Efficiently Inefficient

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appleTree I rented a Toyota Prius once again. I like the Prius. It looks OK (to me, although the design is often considered boring), and it drives real nice. The car feels safe, reliable, and well-designed. It has a lot of torque, oh, and yes, it has this marvellous hybrid engine. The “synergy drive”, as Toyota calls it, employs an energy-efficient combustion engine in combination with an electric engine, a regular tank of fuel, and a pack of heavy-duty batteries.

When the car rolls downhill or breaks, or simply runs on petrol, the batteries charge. When the car rolls gently along, it can run on electric power, or use both power sources together. Clever, huh?

Toyota is proud to display a fuel consumption graph in the car, showing 70 miles per gallon (4 litres per 100 km) are in reach when cruising a flat highway at constant speed.

These cars are a huge success, and sell in huge numbers. They aren’t cheap, but you get to save the planet whilst driving. How’s that?

I tell you how that is. It is a brilliant marketing ploy, but it doesn’t save the planet, and it’s not very fuel efficient to begin with.

I run my rental Prius over 330 miles in total (530km). It uses a rubber tank of 6..12 gallon capacity (subject to ambient temperature); the common assumption is 9 gallons in the moderate weather conditions that we experienced. So, it run on an average of 330 miles / 9 gallon = 37 miles per gallon, or (for the continental Europeans) 7.6 litre per 100 km.

My ten-year old Vauxhall Astra does the same, or even slightly better, on a straight and not very optimised V8 combustion engine. Latest figures are 39 miles per gallon (7.25 litre per 100km) in mixed-mode driving. I can get it down to under 6 litre with ease on a steady motorway cruise (47 mpg).

Just goes to remind me that one ought to think twice about every advertisement slogan and marketing hype, and when done, think it twice over again.

So, my next car is not going to be a Prius. I hope hydrogen technology matures, and hydrogen availability increases over the next few years, though. Unless Tesla Motors come up with a nice and affordable family car of course, in which case I shall re-consider. Too bad Tesla will probably go bust before they can do that.

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