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back to article Toyota Prius fourth-generation e-car

While the name Prius hasn't achieved the same degree of synonymity as Transit or Mini, it's still the one nine out of ten motorists will think of when you say the word 'hybrid'. You can thank Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio for that, and the fact that Toyota have sold 1.2 million of the things since the first one rolled off the …

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reversing...

Wow! You must to a LOT of reversing if you need a satnav for it!

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Just get a diesel

I have a diesel Volkswagen Passat 1.9TDI - it easily averages over 60MPG and can be coaxed to 70 mpg on a motorway. It is much faster than a Prius and doesn't have the eco-warrior, potato-shoes wearing overtones.

Why don't they make a diesel hybrid?

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@greeno99: They DO plan diesel hybrids..

I think Renault is planning some soon. But diesel engines are heavier than an equivalent petrol engine to start with, and then you have to add the weight of the batteries...

I agree with the author (and yourself) - diesels are far simpler and get just as good economy as a hybrid. And they don't use any rare earth materials, which the Chinese now have a lock on globally.

And as for the author's contention that the Prius we want to see is a plug-in all EV, I keep asking the same question: where will all the city dwellers that can use them plug them in??? And how many hooligans will while away the night hours unplugging all of the EV cars at 3AM to ensure their drivers can't get to work the next morning?

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So what

I had a 100hp diesel Clio that I could easily get 67mpg out of and up 86mpg when trying.

It also faster and cost less than half of what the Prius does.

Ok it was French and therefore a bit crap but for high mpg I'd rather pay £8k and suffer than £21k and still suffer. 13 grand is a lot of money to pay just to be a smug git.

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Boffin

Diesel Hybrid

greeno99; Diesel engines are 'expensive' to start and stop in terms of fuel and wear and tear compared to petrol/LPG/gas burners. Hybrids tend to start and stop their dead-dinosaur-to-kinetic energy converters quite often in response to varying power requirements - foot down, engine on, steady speed, off again.

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@green099

Absolutely seconded. I'm getting incredibly bored of smug Prius owners who think they're MPG figures are amazing and saving the planet. The Top Gear mob showed it's a doddle to get this sort of milage out of a normal/evil/dolphin-killing car, assuming you know how to drive the thing economically.

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@Greeno99

"Why don't they make a diesel hybrid?"

Because the American car industry tried to foist too many lousy diesels on their consumers in the 70s, and consequently destroyed US public opinion of diesels for generations still to come. To be fair, public opinion has recovered far enough that if you suggested it to the average American, they might think for a couple of seconds before telling you to f*** off instead of simply shooting you where you stand, but it's no better than that.

I'm hardly exaggerating here. No American who was alive in the 70s, or whose parents were alive in the 70s, will ever buy a diesel car - it's really that simple. By my reckoning, sometime around 2050 the US might finally have got over it enough that a diesel car would sell OK, but I doubt it'll happen any sooner.

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@"Why don't they make a diesel hybrid?"

well, the article comments on americans not liking diesel, so thats probably one reason.

I also suspect that the whole "instant start" that is VITAL for hybrids doesn't work too well when the engine needs 15 seconds of prewarming before the fuel will ignite.

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Lifetime Pollution

Funnily enough an old episode of Top Gear was on this week, Dave I believe, which featured the 3rd gen Prius.

Now I know Clarkson loves any excuse to bash eco products. However he did make a claim that research was done into lifetime pollution of a car from production to death and this research found that the Prius produces more toxins than a Range Rover. One source was production of the battery - the example he showed was Nickel mined from Canada, shipped to Europe to be refined, then over to China to be converted into a foam type substance before forwarding on to Japan for them to put in the battery

Admittedly this is anecdotal evidence as it stands, no references. But if this isn't the case do Toyota provide any evidence to say this isn't true. Or does anyone know of such a report existing?

Just my thoughts as I sit here riding out the Friday...

Cookie

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VW Bluemotion

Hmm, they can manage 68.9mpg @ 107g/km, without highly polluting rare-earth chems and big batteries... Toyota Pius - NonEcocar for EcoTw4ts...

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Diesel hybrids

I'd like to see diesel hybrids. The cost of starting and stopping could be mitigated by altering the software to perform fewer transitions i.e. leave the diesel running or stopped for longer periods.

@Olaf 1 : It is not only about consumption, it is also about emissions and that is where the hybrids win hands down over their diesel counterparts (even with a particle filter).

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Diesel electric

What they need to do is completely divorce the power generation from the drive as a diesel electric train does. Add in some batteries in the middle and you could then tune the diesel engine for maximum efficiency in a narrow rpm range and run a 1.2l or perhaps 1.4l for larger cars 3 cylinder engine to generate electric, with the batteries taking the slack when more power is required and at startup, and the engine charging the batteries when all it's power is not required.

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Not this old chestnut.

"Like the Insight, the Prius uses a CVT transmission..."

No it bloody doesn't. The Insight does indeed use a conventional CVT 'box as Honda's "replace the flywheel with a motor/generator" approach means that you can tack any transmission you like to the result.

The Prius has a Torque splitter. A sun and planet gear assembly, much as seen in a conventional differential and the gear ratios used in this are fixed. However, the first Motor/Generator (MG) is attached to the sun gear, the engine to the planet carrier and the second MG and wheels to the annulus. Thus it is possible to adjust the relationship between the speed of the engine and the speed of the wheels by varying the load on the sun gear via the simple expedient of how much 'leccy is taken out of / put into MG1. Incidently, a side effect here is that there is no reverse gear in the conventional sense. Reverse is purely electric, courtesy of MG2 although power may be taken from the engine via MG1, with the torque splitter running in bass-ackwards mode, to provide the necessary "oof" if the battery's a bit on the sad side.

Look it up, it's very clever and very much the "secret sauce" of the Prius. Don't bother with the wiki article though, it's complete bollocks. Try here: http://www.cleangreencar.co.nz/toyota-prius-iii-hybrid-e-cvt-transmission-info.html

@greeno99: Simple. The hyrids to date have been Japanese. The Japanese motor tax calculation is based on overall emissions as they haven't clambered onto the carbon cultists' bandwagon. Diesels suck here big time as they're basically smog generators on wheels. Also the turbo assembly occupies too much room both physically and in surrounding airspace requirements for heat dispersal (you can shrink a petrol engine down dramatically when you rip off the starter, alternator, airco pump etc). This is why the proposed Pug hybrid has the 'leccy motor driving the rear wheels as they can't get an entire hybrid assembly into one end with the oil burning lump.

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Diesel Hybrid

Apparently, Peugeot are going to launch a diesel hybrid version of the 308 in 2011.

Yes, I know it's French, but see comments on diesel Clio above.

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Cant see the point

Of making an allegedly 'green' car thats stuffed full of batteries, which just in case anyone's forgotten are made with some of the most toxic chemicals available.

So unless youve been driving around the congestion charge zone in a Range Rover, I cant see why people buy into it. To me the Prius is an environmental disaster waiting to happen when their expired batteries need changing in a few years time.

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Jobs Horns

Overtook a Prius the other day...

...which had an Apple sticker on the rear bumper.

Double-smug b*stard!!

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@jabuzz

There was a article about Lotus on here a few weeks back on this very subject....

Make an i/c engine run at its optimum rpm (ie most efficient) and use a generator to charge a battery/supercapacitor. Use the leccy from this to run the drive wheels.

Lotus were making the engine.

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It's all about tax

The Prius provides a reasonable number of toys and low company car tax. For many people it's not about the environmental impact - and frankly, if you're not carless or your car isn't falling to bits the manufacturing impact on the environment will be huge, hybrid or not.

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What the hell is the "B" gear?

Seriously, what the hell is the "B" gear for?

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@Simon Neill

"I also suspect that the whole "instant start" that is VITAL for hybrids doesn't work too well when the engine needs 15 seconds of prewarming before the fuel will ignite."

I seem to recall having to wait about that long for the engine on my driving instructors car to warm up back in the early 90's, but the mid-2000's vintage lump that powers my present car has never left the glowplug symbol lit up for more than 3 seconds, and will usually start up almost as quickly as I can turn the ignition key...

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Nice review...

but how does it do if you're being chased by bad guys in a Camero around a shopping centre?

Or if you are asked to take part in a beach assault with the Royal Marines?

All important questions that are ignored in this review.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@Ian Bonham

And likely to remain so, I'm pleased to say.

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Twats

Then some bright spark came up with this idea to bung people a discount off a new car if they had their's crushed. I sorry where is the enviromental gain there - perfectly good vehicles (that intially required massive amounts of C02 to build) crushed. Hmmm... buggered on the logic there, as even blue motions will need to be driven for a bloody long time to make up for all that carbon expenditure.

MOSTER FAIL OF EPEC PROPORTIONS

Flame gear on, troll charm handy

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how green is a Prius?

Not at all. Because Toyota won't, and probably never will, release an estimate of how much CO2 is puked out manufacturing these ridiculous, wrong-headed cars with their convoluted drivetrains, nasty chemical batteries and stonking kerbweight. No wonder the weedy Insight can keep up with it's lardy arse.

If you want something a bit different a fancy spunking up for a Prius, I wont judge you. Just don't EVER say you bought a green car.

Buy an older car that suits your needs and keep it roadworthy for as long as possible. That's green motoring. Even if it's got a straight-six engine. It'll do less harm to the environment (and your pocket) than buying a new one every three years.

And well done Register with 'technology hammer to crack an American nut' sentence. It's the absolute essence of why this pointless lump ever existied.

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Fiesta Econetic

Most small diesel cars can manage similar or better mpg ratings than the Prius. I've just bought a Ford Fiesta Econetic, which is a 1.6l diesel, and I'm averaging over 75mpg so far. If I tried hard I reckon I could hit 85-90mpg on an extended motorway journey. I recently managed a 32 mile journey on fairly flat Essex roads and hit an average better 99.9mph, which is all the trip computer could display.

A lot of it depends on how you drive the car too. It makes a significant difference doing 60mph instead of 70mph or 80mph. It makes no sense to buy a Prius for economy and then drive at 85mph on the motorway. Then again, not everyone wants to drive like grandma.

My Fiesta cost £13k with some extras, and I'd say is only a little smaller, and certainly better looking. Even that probably wasn't much economic sense, considering the basic 1.4l Fiesta diesel is much cheaper and can still manage 67mpg. So paying £18k for a Prius seems pretty crazy. I only justified it because I will probably keep the car for 10 years.

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Usual bollocks

On both sides that is - review says you can use EV mode cannily to avoid using petrol... Duh its charged up by using petrol and over-use of EV is likely to reduce your mpg not increase it. Until you can charge it up this will be the case.

In regards to the nickel usage etc - the construction industry will use far more nickel as an alloy in steel than the prius uses in its batteries (%'age nickel needed for all cars to have NiMH batteries from that Canadian mine would be a small proportion of the mines output) - what a surprise that Clarkson knows nothing! The study that showed the Prius worse dust-to-dust than a Land Rover supposed it had a lifetime of 100K miles (Yes every car only lasts for the guaranteed mileage!) and took a very low mpg average for it - so complete balls again.

Love it or hate it no one can deny that the Prius put fuel economy and environmentalism at the top of the car agenda - and in the US as well which all the US manufacturers ignored to their peril. Thats the main environmental reason I bought one - I would be an idiot to think it is environmentally friendly to buy any car let alone a new one - however in our capitalist society the only way of creating change is to buy along our principles. So I buy environmentally friendly products so companies are encouraged to manufacture more and better environmentally friendly products in order to compete. In that regard the Prius has been a great success - just look at all the cars touting their environmental credentials now.

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Re: Diesel Electric

I have a feeling this is something like the design Jaguar are looking into - a small 1.2l "Generator" to keep the batteries topped up.

Seems like a good idea - after all, if you detach the generator from the drive train like that you could plug in all sorts of generator units (diesel, petrol, LPG, paraffin, hydrogen, gas-turbine, fuel cell, solar, wind-powered, nuclear, Mr Fusion™ ...)

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HUD

'but all you get is a head-up display that projects the speed onto the windscreen - a distracting toy best left switched off. '

Each to their own I guess. The HUD is the one feature is that actually makes me inclined to buy a Prius. I can imagine this being a really valuable driver aid - much more likely to enourage me to keep (close at least) to any speed limit and the satnav-linked turn indicator personally I found very useful during a test drive. Far from being a distraction, having a couple of items of useful info just a half-glance away was definitely appealing.

Certainly the Prius could do with more power - that's its main failing currently. Just needs a bit more oomph mid-range when you press the pedal. Let the CO2 get to 99 say - at least as an option - and give me a little more go in return.

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@James Cook

I also remember Jezza showing that a BMW M5 is more economical than a Prius. Drive the Prius hard (ie slowly) and the Beemer did about (thinks hard) 3 mpg more.

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JB

MPG in European cars

It amazes me that here in the States 30mpg is considered 'fuel efficient' when in Europe you routinely have cars that can do 40+mpg. Just imagine the money they could save here with a combination of cheap American petrol and European MPG levels! These Yanks haven't got a clue.

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A couple of things

Volkwagon is testing a diesel hybrid on a Jetta platform.

The Prius and the Insight, for that matter, will never save as much energy in their lifetime as it did to produce them. Want to save resources? Purchase a used vehicle.

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/02/vw-unveiling-an/

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Diesel Hybrids

1930's technology in just about every diesel locomotive ever built. Volkswagon is supposed to have a 70 mpg hybrid based on the Jetta and Audi A3 soon and has a concept hybrid that gets 170 mpg.

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Still a hateful car

Former boss had one and bragged how he got 40MPG. He drove like an old lady, and I get 45MPG in my six year old VW Golf Diesel driving like a bank robber on his way home from work.

Clarkson might have been over the top on the Prius/Land Rover comparison, but he isn't far wrong. Nickle mining creates a LOT of eco-schmutz that has to be dealt with, and that's before they ship it to Iceland for refining. (Love that geothermal.)

One interesting thing came up within the last year. GM and Toyota were ending some deal and were trying to square the books. Toyota offered GM the Prius and GM said "thanks but no thanks" because Toyota loses money on each one. (My source for that is an awfully damn reliable one.)

And I recall the Top Gear where the M3 had better mileage than the Prius. The point was that whatever you buy, you need to drive it rigth to get the claimed mileage out of it. Plus they have to lug around those heavy, heavy batteries whereever they go, even on the interstate/M1 where the batteries aren't doing much.

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13.1KWH battery? I don't think so..

.. the battery capacity is 1.31kWh - if only it were 13.1kwh for that price they would have made it a plug-in already!

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@R Callan

It was a BMW M3 that was driven at highest gear at low speed while I would guess that the Prius was driven as hard as you can with that transmission.

Even so, Prius is far far worse than a decent new diesel,

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americans and diesels

I think the reasons that residents of the US don't like diesels is probably more complex than you think. Having chatted to my US in-laws on the subject,they say its partly because not so many are available compared to Europe, and add in the lower general fuel price the maths take longer to work out. Throw in their perception that diesels don't cope with cold weather as well as petrol cars (and it can get very cold there) you end up with the preference for petrol over diesel they have. And lest we forget here in the UK its only in the last ten years that diesels have overtaken petrol cars in popularity -kind of co-incidental with the Govt. threatening to bring in punative road tax rates for anything with fuel consumption of less than 30mpg or so.

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@sulphur man

Absolutely agree. I drive an R-reg land rover which cost 3k, including a high efficiency LPG conversion. 4.6V8, but only 20p/mile. Even on petrol it only costs 3 pounds to drive 7 people to town and back (>20 quid on the bus). Let's be honest, the scrappage bonus is to help rescue the economy, not rescue the planet.

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Lies, Damn Lies, and Clarkson

The "study" cited by Clarkson (and many others who stop looking once something says what they want to read) was not research but creative marketing propaganda based on data that was more than 40 years out of date. A moment with Google is all it takes to find real research refuting the claim that a Hummer is more environmentally sound than a Prius. There is only one "report" claiming otherwise and its repeated ad nauseam by those who stop thinking.

As for nickel in batteries, its not as if the nickel is consumed. Same as for lead-acid batteries the Prius battery is too precious to throw in the landfill when its easy recycling pickings for material.

Is no surprise the Prius got poor MPG under Clarkson's conditions. The whole time the Prius tires were sliding sideways. The other car by comparison never slid its fat tires. Takes a lot more energy to push a tire sideways than let it roll forward.

As for Diesels solving all the world's energy needs, there isn't that much Diesel available. There is only so much that comes easily from a barrel of oil and we are already over that limit. Diesel costs more than gasoline in most of the world, including the USA *because* its relatively scarce.

We don't see many Diesel cars in the USA because it is very difficult to smog to EPA specifications. I believe my 2008 Ford F-250 SuperDuty 6.4L Powerstroke Diesel is more complex than my 2007 Prius. Both the F-250 and the Prius are the best vehicles available here for what they do.

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U.S. Gallons vs. Imperial

@JB

But remember that the UK (and Canada) use Imperial gallons that are 160 ounces; U.S. gallons are smaller at 128 oz. Same ratio with pints -- 16 vs 20: ya get more Guinness in a glass on your side of the pond.

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Hybrids are popular in California because....

....until quite recently you couldn't buy turbo-diesels (the diesel fuel used to have a high sulfur content). So no diesels plus a lot of start/stop driving -- a characteristic of US driving -- made a hybrid a very good choice. Add in some very generous tax rebates and exemptions that allow them to be driven in HOV (carpool) lanes and you get an offer you can't refuse.

Now we can buy turbo diesels we can' t buy them because they won't stay on the lot long enough for anyone to buy them -- the come in and go out to customers on the same day.

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Just a heads-up re. US vs. UK mpg values.

1 US Gallon = 3.79 Litres.

1 UK Gallon = 4.55 Litres.

Therefore, any MPG measurements will be lower in the US than the UK for the same car. Most people aren't aware of this difference.

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Boffin

B-mode, joystick, and keyless operation

"B" stands for brake: In B-mode, engine braking is engaged: the fuel is cut off, and the transmission is allowed to drive the engine to slow the car. It saves wear and tear on your brakes on long downhill stretches which provide far more energy than is needed to recharge the battery.

The drive-by-wire joystick is the inevitable consequence of the purely electric/electronic design of the transmission: there nothing in the transmission to push or pull, so why should there be a mechanical linkage: what would it connect to? Of course, you can argue with the styling of the "gear shift": that's a matter of taste, but that doesn't change the fact that it is, in the end, just an input into the electronics.

Finally, keyless operation may be a gimmick, but it's quite a convenience, nonetheless. When it's -20C outside (as it often is where I live), it is a great pleasure to not have to fish for my keys when I go to my car: I just open the door (it unlocks automatically), and press "On". You only have to drop your keys once into a puddle or snow to appreciate a system that allows your key to stay permanently in your pocket.

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Other uses of Priuses

Locally here in northern California someone hooked an inverter to their Prius and ran their house off it during a power failure - when the batteries ran down the engine would start and charge it up again.

Also, about battery disposal, our local electrical utility, PG&E, has a contract to buy ALL the used Prius battery packs from Toyota for load leveling as we try to make more of out electricity out of wind and sun. The power controllers on the batteries are so conservative that there's lots of life left in them.

For what it's worth... I don't drive a Prius - keeping an older car ('95 Accord) running as long as I can.

Happy trails

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Anonymous Coward

Diesel sucks

In America, diesel is 30 cents per gallon more expensive than gasoline ($2.49 vs. $2.79). So it costs 12% more. It takes 20% more oil to make it, so it's almost even in efficiency. Plus, it pollutes like crazy. They are banned in five states (including mine) due to high emissions. And many gas stations don't even carry diesel. And it gets really cold in many places. And diesel cars just aren't available. And they cost a lot more.

Gasoline is simply better, especially in America.

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It can't have 1kg of Neodymium

That would cost GBP £8221 or USD $13070 for the raw metal alone!

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Diesels & more

Diesel is scarce only because the refineries are set to crack diesel into gasoline, and now it is too expensive to build new ones.

As for Diesel being "eco", c'mon, it may consume less fuel and produce less CO2, but CO2 is not toxic or really dangerous (only in the long run).. the problem is that diesels generate losts of dangerous chemicals.. so they can never be really "green".

The prius not only consumes little gas, the exhaust release very few dangerous chemicals for its consumption.. so it is not only about quantity, it is also about quality.

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@JB

"Just imagine the money they could save here with a combination of cheap American petrol and European MPG levels! These Yanks haven't got a clue."

It's precisely because of that cheap petrol (I think it was 90c/US Gallon when they invaded Kuwait) that discourages americans from considering economy wheny they buy cars.

it might be interestiing to check the detail specs for the same make and models sold in US and Europe. I suspect the US model is not *exactly* the same, either due to more accessories, larger fuel tank (its a big country) or higher safety (heavier door pillars etc).

OTOH the fact the US government has bailed out 2 major car corporations (CHrysler for the 2nd or 3rd time?) suggests US based car makers cannot make a car enough people want to buy at the price they want to charge. This suggests US based car makers have'nt a clue either.

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I actually bought one

I had a 15 year old Audi 80 diesel which gave me 50-60mpg which I had intended to replace next year. However

- my old Mum found the seat uncomfortable

- several bits(not of the byte sort) were a bit dodgy and my MOT was going to be expensive

- dear Gordo had made diesel more expensive than petrol

- some idiot had arranged to refund me £2000 for a load of crap

I chose the Prius because

- my old Mum found the seat comfortable

- I wanted a reasonable size saloon

- I wanted a good mileage

- the vehicle tax is zero

My experience has been

- the best was 76mpg on a 10 mile journey over an inadequate A class road with about 3 miles in a 30mph area

- 66mpg on a 220 mile journey over motorway and A class road split about 50/50 and going as fast as was safe for the road including some 30mph areas in towns

- never less than 60mpg for any journey although it does dip below this with a lot of uphill during journeys but then the downhill kicks in

- EV mode is not required because it defaults to electric power if you trundle around slowly anyway

- ECO mode is good if cruising at a steady 25 -35mph but needs to be disengaged if doing a lot of acceleration even at slow speed in traffic

- acceleration in no-mode is more than adequate but engage PWR mode and it rams your back thru the seat back. You can engage/disengage by pressing a button as you go along so you get the extra oomph for overtaking and cut it once you are cruising again

- the central console makes it impossible to enter via the passenger side if some idiot blocks the drivers door

- rear visibilty is poor and even forward visibilty for parking nose in is more an estimate than a visual judgement.

- the interior plastic is definitely a rather cheap let down but who cares its a car not a girlfriend

- I intend to keep the vehicle for about 15+ years and being "green" played no part in my decision although the fuel consumption and zero vehicle tax is a benefit of greeness.

Overall I am pleased with it and although it has some quirks like the foot handbrake and no ignition key (just a starter button like when I learned to drive) you soon get used to it.

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Stop

Prius vs iPod headphones

"apparently each Prius motor uses 1kg (2.2lb) of neodymium, which is a lot of iPod headphones in anyone's book."

That might be a lot of headphones, but at least that battery actually does something useful. Anyone with ears will throw the iPod headphones away with the box ;)

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the way i see it...

I think the real point of the arguement we have here, is not that a relatively economical car has been created, (good for the manufacturer to try to be better - bad as not entirely convinced on the materials chosen etc. etc.)

but that people who drive "normal" cars are treated with contempt, or even as downwright eco-criminals by a small minority of .. erm.. gifted individuals from within the prius membership, for 'not getting with the program'.

As such the persecuted group have no way of dealing with this resentment, so fall back to, as i myself do, to treating the entire prius group as a selfrightous and childish whole.

if they left us alone to sit and have a bit of an investigate, weigh up the options, then sure, maybe a few more people would drive a hybrid machine.

But no. having had prius owning superiority stuffed down my throat, had it inferred how backwards i am, and "maybe i'm too stupid to see the light". I am now much less inclined to follow that particular path.

i see a few parallels between macintosh and windows pc ownership.

but hey, thats just me.

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