design which is more practical than your typical trunk lid for carrying large items from the home improvement store.

The Volt’s styling isn’t for everyone, but I find the overall style aggressive and attractive. There is a caveat. Since the shape is dictated by wind-tunnel testing (just like the Prius and Insight) the Volt reminds me of NASCAR cars. Why? Because they all have the same shape and teams paint / add decals to “brand” their car. The Volt/Prius/Insight reminds me of this tactic and parked next to one another in the dark you’d be hard pressed to differentiate them by silhouette.

For its first refresh since it launched as a 2011, GM decided to ditch the somewhat awkward black roof and black painted liftgate opting for a more harmonious body-matching hue. There are also subtle tweaks to the rear tail lamp modules this year.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Hybrids have long suffered cheaper looking and feeling interiors than their “normal” counterparts. That is true for the Prius, Insight and the Volt. The reason is two-fold. The first is obviously cost. Motors and batteries aren’t cheap and the Volt has 288 batteries jammed into a “T” shaped battery pack that runs the length of the car and across the back of the car behind the rear seats. With a nominal 16.5kWh capacity, this battery is about four times larger than the Prius Plug-In’s pack and nearly twice the size of Ford’s Energi. The second reason is weight. Hard plastics weigh less.

Hard plastics included, the Volt is a nicer place to spend your time than a Prius but Ford’s C-MAX takes top position in terms of interior parts feel. Style is subjective, but I would rank the Volt between the Prius’ funky interior design and the C-MAX’s mainstream interior. Part of this is because 2013 brings more sedate and mainstream choices to the Volt’s interior. Gone are the funky orange door panels with “circuit board” patterns replaced by a dark silver plastic panels on the black interior. New for 2013 is some brown love, a color combo that brings the Volt’s interior feel up a substantial notch without actually improving the quality of the plastics.

Front seat comfort slots between the Ford and Toyota alternatives up front, in the rear there is less headroom and legroom than in the Prius or C-MAX. There is also one less seat. The lack of a 5th seat seems to be a common reason given for choosing something else over the Volt, but the battery had to go somewhere so the Volt trades more cargo room with the seats in place vs the C-MAX Energi for that 5th seat. Pick your poison.

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

When it comes to infotainment and trendy gadgets, the Volt scores big. Sure the 7-inch LCD gauge cluster isn’t as snazzy as Land Rover’s 12-inch readout, but the Prius is stuck in a 1980s Chrysler LeBaron electrofluorescent-time-warp and one 7-inch readout trumps Ford’s twin-4.2″ display setup in my mind. That’s before I comment that the Volt’s gauges are where they belong, in front of the driver…

The Volt gets Chevy’s latest MyLink infotainment system with some slight tweaks for 2013. GM’s mid-market  entertainment operating system is one of my favorites. The graphics are slick, the display is easy to read and GM offers a touchscreen and a joystick/knob controller so you can use whatever comes naturally. Unlike MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE, the Chevy is virtually crash-free and always responsive. 2013 brings improved voice commands for your USB/iDevice allowing you to command your tunes at the press of a button, and unlike Toyota’s similar system, MyLink doesn’t have a problem with large music libraries. If you opt for nav software, destination entry is quick and the map software uses high-resolution maps with satellite traffic info.

On the safety gadget front 2013 brings collision and blind spot warning systems from the Cadillac XTS. The system is camera based so you can’t get radar adaptive cruise control, a system that is offered on the Prius and the Fusion Energi but not on the C-Max Energi.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Before we dive into the Volt, it’s important to know how hybrid systems work. GM’s Belt-Alternator-Starter, Mercedes’ S400 Hybrid and Honda’s IMA hybrids are all systems where the engine is always connected and even if the car is capable of “EV” mode, the engine is spinning. Porsche, VW, Infiniti and others use a pancake motor and clutch setup to disconnect the engine from the motor and transmission allowing a “pure EV” mode. Honda’s new Accord has a 2-mode setup where the motor drives the wheels via a fixed ratio gearset, the engine drives a motor and above 45MPH a clutch engages, linking the engine and motor together at a ratio of roughly 1:1. Ford, Toyota and the Volt use a planetary gearset “power splitting” device. Yes, the Volt uses a hybrid system that although not identical, is thematically similar to Ford & Toyota’s hybrid system.

Say what? I thought GM said it was a serial hybrid? Yes, GM did at some point say that and I think that has caused more confusion than anything else about the Volt. The bankrupt Fisker Karma is only a serial hybrid. The engine drives a generator, the generator powers the battery and the motor to move the car forward. At no point can the engine provide any motive power to the wheels except via the electrical connection.

The Volt’s innovation is that it can operate like a Fisker Karma or like a Prius. It is therefore both a serial and a parallel hybrid. To do this, GM alters the power split device power flow VS the Ford/Toyota design. Then they add a clutch allowing the gasoline engine to be mechanically isolated from the wheels. And finally they add software with a whole new take on a hybrid system.

volt-tranmission, Courtesy of MotorTrend.com

The Volt has four distinct operating modes.

  1. Starting off from a stop, the Volt draws power from its 16.5kWh (10.8 usable) battery pack to power the 149HP main motor.
  2. At higher speeds, the car will connect the 72HP secondary motor/generator via the planetary gearset. This is not to increase power, but to reduce the main motor’s RPM therefore increasing efficiency. Maximum horsepower is still 149.

When the battery is low, or when “hold” or “mountain modes are engaged, the system switches to one of two hybrid modes.

  1. The system starts the 1.4L 84 HP gasoline engine and uses it to turn a 72HP motor/generator. The system feeds the power to the battery and primary motor. Maximum horsepower is still 149. When more than 72HP is being consumed, the balance is drawn from the battery.
  2. When more power is required, the system disengages the clutch pack and the system functions very much like a Ford/Toyota hybrid with the gasoline engine assisting in the propulsion both mechanically and electrically via the power split device. Maximum horsepower is still 149 BUT this mode alters the torque curve of the combined system and in this mode acceleration is slightly faster than in any other mode.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Why do I mention the four modes? Because you can easily encounter all four modes in a single trip. Which mode the Volt uses is determined by the car, it is not user-selectable. Starting off at home with a full battery, I was able to drive 32 miles in EV mode. That’s about 22 more than the Prius Plug-In and 18 more than the C-MAX Energi. How is that possible with a battery that is so much larger? Allow me to digress for a moment.

GM takes an interesting and very conservative approach to battery life. Rather than charging and discharging the battery nearly completely as Nissan and Tesla’s EVs do, the Volt will only use the “middle” 65% of the battery. This means that when the display says it is “full,” the battery is really only 85% charged. When it reads empty, the true state of charge is around 35%. Why? Because batteries degrade more rapidly when they are at high or low states of charge. By never operating the battery at these extremes and having an active thermal management system, I expect the Volt’s battery to have a longer life than other vehicles on the market with the same battery chemistry.

Back to those modes. We clocked 0-60 in 8.72 seconds when the Volt was operating as an EV (slightly faster than the C-MAX Energi and much faster than a Prius). In parallel hybrid mode, the broader torque curve dropped this to 8.4 seconds. Transitions between modes is practically seamless unless you are driving the Volt aggressively on mountain roadways. On steep inclines when you’re at a lower state of charge, the Volt will switch from serial-hybrid to parallel-hybrid modes to keep from draining the battery below the minimum threshold. Transitioning from one mode to the other causes a momentary delay in power application as the transmission disengages the clutch pack and synchronizes the speeds of the motors and engine. This transition is more pronounced than a typical gear shift in a traditional automatic.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When it comes to road holding, the porky 3,899lb C-MAX Energi is the winner thanks to its wide 225-width rubber and the chassis’ Euro origins. The Volt is a close second at 3,781lbs with the standard 215 low rolling resistance rubber. The Prius? A distant third despite being the lightest at 3,165lbs. Admittedly handling better than a Prius isn’t a terribly high bar to leap, but in the grand scheme of things the Volt handles as well as the average compact sedan. Overall wind and road noise slot (yet again) between the quieter C-MAX and the noisier Prius.

Fuel economy is the most important part of a hybrid, and this is the area where the Volt starts having problems. Starting with a full battery (at my rates, this cost $1.52) the first 32 miles were in EV mode followed by 26 miles in hybrid mode. My average economy was 90 MPG, a few better than the Prius plug-in’s 72 on the same trip and 60 for the Ford. Being unable to charge the Volt at my office due to construction, these numbers fell rapidly on my way home. On this single-charge round trip, the Prius averaged 62 MPG, the C-MAX averaged 50 and the Volt dropped to 46. What’s going on? Once under way the Volt’s four-mode hybrid system seems to be less efficient than the C-MAX. The exact reasons for this I’m not sure, but on a round-trip commute without charging, I averaged 32-33 MPG vs the 40.7 in the C-MAX Energi and 52 in the Prius Plug-In. The longer you drive your Volt without charging it, the more it will cost to run than the Ford or Toyota.

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port

On the flip side if your commute is within 30-35 miles of a charging station you will almost never use the gasoline engine. (The Volt will run it now and then to make sure the gasoline doesn’t go bad in the plumbing.) Unlike the alternatives, the Volt will also stay pure electric even under full throttle acceleration giving you a driving experience that is very much like a LEAF/Tesla until you deplete the battery.

This brings us full circle to the EV vs hybrid question. What is the Volt? In my opinion it’s a plug-in hybrid. I also think this is the best marketing angle for GM because when you explain to people that there is no range anxiety in the Volt and you can use the HOV lane in California solo, they seem to “get it.” The fly in the ointment is the price, The Volt starts at $39,145 and ends just shy of 45-large. The “that’s too much to pay for an electric Cruze” is a hard rep to shake, and even GM throwing cash on the Volt’s hood isn’t helping. Factor in the $8,000 premium over the C-MAX Energi and Prius Plug-In and you start to see the rest of the problem. At the end of my week with Chevy’s car with a plug I came to the conclusion that the Volt is the most misunderstood car on the market right now. But with a high sticker price and only four seats I’m not entirely sure that understanding GM’s conflicted EV/Hybrid will help them sell.

 

 General Motors provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.285 Seconds (EV Mode)

0-60: 8.72 Seconds (EV Mode), 8.4 Seconds (hybrid mode)

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 84 MPH (EV Mode)

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 48MPG over 565 miles, 32-33MPG hybrid mode

 

2013 Chevrolet Volt Charging Port 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain 2013 Chevrolet Volt Drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-004 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-007 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-008 2013 Chevrolet Volt Exterior-009 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-001 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-002 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-003 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-005 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior-006 2013 Chevrolet Volt Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

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Peugeot Adds Lightness With 1700 LB Supermini http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/peugeot-adds-lightness-with-1700-lb-supermini/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/peugeot-adds-lightness-with-1700-lb-supermini/#comments Tue, 19 Feb 2013 17:52:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478154 What would you say to a hybrid B-segment car that weighed 1700 lbs, emitted half the carbon emissions of a Toyota Prius and still hit 62 mph in 8 seconds? In a couple weeks time, Peugeot will debut a new version of their 208 subcompact, dubbed the HybridFE. The starting point is a base 208 […]

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What would you say to a hybrid B-segment car that weighed 1700 lbs, emitted half the carbon emissions of a Toyota Prius and still hit 62 mph in 8 seconds?

In a couple weeks time, Peugeot will debut a new version of their 208 subcompact, dubbed the HybridFE. The starting point is a base 208 with a lethargic 1.0L 3-cylinder engine making 68 horsepower. With a 14 second 0-60 time, one could read an entire Foucault book on the construct of the sociosexual panopticon and still just hit 58 mph.

But Peugeot, channeling Chapman, has ripped out 440 lbs from the car, bringing its curb weight down to about 1700 lbs, from the base car’s 2150 lbs. A hybrid system, an automated manual gearbox, low-rolling resistance tires and a special aerodynamics package have been added to help increase efficiency and aerodynamic properties.

The end result is still a 68 horsepower 208, but one capable of a very respectable 8-second sprint to 62 mph, while emitting just 49g/km of CO2 – about half of what a Toyota Prius emits. For comparison, vehicles than emit less than 100 grams are eligible for exemption from the London congestion charge, since they are considered low emissions.

The one caveat here is that Peugeot hasn’t released any pictures so far. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that light weight engineering is far from dead. It’s certainly more realistic than their compressed-air hybrid system.

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As Prius Sales Rise, So Do Sales Of The Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/as-prius-sales-rise-so-do-sales-of-the-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/as-prius-sales-rise-so-do-sales-of-the-prius/#comments Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:07:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477662 Oddly enough, the presence of the roomy Prius V and less costly Prius C have done little to harm the popularity of Toyota’s primary hybrid, the Prius. More accurately, since Toyota introduced the V, C, and Plug-In versions, sales of the core model have done nothing but rise. Two questions arise. First, to what extent […]

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Oddly enough, the presence of the roomy Prius V and less costly Prius C have done little to harm the popularity of Toyota’s primary hybrid, the Prius. More accurately, since Toyota introduced the V, C, and Plug-In versions, sales of the core model have done nothing but rise.

Two questions arise. First, to what extent have sales of the Prius risen? Second, what happened that made it possible for Prius sales to have grown as competition became more fierce?

Briefly put, even when excluding its recent additions, the Prius is routinely one of America’s 20 best-selling passenger cars. Sales of the Liftback, which is what Toyota calls the Prius that we know best, rose 15.2% to 147,507 in 2012. Add to that another 12,750 sales of the Prius Plug-In, a car which uses the Liftback’s body.

Toyota USA did manage to sell more Prii in 2007 and 2008 than in 2012, but after three consecutive years under or around 140K units, last year’s Prius climb is meaningful. Moreover, the 15.2% year-over-year growth exceeds the overall market’s 13.4% increase. The Prius Liftback outsold the Chrysler 200, Mazda 3, Subaru Outback, Volkswagen Passat, Kia Soul, Nissan Sentra, and BMW 3-Series last year. (More recently, the Prius quartet outsold the whole Buick division; Cadillac, Audi, and Acura, too, and ranked as America’s 15th-best-selling vehicle line in January.)

We’re long past wondering how Toyota sells tens of thousands of Prii each year. That’s been going on for nearly a decade. Switching from a small sedan to a roomy hatchback played a large role in the transition from niche hybrid to mainstream player. Maintaining affordability helps, too, regardless of how many members of the enthusiast press loathe the car’s sterilized dynamics.

U.S. Prius volume first topped 100,000 units in 2005. But back then, the Prius accounted for 6% of Toyota brand sales. In 2012, the Prius Liftback was worth 8.4% of Toyota brand sales, equal to the Prius’s value to Toyota in the model’s highest-volume year, 2008.

One could have imagined, however, that in 2012, Toyota would have sold more Prii overall, but only because of the addition of the Prius V, Prius C, and Prius Plug-In. And yes, Prius family sales rose 73.4%, an increase of more than 100,000 units compared with 2011, when the family consisted of the Liftback and less than half a year of effort from the Prius V.

In ten months, the Prius C contributed more than 35,000 units. The Prius V added nearly 41,000 more. In theory, the Liftback’s 19,443-unit increase came about not in spite of the C, V, and Plug-In, but because of their debuts. Rather than cannibalizing the conventional Prius, as one might have expected when a more versatile model and a cheaper hatchback were added to the fleet, the Prius Liftback has benefited. Even in Canada, where the Prius V outsells the Prius Liftback, sales of the original have grown quickly, although the Prius family does not have the impact in Canada that it does in the U.S.

Perhaps it’s the marketing dollars spent informing consumers about the new C and V – messaging which, by proxy, marketed the original Prius, too. In addition to the marketing, there’s no doubt that an increased level of competition does wonders for established players, if’n it don’t kill’em.

Just as individual fast food outlets can thrive when positioned next door to one another in a shopping mall’s food court, newfangled automobiles can, periodically, fare better when others roam in the vicinity. The BMW 6-Series, Mercedes-Benz SL, and Porsche 911 all posted above-average increases in 2012. No one model advanced at the expense of the other two. The same thing occurred with the Audi Q5, BMW X3, and Mercedes-Benz GLK, three German rivals which together grew at an above-average rate.

As for the Prius, not only do the Prius C, slightly more popular Prius V, and Prius Plug-In shine a light on the Prius patriarch, the increased hybrid awareness brought on by gas-electric derivatives of mainstream cars do the same. It seems perfectly reasonable to conclude that the attention we pour out on the Leaf, Volt, Fusion Hybrid, and even the Tesla Model S causes consumers to take a second look at an old darling of the green car fanbase. The result? This car which seemed so alien in 1999 is now as normal and expected as most midsize sedans.

Naturally, there’s a flip side to the coin. Honda Insight sales fell 62% to 5846 units in the U.S. last year.

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QOTD: What Sound Should Hybrids And EVs Make Below 18 MPH? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-sound-should-hybrids-and-evs-make-below-18-mph/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/qotd-what-sound-should-hybrids-and-evs-make-below-18-mph/#comments Tue, 08 Jan 2013 16:04:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472704 NHTSA is proposing to make it mandatory that hybrid cars and EVs have the ability to emit a sound when traveling below 18 mph on electric power, as a means of warning pedestrians and cyclists. The system is said to add about $30 to the cost of each vehicle, and will no doubt tie up bureaucrats for […]

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NHTSA is proposing to make it mandatory that hybrid cars and EVs have the ability to emit a sound when traveling below 18 mph on electric power, as a means of warning pedestrians and cyclists. The system is said to add about $30 to the cost of each vehicle, and will no doubt tie up bureaucrats for months as they debate just what kind of tone will best protect the public from the horror of low-speed injuries. So why don’t we make life easier for them and decide ourselves?

I”m going to nominate the weird burping noise made by a koala as my own favorite; koalas, like hybrids and EVs, are slow and non-threatening, but few know that the koala actually makes a strange, low bellowing noise.

Compare that to the higher-pitched chirp or the low humming seen on cars like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. It’s a bit more masculine and menacing, isn’t it? Yet at the same time, it won’t really give anyone a fright like it would if you used a sound clip from a Norwegian death metal concert.

 

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Toyota Hits 1 Million Hybrids in 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/toyota-hits-1-million-hybrids-in-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/toyota-hits-1-million-hybrids-in-2012/#comments Thu, 08 Nov 2012 17:34:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466283 15 years after the launch of the Prius, Toyota has sold 1 million hybrids annually for the first time, with hybrids making up 14 percent of the company’s sales so far in 2012. 75 percent of hybrids sold were from the Prius range, with the rest coming from the Camry and Auris hybrids, the Highlander […]

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Click here to view the embedded video.

15 years after the launch of the Prius, Toyota has sold 1 million hybrids annually for the first time, with hybrids making up 14 percent of the company’s sales so far in 2012.

75 percent of hybrids sold were from the Prius range, with the rest coming from the Camry and Auris hybrids, the Highlander hybrid and various Lexus models. The Prius itself has had a banner year, becoming the best-selling car in California while also cracking the top 10 charts for cars sales in the United States.

Globally, Toyota plans to launch 20 new hybrid models by the end of 2015.

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Rent, Lease, Sell Or Keep: 2001 Toyota Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/rent-lease-sell-or-keep-2001-toyota-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/rent-lease-sell-or-keep-2001-toyota-prius/#comments Thu, 08 Nov 2012 16:23:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466202   Six years ago I managed to make a $2000 profit on a car without it ever leaving the auction. A few winks to the auctioneer. A few clicks on a digital camera. A few paragraphs on Ebay. Done. I had managed to purchase and remarket a 2001 Toyota Prius in mint condition with 113k miles. […]

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Six years ago I managed to make a $2000 profit on a car without it ever leaving the auction.

A few winks to the auctioneer. A few clicks on a digital camera. A few paragraphs on Ebay. Done. I had managed to purchase and remarket a 2001 Toyota Prius in mint condition with 113k miles. It was near factory clean inside and out. A spanking new hybrid battery. Brand new Michelin low resistance tires, and a maintenance history that showed it had been dealer maintained since day one.

In the car business we refer to these opportunities as an automatic slam dunk.

I bought that Prius $6650 and sold it for $8950 to a nice family from Alabama who met me at the auction two weeks later to pick it up. Back then, I was one of the very few who did his homework when it came to researching older vehicles. These days not a lot has changed… at the public auctions.

Condition (6.5/10):

Whenever anyone sees a hybrid with a check engine light at the auto auctions, they discount the price accordingly. A lot of folks who end up having bad battery packs will dump these vehicles to a new car dealer who will then invariably attempt to recycle their trade-in at a variety of nearby auto auctions.

Rarely do you ever see one that doesn’t have this problem. Although this was only one of three 1st gen Priuses I have ever seen at the sales.

This one was a little ugly on the surface. Two doors had dents. The check engine light was illuminated at the time it was bought, and there was even a rust spot on one of the lower rocker panels.

However when I dug below the surface. I found the true beauty of it.

Dealer records. A recent battery pack replacement. Reasonably low miles at 109k, and the rust spot was little more than residue from a scuff that was never fully tended to. The rest of the vehicle was fine except for that check engine light which was  code P1436. That turned out to be nothing more than a bypass valve (non-advert clicky) near the catalytic converter that usually required some PB Blaster.

A few good sprays. A check for $2860… and a far tougher decision than in the past.

Should I…

Rent:

I can’t think of anything that would be more popular to rent than a Toyota hybrid. If I took this route, I would likely charge $25 a day and have it only offered with a seven day minimum rental period. Plenty of customers who have vehicles in need of major engine or transmission work wouldn’t mind driving a car that gets two to three times their usual fuel economy.

Out here in the ex-urbs of Atlanta, people drive a lot. If anything this would be a heck of an attraction for the rest of the business.

Finance:

$1000 down. $65 a week for 24 months. I have no doubt that this will make the note so long as I can find a good owner.

Except in this time of the year, that’s hard to do. The last three months of the year are pretty close to a no-man’s land in terms of finance customers. October and November offer no spending holidays. While December tends to be a good month for smaller ticket items, and dumber than a bag of hammers new car leasing options.

The folks who have bad credit and/or unproven income are usually stretching to make ends meet at this time. I do get customers. But they are either referrals from the current customer base, or folks whose cars just broke down for the last time and don’t have the means to meet the down payment or monthly payment.

More than I likely I would have to hold it until next year.

Sell:

On a retail sale I would be looking at around $5000. This is a popular car. But I would also have to spend a few hundred dollars to get it to look right.

There is a part of me that would consider putting the Prius on Ebay during the next couple of weeks. Large hurricanes like Sandy usually result in spikes for models that are popular. But usually it takes several weeks for the insurance companies to write checks for all the scrapped units.

I just got a 1983 Mercedes 300D that had been a Southern car for its entire life, which means no rust and minimal suspension wear. The Prius may be a better fit in the online world where folks in the northeast could bid it up.

 

Keep:

This is a weird car. The door panels and hood are as about as thin as a wore out brush on an old broom. Frugality is nice. But the side impact safety strikes me as troubling for a young family of four.

Would it be good for me alone? Nope. The Insight likely has far better structural rigidity and side impact safety standards. You may not assume this. But the 1st gen Insight is a surprisingly strong car for the time period. Plus it’s about 67 times more fun to drive than ye olde Y2K+1 Prius.

I’m not keeping it. But would you? Which one of these four choices would offer a monetary economy that would match the outstanding fuel economy?

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Ford C-Max Outsells Toyota Prius V In First Full Month Of Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/ford-c-max-outsells-toyota-prius-v-in-first-full-month-of-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/ford-c-max-outsells-toyota-prius-v-in-first-full-month-of-sales/#comments Fri, 02 Nov 2012 17:21:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465748 The Ford C-Max’s first full month on sale was a fruitful one for the Blue Oval – the C-Max managed to beat its arch rival, the Toyota Prius V. Toyota managed to move 2769 Prius V’s in October, compared to 3182 C-Max’s. According to AutoGuide, 25 percent of C-Max sales occurred in California.  

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The Ford C-Max’s first full month on sale was a fruitful one for the Blue Oval – the C-Max managed to beat its arch rival, the Toyota Prius V.

Toyota managed to move 2769 Prius V’s in October, compared to 3182 C-Max’s. According to AutoGuide, 25 percent of C-Max sales occurred in California.

 

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It May Lose Money But Chevy Volt is Capturing Prius OwnersToyota Prius is the Number One Trade-In on the Chevy Volt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/it-may-lose-money-but-chevy-volt-is-capturing-prius-ownerstoyota-prius-is-the-number-one-trade-in-on-the-chevy-volt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/it-may-lose-money-but-chevy-volt-is-capturing-prius-ownerstoyota-prius-is-the-number-one-trade-in-on-the-chevy-volt/#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2012 17:58:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459907   There’s been a lot of discussion following our “The Volt Loses GM $49K/Car” article. Lost in all that hubbub was a little factoid at the tail end of the Reuters piece offered by GM VP Dave Parks, who now heads global product programs and formerly headed the development of the Volt. That factoid is […]

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There’s been a lot of discussion following our “The Volt Loses GM $49K/Car” article. Lost in all that hubbub was a little factoid at the tail end of the Reuters piece offered by GM VP Dave Parks, who now heads global product programs and formerly headed the development of the Volt. That factoid is at least a glimmer of hope for the Volt’s ultimate success. Parks said that the most common non-GM car traded in on the Volt has been the Toyota Prius.

Undoubtedly some of those Prius owners have been drawn in by the attractive $199/mo lease rates currently being offered on the Volt. That cheap lease offsets the fact that even after the $7,500 tax credit on the Volt, it’s still about $7K more than the standard Prius. While that discounted price is undoubtedly a factor, it still has to be reassuring to the Volt’s product planners that owners of the Volt’s primary competitor (if not directly in terms of actual feature sets, at least in the popular mind as the two companies’ high profile green cars) are trading in their Priuses on Chevy’s EREV.

It’s also interesting that those trading in a Prius didn’t opt for the new Prius Plug-In, which is probably a more direct competitor to the Volt. Perhaps the Prius owners trading for a Volt were completely swayed by cost factors but in my experience Toyota owners tend to be a loyal lot and I’ve never met a Prius owner who was disappointed in their car (to be fair, every Volt owner that I’ve spoken to has given it glowing reviews, some completely unsolicited).

Bob Lutz has said that he wanted something to leapfrog Toyota, both in terms of tech and in consumers’ minds. With all the sniping at the Volt for it’s cost, the incredibly hyped fire non-issue, and it’s political baggage, if Prius owners are trading in their hybrids for Volts then it appears that the Volt team has succeeded in achieving at least part of Lutz’s aspiration.

Does it surprise you that the #1 trade-in in terms of captured buyers for the Volt is the Prius? Does this bode well for the Volt’s ultimate success? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading– RJS

 

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Review: 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2012-toyota-prius-plug-in-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2012-toyota-prius-plug-in-hybrid/#comments Sun, 02 Sep 2012 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457237 Public beta tests are common in the computer world where a group of fanatics pound your beta to death and help you find the problems. In the automotive world this activity is not only rare, it runs contrary to the cash spent on dressing future cars in swirly vinyl. The Prius plug-in is different. Toyota […]

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Public beta tests are common in the computer world where a group of fanatics pound your beta to death and help you find the problems. In the automotive world this activity is not only rare, it runs contrary to the cash spent on dressing future cars in swirly vinyl. The Prius plug-in is different. Toyota built 600 demonstrators and sent them to large corporations, Zipcar fleets and, of course the press. Even TTAC was allowed to drive one for a week. What does that have to do with the final product? And how does it stack up against the Volt, Plug-in Fusion and the 2013 Accord Plug-in? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

There is little to distinguish the Plug-in from the “normal” Prius save the charging door on the right rear quarter panel and (if you’re in California) and the green HOV access stickers. The lack of distinctiveness is either a benefit or a drawback depending on how loud you want to proclaim your “greenness.” The lack of differentiation made financial sense for Toyota as the Prius is rumored to be redesigned for the 2015 model year. Compared to the beta car, Toyota relocated the charging port to the rear meaning I had to back into parking spots to use some public charging stations. Ever wondered why the LEAF’s port is in the nose? Now you know.

Because the Prius’ chassis was designed for a large battery, no changes to the passenger compartment were required. The cargo area is a different story. The regular Prius operates in EV mode up to 42MPH with a range of two miles if you are extremely gentle on the throttle. The plug-in’s range is 11-15 miles thanks to a bigger battery. Toyota achieved the capacity increase by using denser lithium-ion batteries (instead of nickel hydride) and converting the spare tire area into a battery compartment. The result is an increase in capacity from 1.3kWh to 4.4kWh at the cost of the spare and the jack. The beta car used a 5.2kWh battery pack that was segmented into one 1.2kWh pack and two 2kWh packs. The reason for the change was the three pack arrangement wasn’t as efficient and the beta testers complained there was no way to regenerate power back into the dual 2kWh packs once they were exhausted.

A 3.1kWh jump doesn’t sound like much until you understand how the Prius uses the battery. To preserve the life of the battery, a regular Prius will never fully discharge or charge the battery (batteries “wear” faster when their charge state is at either extreme), reducing the usable capacity to around 0.6kWh. For plug-in duty, Toyota expanded this usable capacity to somewhere around 4.2kWh. In comparison, the Volt’s usable capacity is around 12.9kWh and the 2013 Accord plug-in is 6kWh.

Under the hood you will find the same 1.8L, 98HP engine and “power splitting device” as a regular Prius. The engine and electric motors even put out the same combined 134HP. I know what Prius owners are thinking: Hang on, if it’s the same drivetrain, why is my Prius limited to 42MPH in EV mode? You won’t find the answer under the hood, it’s the battery and the software. The Prius’ traction motor (MG2) is the motor connected to the wheels and depending on how you look at the way the transaxle works (great link for tech-heads at eahart.com), MG2 is doing most of the work when you’re moving forward. That’s why MG2 is an 81HP motor. The “problem” with the regular Prius is the discharge rate. The 1.4kWh NiMH battery can deliver only 36HP peak and 27HP of continuous power. The plug-in’s larger batter on the other hand is capable of delivering 51HP of continuous power. If your power demands exceed the neighborhood of 51HP, then the engine turns on to make up the difference up to 134. This new battery pack has another benefit: greater regeneration capacity. On my daily commute I go over a 2,200ft mountain pass, a regular Prius’ battery would be full around 1,700ft. Because the plug-in was able to regenerate all the way down, I gained 7 miles of EV range to make up for the extra gas it took to get me up the hill in the first place.

The Prius isn’t an EV, and it’s not trying to be a “Toyota Volt” either. Yet, it’s more than just a CARB compliance car as well. Unlike the Volt, Fisker, or even the new Accord Hybrid, the Prius can’t live without its engine. Even for short drives. If you floor the car, the engine comes on, and while the beta car had a slick heat-pump to heat the cabin, the production car uses engine heat like a regular Prius. Instead, the Prius plug-in is a new type of car where locomotion blends two different fuel sources trading a portion of the gasoline you pay $4.35 a gallon for in California for electricity at $0.10-$0.15 per kWh. The coming Ford plug-in hybrids operate in essentially the same way.

Let’s look at these numbers in terms of a commute. I drive 106 miles a day, and my commute involves city, highway and rural mountain roads. Starting with fuel economy without charging: the Volt averaged 33MPG, the Prius averaged 50 and the Prius plug-in averaged 52. (Credit the greater ability to regenerate for the improved figure.) With charging on both ends of my commute, the Volt averaged 40MPG, and the Prius plug-in averaged 72MPG.

According to our calculations, if your commute is under 27 miles total, or 27 miles each way with charging on either end at $0.15/kWh, the Volt is the cheaper vehicle to run. The more expensive the electricity, the better the Prius’s proposition. Even at $4.35 a gallon gasoline. My average rate at home is $0.27/kWh due to my agricultural rate which bumps the operational cost of the Volt higher than the Prius plug-in at anything over a 1-mile distance. Check your rates before you plug-in.

On the road, the plug-in behaves just like a regular Prius thanks to gaining only 150lbs. As you would expect, the low rolling resistance tires deliver moderate road noise and precious little grip. The steering is numb a bit over-boosted, body roll is average and acceleration is leisurely. Is that a problem? Not in my mind. The Prius’ mission is efficiency and not driving pleasure.

When in EV mode, exceeding 3/4 throttle will cause the engine to start, something I still think is a pity. Still, the plug-in is perfectly capable of tacking mountainous terrain in pure EV mode. At speeds above about 50MPH you have to be more gentle on the throttle in order to prevent the engine from kicking in and at 62 the engine starts no matter how ginger you are. If it’s a cold day outside and you’re using the cabin heater, the Prius’ engine will turn on immediately and run to keep the cabin warm. Unlike a regular Prius , if you are in EV mode,  the engine will be essentially idling and generating a small amount of power as long as you keep your speed under 62.

Although the battery and motor are likely capable of speeds greater than 62MPH, the system’s design requires the engine to be spinning. This means that in “EV mode” above 62MPH, the EV battery provides the majority of the energy while the engine essentially idles. In this operation, we were easily getting 180 MPG while on a level freeway traveling 70MPH for 9-10 miles.

With a starting price of $32,000, or $40,285 if you prefer your hybrid fully-loaded, the Prius plug-in has a limited market in mind. You either need to want the latest in Prius tech, or be willing to pay $8,000 to use the HOV lanes for a few years. While I do believe it would be possible to eventually save money vs a regular Prius, it will take an eternity and some serious number crunching. On my commute it would take 300,000 miles for the plug-in to break even with a $24,000 Prius. If your commute is 24 miles a day, then the break even drops to 130,000 miles. But at 24 miles a day, it would take you 20 years. Still, there is that HOV lane to consider. On my route the HOV stickers would cut my daily travel by 30 minutes or  11 hours a month. How much is that worth to you? If your answer isn’t: $8,000, then click on over to our Prius C review. While the Prius plug-in may make sense for a select few, the Toyota’s beta program still succeeded in several ways. Toyota implemented some major changes to the battery systems as a result of the feedback and gained a non-stop flow of reviews in the process. If only Bentley could do the same.

 

Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and fuel for this review.

Fuel economy average over 583miles: 65

Percent of time in EV mode: 20%

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 3.4 seconds

0-60: 10.0 seconds

¼ Mile: 17sec @ 79 MPH

 

2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, rear seats,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Prius Plug In Hybrid, charging door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Can 187,586 Buyers Be Wrong? Consumer Reports Thinks So http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/can-187586-buyers-be-wrong-consumer-reports-thinks-so/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/can-187586-buyers-be-wrong-consumer-reports-thinks-so/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 17:58:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456115   “Just because a car generates a lot of buzz or is a best seller doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for you. The five models here may be on a lot of buyers’ shopping lists, but we suggest you steer clear…” So says Consumer Reports with respect to their list of “Five popular […]

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“Just because a car generates a lot of buzz or is a best seller doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for you. The five models here may be on a lot of buyers’ shopping lists, but we suggest you steer clear…”

So says Consumer Reports with respect to their list of “Five popular cars to avoid”. CR says that the vehicles “…didn’t perform well in our testing or they suffer from subpar reliability,” and that’s reason enough to stay away. I’m not entirely convinced.

We at TTAC respect the hell out of Consumer Reports. Unlike other parties in the buff book business, we never crack appliance-related jokes about their testing methods or dismiss them as lab coated slide-ruler jockeys. When they have something to say, we take it seriously.

Whipping boy number one is, of course, the 2012 Honda Civic. There are elements within TTAC who don’t like the car, for valid reasons. But as I explored in a previous column, it does have enough merit that it’s worth buying. And it’s been vetted by my Grandma. CR even recommends the Subaru Impreza over the Honda Civic; make no mistake, it’s a nice car, but there’s no way that they can criticize the Civic’s “mediocre interior” while ignoring the Impreza.

CR also lists the Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Prius c, Ford Edge V6 and Jeep Liberty as vehicles to stay away from. Having had inadequate seat time in them, I can’t say in good faith how accurate these picks are. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

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Plug-In Car Sales Breakdown: June 2012 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/plug-in-car-sales-breakdown-june-2012/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/plug-in-car-sales-breakdown-june-2012/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 16:32:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451427 Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at our favorite automotive urination competition, the epic battle between the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius Plug-In. Chevrolet emerged as July’s victor, as well as the year-to-date champion. With 1,760 Volts sold in June, the General is leading the plug-in […]

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Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at our favorite automotive urination competition, the epic battle between the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius Plug-In.

Chevrolet emerged as July’s victor, as well as the year-to-date champion. With 1,760 Volts sold in June, the General is leading the plug-in sales stakes with 8,817 units sold in the first six months of 2012. Still not the kind of volumes that GM was hoping for. In second was the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with 695 units sold in June and 4,347 in the first half of 2012. The Nissan Leaf finished third, with 535 sold in June, and 3,148 cumulatively.

Nissan is blaming a marketing mishap for the Leaf’s slow sales. Rather than selling them directly to customers via a waiting list, the cars can now be bought off the lot, and a Nissan spokesman told Bloomberg that they “…miscalculated the marketing that had to go behind it.” The Volt, on the other hand, seems to have from a boost in sales in California, now that the car can be driven in the HOV lane without a passenger.

Regardless of the surrounding factors, adoption of plug-in cars is growing, albeit at a slower than anticipated pace. Chevrolet dealers still had a 90 day supply of Volts on June 1st, and breakdowns for the Prius Plug-In and Leaf weren’t available at time of publication. Leaf sales are down 69 percent year-over-year and 19 percent versus the first half of 2011. The Volt, of course, is doing much better.

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Review: 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-mitsubishi-i-miev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-mitsubishi-i-miev/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2012 12:59:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449294 A rear-wheel-drive four-door hatchback with staggered wheels and a mere 2,579 pounds distributed 45/55. From the folks who gave us the Evo. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (conversationally referred to as either the “i” OR the “meev”) isn’t that sort of car. Its focus is just as narrow as the Evo’s but […]

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A rear-wheel-drive four-door hatchback with staggered wheels and a mere 2,579 pounds distributed 45/55. From the folks who gave us the Evo. Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? But the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (conversationally referred to as either the “i” OR the “meev”) isn’t that sort of car. Its focus is just as narrow as the Evo’s but could hardly be more different: the cheapest, most energy-efficient electric car you can buy in the United States. How cheap? The i-MiEV’s low-20s price (after a $7,500 tax credit) isn’t much higher than that of a Toyota Prius c, the cheapest, most energy-efficient hybrid.

The Prius succeeded in part because it looked like nothing else. Even the most car-ignorant person can readily identify one. The i-MiEV similarly won’t be confused with any other car. Even the wipers are radically different (the one on the right was bent upwards by engineers, not hooligans). But will Americans identify this ultra-compact egg-on-wheels as a car at all? The Prius c is nearly 20 inches less lengthy than the regular Prius. The i-MiEV (despite sharing a 100.4-inch wheelbase) is another foot shorter still (144.7 vs. 157.3 inches). The Mitsubishi is also over four inches narrower (62.4 vs. 66.7 inches) but nearly seven inches taller (63.6 vs. 56.9 inches). This is after being widened a couple of inches for North America. Road-legal cars with four doors don’t get any smaller in North America. Even SUVs are generally wider than they are tall.

Given the price range, it should come as no surprise that nearly every interior surface save the seats is hard plastic in both cars. The i-MiEV’s interior nevertheless manages to seem much more spartan than the Prius c’s.

Hybrids and electric vehicles often provide detailed feedback on your driving style and energy use. The i-MiEV’s instruments are conventionally-located and very basic, just a speedometer, a fuel gauge, a needle that instantaneously provides feedback on the heaviness of your foot when accelerating and braking (lighter is better), and an exterior temp / distance-to-empty readout. Unlike in the Prius c, Volt, or LEAF there’s no way to evaluate your driving style beyond the current moment or track your efficiency over time.

Due to the Mitsubishi’s tall, narrow body, you sit higher than in the typical car but with a bare minimum of shoulder room. The front seats are very close together. The width increase over the JDM car went into an extra inch between your outside shoulder and the B-pillar, and you’re still very close to the latter. The steering wheel neither tilts nor telescopes. The driver’s seat has a height adjuster, but hardly anyone will use it. Even with the seat in its lowest setting the windshield header intrudes on sightlines far more than the instrument panel does (for this driver of middling height). You’ll be well versed in the contents of the airbag warning label. And you’ll want to stop well short of the mark at traffic signals.

Sitting behind myself in the i-MiEV, my shins graze the front seatbacks. The seat is mounted high off the floor, so I’m reasonably comfortable aside from not having an inch of space to spare. Cargo space is similarly minimal, no surprise given the nearly nonexistent rear overhang. Even a B-Segment Prius c seems spacious compared to the A-segment i-MiEV.

Elsewhere you’ll find zero-to-sixty times for the i-MiEV in the 13-to-15 second range. But it doesn’t seem quite that slow because of the smooth, torquey delivery of the 66-horsepower electric motor. As with other hybrids and electrics, glacial acceleration with the digital speedometer incrementing about once a second just feels right. Those in your rear view mirror may not appreciate such leisurely acceleration, and even a Prius c, with its 11-second 0-60 time, would hand the i its rear in a thoroughly pointless drag race.

Ah, but the fuel economy. I wasn’t able to measure the i-MiEV’s efficiency. The EPA (which tends to be conservative on this metric) says it’ll go 62 miles on a charge while getting the gas equivalent of 126 miles-per-gallon city, 99 highway, and 112 combined. Only the upcoming Honda Fit EV does better, 118 combined, and it will be lease-only. The upcoming Focus EV checks in at 105, and the LEAF at 99. At the average electricity price of 12 cents per kWh, the i-MiEV costs about two dollars to recharge. In my driving the Prius c, with EPA ratings of 53 city, 46 highway, and 50 combined, averaged about 62 miles-per-gallon (additional details and photos here). It might be the most fuel-efficient gas-powered car, but in terms of fuel cost per mile it’s still about double the i-MiEV.

Refueling remains the largest weakness of EVs.  Using a standard outlet, it takes 22.5 hours to recharge the i-MiEV. Spend a grand or two to install a Level 2 (240v) home charger, and charge time drops to seven hours. A Level 3 (480v) charge port is a $700 option. You can’t get a Level 3 charger at home, at least not at a remotely reasonable price. But find a public Level 3 station and charging to 80 percent of capacity (the max with a fast charger) takes only about 30 minutes.

Yes, this is a slow car, but slow cars can be fun to drive, especially if they only weigh about 2,500 pounds (i.e. about 500 pounds less than the regular Prius and about 800 less than the Nissan LEAF). The i’s basic specs are promising. But the combination of an undersquare body with a rear-heavy weight distribution (the motor is in back) must have kept Mitsubishi’s engineers up at night. They didn’t stagger the wheels to enable more aggressive turn exits. Instead, they’ve designed the suspension and undersized the grip-resistant front tires (145/65R15 vs. relatively meaty 175/60R15s on the rear) to force the i-MiEV to start scrubbing towards the outside curb well before it might build up enough lateral force to spin out or roll over. In the 70s on the highway (it tops out at 81) the Mitsubishi feels tippy and skittish. It’s well out of its element (that element being the perpetual gridlock of metro Tokyo, where the i-MiEV compares favorably to minicars never offered in North America). A Prius c is a serene highway cruiser in comparison. Around town both cars actually ride fairly well; neither is remotely punishing or overly floaty.

The Prius c One lists for $19,710, the i-MiEV for $22,475 (after a $7,500 tax credit but before a Level 2 home charger). Even with both cars in their base trim, the Prius c has nearly $1,600 in additional content, as calculated by TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, for a feature-adjusted price difference that exceeds $5,000 once the cost of the home charger is factored in. On top of this, the Prius C performs and handles better, is roomier, and is simply much more like a regular car. You’re spending more and giving up a lot to save perhaps $500 in fuel costs per year.

A problem for both cars: they don’t just compete with each other. For another $4,065 ($2,935 after adjusting for feature differences), you can get the larger and more powerful but nearly as efficient (based on EPA tests) regular Prius instead of a Prius c. For another $6,075 (but only $2,065 after adjusting for feature differences) you can get a Nissan LEAF instead of an i-MiEV. An argument might be made for the Prius c over the regular Prius, as it gets considerably better fuel economy when driven with a feather-light foot and has a more conventional driving position. It’s much harder to justify the i-MiEV over a LEAF, as you must make major sacrifices in just about every area in return for the Mitsubishi’s lower price. If you can afford to spend the extra money, spend it. Or, if you enjoy driving, spend the extra money on gas and get a Ford Focus or Mazda3.

Pat Hennessey of Art Moran Mitsubishi in Southfield, MI, provided the i-MiEV. He can be reached at 248-353-0910.

Toyota provided the Prius c with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail i-MiEV front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV cargo, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh i-MiEV instruments, photo courtesy Michael Karesh

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India’s Least Selling Car – Toyota Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/indias-least-selling-car-toyota-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/indias-least-selling-car-toyota-prius/#comments Wed, 13 Jun 2012 15:08:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=448720   Just recently we wrote a post on India’s highest selling car, which is the Maruti Suzuki Alto. Now its time to look at the other end of the scale. Which is India’s lowest selling car? The answer is quite shocking. India’s least selling car is indeed a global success, the Toyota Prius. The Maruti […]

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Just recently we wrote a post on India’s highest selling car, which is the Maruti Suzuki Alto. Now its time to look at the other end of the scale. Which is India’s lowest selling car? The answer is quite shocking. India’s least selling car is indeed a global success, the Toyota Prius. The Maruti Suzuki Alto sells 99,000 times what the Prius sells. But how did the Prius become such a massive failure, in one of the largest car markets in the world?The Toyota Prius was first launched in India in January 2010 and the new Prius was launched in January 2012. The Prius is brought into India as a completely-built-unit (CBU), which results in a hefty duty of 110 percent. Available in two variants, the Prius Z3 is priced at Rs. 34.31 lakhs ($65,000) while the Prius Z4 is priced at Rs. 36.18 lakhs ($62,000). These prices are insane, considering similarly sized gasoline alternatives are priced below $20,000, which is one-third the price. A person would take more than 10 years to recover the additional savings offered by a hybrid vehicle and we are not even factoring the additional cost of battery replacement. Also spare parts availability is an issue and parts are not readily available. Since the volumes are so low, no Toyota dealer stocks them.

Now you would like to know how many units of the Prius Toyota sells every month. It is not a a difficult question to answer. For the first four months of 2012, Toyota sold zero units of the Prius in the Indian market. Last month, they managed (don’t ask how) to sell one unit.

Faisal Ali Khan is the owner/operator of MotorBeam.com, a website covering the auto industry of India.

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Toyota Asks For More Prius Inventory http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/toyota-asks-for-more-prius-inventory/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/toyota-asks-for-more-prius-inventory/#comments Fri, 11 May 2012 14:56:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443866 Toyota’s sales forecast of 220,000 Prius models forecast looks like a lowball number now that Toyota has moved 86,000 examples of the hybrid from January to the end of April. Sales of the Prius V and Prius c have helped the nameplate see a 56 percent rise year over year, and now Toyota is clamoring […]

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Toyota’s sales forecast of 220,000 Prius models forecast looks like a lowball number now that Toyota has moved 86,000 examples of the hybrid from January to the end of April. Sales of the Prius V and Prius c have helped the nameplate see a 56 percent rise year over year, and now Toyota is clamoring for more units – but it may not get them.

Rising gas prices and new government incentives in Japan may create a situation where Toyota’s US arm may not be able to get enough Prius models. Bob Carter, Toyota’s US sales head, told Just Auto

“We’re tracking well ahead of [220,000]. I’ve ordered additional production. I’m confident we’ll get additional production but globally we’re seeing high demand, particularly in Japan.”

Aside from the Prius V and Prius c, the new plug-in Prius has been enjoying fairly brisk sales despite its reduced EV-only range compared to some other plug-in vehicles. But American appetites for the Prius, whatever you may think of it, apparently aren’t being satiated. Stateside Prius production can’t come soon enough for Toyota.

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April Plug-In Car Sales: Toyota Prius Wins, Chevrolet Volt Takes Second, Nissan Leaf Third http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/april-plug-in-car-sales-toyota-prius-wins-chevrolet-volt-takes-second-nissan-leaf-third/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/april-plug-in-car-sales-toyota-prius-wins-chevrolet-volt-takes-second-nissan-leaf-third/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 13:07:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442768 It was a good month for the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with the newest plug-in car outselling the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in April. Pent-up demand and the desire to outdo your neighbors in Marin County likely had something to do with the Prius Plug-In’s 1,654 units sold in April. How long will the demand […]

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It was a good month for the Toyota Prius Plug-In, with the newest plug-in car outselling the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in April.

Pent-up demand and the desire to outdo your neighbors in Marin County likely had something to do with the Prius Plug-In’s 1,654 units sold in April. How long will the demand last? We’ll have to wait a while to see how it all shakes out.

Chevrolet Volt sales were down from March’s record of 2,289 sales, but with 1,462, the Volt still had one of its better months so far. Indeed, the biggest loser in April, 2012 was the Nissan Leaf. With just 370 sold, the Leaf was down year-over-year (with 573 sold in April 2011) and way off of its best month ever (1,708 sold in June, 2011).

Prius and Leaf inventory data was unavailable via Automotive News, but the Volt had a 61 day supply as of April 1, down from 154 on March 1st.

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Next-Gen Toyota Prius Targeted For Stateside Production In 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/next-gen-toyota-prius-targeted-for-stateside-production-in-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/next-gen-toyota-prius-targeted-for-stateside-production-in-2015/#comments Mon, 30 Apr 2012 15:07:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442155 With a rising yen and forecasted sales of 200,000 units, Toyota is looking to kick Prius production into high gear on North American shores. The challenge for Toyota appears to be sourcing all the components needed to build hybrid drivetrains in the United States. According to Automotive News “Toyota already is scouting suppliers capable of […]

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With a rising yen and forecasted sales of 200,000 units, Toyota is looking to kick Prius production into high gear on North American shores.

The challenge for Toyota appears to be sourcing all the components needed to build hybrid drivetrains in the United States. According to Automotive News

“Toyota already is scouting suppliers capable of delivering inverters, electric motors and batteries from the United States in anticipation of the move, said Koei Saga, senior managing officer in charge of drivetrain r&d at Toyota.”

Currently, most of those parts have to come from Japan or South Korea. Initially, they may have to be imported to the future North American Prius plant, but the goal is for a local supply base. Toyota currently builds the Camry Hybrid stateside, but with imported components. Aside from cost factors, a big advantage of a local parts base is for the sake of “resiliency” – any natural disasters in Japan would not affect inventories like the 2011 tsunami/earthquakes did.

Also of note is the North American emphasis on lithium-ion equipped versions of the Prius. While only the plug-in uses a lithium-ion battery, (and base versions will continue to use a Nickel-metal unit), this would suggest that Stateside production would focus on more advanced versions of the Prius, or more plug-in versions. Presumably, the Prius c and “base” versions of the standard car would continue with the less advanced battery.

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Review: 2012 Toyota Prius c http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-2012-toyota-prius-c/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-2012-toyota-prius-c/#comments Mon, 23 Apr 2012 20:25:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=438839 In the geek world we have “Moore’s law” which states the number of transistors in ICs will double every two years. In the automotive world we have the bloat law. Every generation of a vehicle will get more powerful, heavier and physically larger than its predecessor, ultimately requiring the manufacturer to design an entirely new, […]

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In the geek world we have “Moore’s law” which states the number of transistors in ICs will double every two years. In the automotive world we have the bloat law. Every generation of a vehicle will get more powerful, heavier and physically larger than its predecessor, ultimately requiring the manufacturer to design an entirely new, smaller car to fill the void left by the original.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Back in 2001, the original Prius cost $19,995, weighed 2,765lbs and delivered 52/45MPG. Three generations later it costs $24,000, tips the scales at 3,050lbs, yields 51/48MPG and is far more practical for a family of four. Listing for $1,000 less than the original Prius and weighing a svelte 2,500lbs, the baby Prius delivers 53/46MPG of hatchback hybrid love. More important than the weight loss routine is the fact that this new Prius is “only” $4,835 more expensive than the Toyota’s Yaris (the cheapest 5-door economy car in their US lineup.) That might sound like a big chunk of change, but back in 2001, the Prius was $6,591 dearer. We can thank this price difference to Toyota’s continuing efforts to downsize their hybrid system’s footprint and price tag. Speaking of that footprint, the Prius c manages to weigh only 185lbs more than the 5-door Yaris L while the original Prius was 700lbs heavier than the Echo of the era. For once downsizing is progress.

Interior

If you’ve been inside a Prius, the interior will be “déjà vu all over again.” While the shapes look familiar,  few parts are actually shared as the Prii models share the same style sheet but share few major interior trim parts. Personally, I found the traditional shifter and the high-resolution LCD in the dash a significant step-up from the Prius liftback’s low-rent display and awkward joystick. Strangely enough, the Prius c also shares little with the Yaris on which it is based, aside from a passion for hard plastics. Shoppers should know that while all Yaris models have token soft touch bits on the dash, only the top-end Prius c “four” gets some pleather dash yumminess. While some may complain about the hardness of the  surfaces, the fit and finish is above average in the segment (if you exclude the Germans) and the style is less controversial than the Prius liftback.

Infotainment

Being positioned for younger and greener buyers, Toyota offers three different audio systems all with standard Bluetooth phone integration/music streaming and iPod/USB connectivity. The Prius c “one” gets a basic head unit with a small display and four speakers while the Prius c “two” uses the same radio but adds two tweeters up front. As you would expect, browsing an iPhone/iPod with 4,000+ songs on it was a royal pain. Stepping up to the Prius c “three” buys you Toyota’s 6.1-inch unit which Toyota confusingly calls “Display Audio with Navigation and Entune.” Long names aside, the Entune navigation system is an interesting blend of a decent audio head unit and integrated flash-based navigation system with smartphone data and smartphone app integration. While systems like MyFord Touch, or even Toyota’s own higher end nav systems use Sirius or XM satellite radio to deliver data content, the base Entune system pulls this data right off your smartphone using your own data plan. As a result, there’s no need for an XM or Sirius subscription like in other systems. The downside? You can’t access these services without a smartphone, so if you haven’t joined the 21st century and are still using a Motorola StarTac, you won’t be able Bing or OpenTable while you roll.

Drivetrain

Harkening back to the Prius origins isn’t just something I wax poetic about, Toyota did as well resurrecting the original 1.5L engine from the first generation Prius. While the engine is essentially the same it now produces 73HP and 82b-ft of torque, up 3HP due mostly to the removal of all the belt driven accessories including the water pump. Rather than lifting the old Hybrid Synergy Drive from the first gen Prius or borrowing the liftback’s larger transaxle, Toyota designed an all-new unit with smaller motors and considerably smaller packaging. Total system horsepower is rated at 99HP and around 125lb-ft of torque. Thanks to the Prius c’s low curb weight, the power reduction compared to the liftback isn’t obvious, with the Prius c scooting to 60 in just under 11 seconds.

Economy

If you have a Jaguar XFR, you end up flooring the car all the time to listen to the engine snarl. If you have a Prius, you hypermile. Why? Because the whole reason for the Prius’ existence is outstanding fuel economy. On my 53-mile one-way commute, my best observed fuel economy was 66MPG. This was achieved by limiting myself to 62MPH, being gentle with the pedals and keeping my road rage in check. While I may have annoyed myself at the beginning, a courteous driver keeping to just below the speed limit is unlikely to offend anyone else.

Driving the Prius c like a “normal” car (speeds up to 73MPH on the highway, keeping up with traffic and occasionally passing) made my commute average fall to a still respectable 52MPG. Over a full week and  831 miles, my 51MPG average came in just a hair above the EPA’s combined 50MPG score.

While 51MPG may sound “old hat,” the impressive thing the the Prius c maintained this high average while commuting over a 2,200ft mountain pass daily. Your mileage will obviously vary depending on your commute, your driving style and how much you use the A/C. Numbers are worthless without comparison, so here we go. The Prius c delivered 5-10 more MPGs than the Prius liftback on the same commute despite having essentially the same EPA scores (Prius 51/48MPG, Prius c 53/46MPG).

Pricing

Like the Prius, the c comes in numbered packages. “One” is obviously the price leader at $18,950, achieved by “decontetning” niceties like cruise control, cargo area lights, adjustable front headrests, the center armrest and tonneau cover. The $19,900 “Two” adds extra speakers, variable intermittent wipers, 60/40 folding rear seat, cruise control, center armrest and an engine immobilizer-style key. “Three” lists for $21,635 and adds Toyota’s Entune Navigation radio with 6.1-inch touchscreen , XM and HD radio, and “Entune App” capability (Pandora, Bing, etc), keyless entry and keyless go and a telescoping steering wheel. The top-of-the-line “Four” brings 15 inch 8-spoke alloys to the party, “Softex” seats, heated front seats, fog lamps and turn signals in the side mirrors for $23,230. The “Four” can also be equipped with the $850 moonroof and an optional 16-inch alloy wheel and sport steering package for $300 (or $1150 when combined with the sunroof) topping the Prius c out at $24,380 or about the same as a base Prius liftback.

Drive/Handling

The Prius c’s road manners are almost entirely defined by weight and dimensions. To put these factors in perspective, the Prius c is 8 inches shorter than a VW Golf and 235lbs lighter than a Mini coupe (or the same as a soft-top Mazda Miata.) The Prius c’s suspension provides a solid ride that that approaches, but thankfully misses, “bouncy” – unless you buy the optional larger wheels. Unless you plan on being the only person to Autocross your hybrid, steer clear of the 16-inch wheels, as they destroy the ride and significantly enlarge the car’s turning circle from a tight 31.4, to a Buick-like 37.4 feet. With low rolling resistance tires on hand the Prius c isn’t exactly a corner carver, but thanks to the low curb weight it easily holds its own against the 40MPG compacts. Unlike those other compacts however, the Prius c continues to deliver around 30MPG when working the hybrid system hard on mountain roads. The c’s road manners under braking are improved over the liftback, as is pedal feel. While there is still a different feel to the braking versus a non-hybrid vehicle, the system is by far the most natural of Toyota’s fuel sippers. With weight reduction being king, sound isolation was a secondary concern. The Prius c’s cabin isn’t quite as noisy as the Honda Insight or Civic Hybrid, but it isn’t as quiet as some of the non-hybrid competition.

Competition

Toyota is the first to create a five-door hybrid hatchback and as a result competition is somewhat indirect. The Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta SFE, Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, and Chevrolet Sonic are the main fuel efficient hatchback competition for the baby Prius.  In a more traditional shape, but similar price point, is the Honda Insight. Because fuel efficiency is the Prius’ game let’s look at the cost of purchase and gasoline (at California prices of $4.20/gallon) over 5 years. In this light, the Hyundai Accent is barely the cheapest to own at $26,095. The Yaris comes in second at $26,100, just $50 less than the Prius c two. How about the others? The Versa would be $2,840 more expensive, the Sonic $3,355 more, and the Insight narrows the gap to $1,500 more over 5 years. (These numbers are based on EPA 2008 scores and a mixture of 45% city driving, 55% highway driving, 15,000 annual miles a year and $4.20/gallon gasoline.) 

The Prius c may be the smallest and cheapest member of the Prius family, but it may also be the best. It preserves the funkiness of the center mount cluster while giving up some quirkiness to convention. Not to mention, excellent fuel economy is addictive. While I may not be willing to get out of my SUV for 30 or 40MPG, 50+ MPG makes the trade something else entirely. It also makes the Yaris redundant. I can’t honestly think of a single reason to get the Yaris over the Prius c, considering that the difference in cost would be made up over the car’s life.  I am frequently asked what my favorite car is, and I don’t know if I have one – but the Prius c, for its reasonable price and high fuel economy, is certainly on the very short list of cars that I would buy myself.

 Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

Battery charged

0-30: 3.5 Seconds

0-60: 10.78 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 18 Seconds @ 75MPH

Battery discharged

0-30: 4.05 Seconds

0-60: 13.02 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 19.05 @ 72MPH

Average fuel economy: 51.6 over 831 miles

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Most Hybrid Car Buyers Don’t Purchase Another One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/mos-hybrid-car-buyers-dont-purchase-another-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/mos-hybrid-car-buyers-dont-purchase-another-one/#comments Mon, 09 Apr 2012 13:43:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439071 A study by Polk found that the majority of hybrid car buyers don’t end up purchasing another one – when Toyota Prius buyers are excluded, the number of repeat hybrid customers is as low as 22 percent. In 2011, only 35 percent of hybrid customers bought another one. Hybrids seem to enable strong brand loyalty […]

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A study by Polk found that the majority of hybrid car buyers don’t end up purchasing another one – when Toyota Prius buyers are excluded, the number of repeat hybrid customers is as low as 22 percent.

In 2011, only 35 percent of hybrid customers bought another one. Hybrids seem to enable strong brand loyalty (Pirus and Honda hybrid insight owners had loyalty rates of 60 and 52 percent respectively) but don’t necessarily keep buying hybrid cars. 41 percent of Prius owners bought either another Prius or a hybrid from another OEM.

The biggest challenge appears to be, ironically, the advancement of fuel efficient gasoline-only cars. Consumers are finding it hard to justify the price premium when many small and mid-size cars are achieving strong fuel economy numbers without a price premium that could take years to pay off. Hybrid market share was 2.4 percent in 2011, with a peak of 2.9 percent in 2008.

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Toyota Prius V Outsells Volt In Just 10 Weeks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/toyota-prius-v-outsells-volt-in-just-10-weeks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/toyota-prius-v-outsells-volt-in-just-10-weeks/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2012 16:41:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=427342 The Toyota Prius V didn’t hit dealerships until the final week of October, but it still managed to beat the Chevrolet Volt’s entire sales total. According to Bloomberg, Toyota moved 8,399 Prius V models in 10 weeks. The Volt sold 7,671 examples in 2011. Volt production has yet to re-start since it went idle in […]

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The Toyota Prius V didn’t hit dealerships until the final week of October, but it still managed to beat the Chevrolet Volt’s entire sales total. According to Bloomberg, Toyota moved 8,399 Prius V models in 10 weeks. The Volt sold 7,671 examples in 2011. Volt production has yet to re-start since it went idle in December, and we can only assume that Toyota is cranking out the Prius V as fast as they can.

 

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