Saturday, December 10, 2011

HEV Questions

Last week I was given a Toyota Prius as a rental car.

I was excited.  I had never been in one, so I was anxious to see what it was like.

I didn't hate it.

I didn't love it.

That's pretty much my reaction to most rental cars... with the exception of the PT Cruiser and HHR.  I hate those cars.

I don't want to write a review about rental cars, but driving this car for several days brought up a few questions for me regarding Hybrid-Electric Vehicles.

What is the actual mileage while the IC Engine is running?

The engine started and stopped a lot on my commute each day.  The starting and stopping, especially at traffic lights invoked memories of being a new driver with a very old, poorly maintained, manual transmission car.

If the rated mileage is 50mpg, I should have paid 40-50% less in gas.  I paid only 20% less.

There is the possibility that the car wasn't full when I picked it up, but that is always true.  My rental car company does not have a good process for ensuring the cars are full prior to pick up.

What are the emissions when the IC Engine is running?

We hear a lot about HEVs having terrific gas mileage, but we don't hear much about the emissions.  If I remember correctly, the IC Engine creates most of it's emissions when first starting up.

So if the engine starts and stops 10 times on each commute, does it create more air emissions than a similar engine that is only started once?

What happens to the batteries when the car has reached it's useful life?

I know batteries have come a long way since I researched HEVs in the early 1990's.  Do they get recycled?

What about maintenance?

Is there an availability of non-dealer mechanics that are affordable and skilled?  Are parts reasonably priced?

While the Prius is not in the pool of cars we would consider when the time comes to replace the ones we have now.  It doesn't mean an HEV or EV wouldn't work for us.  I would just want to have acceptable answers to my questions and be able to fit Hubba's racing chair in the car without having to take the wheels off.


Oak Haven Alpacas said...

I wish I had answers to all your questions, as I've wondered about many of those things myself. A few years ago I looked into the pros and cons of a prius in addition to a cost analysis and came to the conclusion it was more expensive and I wasn't convinced it really was better for the environment to get the Prius. I was kind of bummed because I think having one makes a statement in itself. Unfortunately I couldn't get my own analysis to add up to the hype.

Amanda said...

Kathryn - wish I could point you to an interesting article I read a while back. It basically had all sorts of info showing how the Prius (specifically - not Hybrids in general) was pretty fuel efficient and "good for the environment" to run. But, that it was THE worst car as far as damage to the environment in production. It had some crazy stats on what it takes to make the batteries as far as all the materials that need to be mined and what not. Now, this was quite a while ago - so, I'm guessing that it's not all entirely accurate at this point. And one could argue that buyers showing interst with the $$ means better R&D for future models.

Vivian said...

I have a 2002 Pruis (Classic), the second year they were sold in US. I really like it, or at least not like it less than my previous car, a Camry wagon. It has a 10 gallon tank, and I usually get about 400 miles before refill, which nowadays is about once a month. We take all of our cars to the dealers. Because of the weight of the battery the car requires special tires which are a little more expensive.