Prius Plug-in the First Month



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Sunday Sep 16, 2012 Ė Plug-in Prius the First Month Ė Itís been just over a month since I got the Plug-in Prius (PIP) and I have now had some time to get used to the car and see what I like and donít like.


Since I am evaluating the PIP as an apartment dweller I would like to start with charging.  The great advantage of having a plug-in hybrid is that you can charge it up and do most of your daily driving in EV mode and have the ICE if you need to exceed your range.  That usually means charging the car at home overnight and sometimes at work.


As an apartment dweller I have no access to charging at home and at the moment I also donít have access to charging at work either.  If I canít charge in either of those two places then the only option is public charging or driving in Hybrid mode, where the car acts pretty much like a regular Prius.


For the most part I have been driving in Hybrid mode on my daily commute.  I have been trying to use some opportunity charging at public chargers where possible.  With only around 13 miles of EV range on a full charge I have found that it isnít worth going a long way out of my way to get to a charger.  What I have been doing is to try and favor businesses that provide public charging, or do business in cities that provide public charging. 


For example, Beverly Hills has installed Chargepoint Network chargers in all of its public parking lots.  On Friday I parked in the parking lot on Crescent drive and used the charger there for 45 minutes while I went to the Brighton Institute and Rite Aid to buy some stuff.  That was almost $60 spent in the city that might have gone elsewhere if they didnít have the chargers.  After 45 minutes the car estimated I had just over 6 miles of electric Range.


The purchase of my car also coincided with Blink making all its chargers in the area pay-to-charge with a guest rate of $2 per hour.  This is equivalent to $10 a gallon gas in the PIP so I have not used my Blink card yet, and at that price I probably never will.


One peeve I have with the PIP is the placement of the charging port.  If I canít park so that the charger is on the passenger side of the car then I have to back in to the parking space.  If the parking lot has signs saying ďhead in parking onlyĒ then I risk a ticket by backing in.  It would have been better to place the charging port at the front of the car as in the Volt.


One of the issues that I had with the old 2005 Prius was the inaccuracy of the gas gauge.  Prius owners often referred to it as the guess gauge since it was so imprecise.  The gas gauge in the PIP appears to be more consistent although it does seem have a large reserve.  When I filled up a couple of weeks ago with the gas gauge down to 2 bars the tank took less than 7 gallons so it seems that the car has a large reserve.  Next time I am going to try running the car down until the last bar starts flashing to see how much it takes.


In general I really like the PIP but I donít find the seating very comfortable and since Iíve been driving the car my leg pain appears to have increased.  On the other hand my wife finds the car very comfortable. 


I really like the back-up camera, although I have to say I am still not totally comfortable with judging distance from the camera image.  On the other hand I canít see the nose of the car at all, so I have no idea how close I am to things like the wall of the parking lot.  Being a short guy I have similar issue with many modern cars so I have learned to live with it.


Iíve also found that I tend not to accelerate as hard with the PIP as I did in the 2005.  I think this contributes to the better gas mileage I have been getting.  One interesting thing I have found is that I seem to get better mpg in standard mode than I do when I drive in Eco mode.  I have totally abandoned driving in Eco mode because of this.


I also experimented with using Power Mode but havenít really tried using it for more than a few minutes at a time.  Standard mode gives me enough acceleration for my needs driving mostly surface streets around LA.  I should try at least one drive to and from work in Power Mode though just to see how it affects range.


Charging the car certainly does impact range.  Last Sunday I parked at the Beverly Hills Library where they have chargers installed.  I was there for an hour and when I left the car was almost fully charged giving me an estimated range of a little over 13 miles.  On Monday morning I was able to drive all the way to work on battery with just a short run of the ICE motor while climbing the long grade from Highland up over the pass into Universal City.  The car reported an incredible 256mpg.  After my 8.2 mile commute I still had just under 6 miles showing on the EV range display.


The return trip starts with a long climb up to the top of the pass and then an even longer and steeper drop down the other side.  By the top of the pass the displayed EV range was down to around 2 miles but regeneration on the down slope added another 1.2 miles to the estimated range.  The charge finally ran out and the car switched to HEV mode as I drove west on Sunset and by the time I got home the car showed trip statistics of 8.4 miles travelled and 136mpg as the fuel economy.


The next day when I drove the car in HEV mode the whole way the car returned 44mpg for the trip into work and 68mpg for the return trip which averages out at 56mpg which is better than the 46mpg I used to get in the 2005.


So far the car is performing better than I expected.  It would be nice if I could charge at work each day.  Since that would mean most of my drive would be on electric rather than using gas.  So far I have driven 680 miles of which 99 miles have been in EV mode saving about 2 gallons of gas.