Prius Plug-in Road Trip



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Sunday Nov 25, 2012 Ė Prius Plug-in Road Trip Ė Iím actually writing this blog on Tuesday Nov 27 as I had taken the Prius Plug-in on its first road trip and I wanted to complete the trip before writing up the blog.

My wife and I decided to get away for a couple of days to unwind after the long Thanksgiving weekend. We considered a few options but decided on a trip to Temecula in Southern Californiaís wine region.

We departed Los Angeles at 10am on Sunday morning and traffic was very light at that time. I left the apartment with no EV charge on the car so the whole trip to Temecula was done in HEV mode.

The drive was pretty uneventful and speeds on the freeway varied between 55 and 75 with most of the trip being done at 65 Ė 70mph. The car behaved very well on the drive with none of the squirrely behavior that I used to get when I encountered cross winds in the 2005 Prius with the original Goodyear Integrity tires. The Plug-in Prius just seems to handle a little better than the 2005 and I think that has a lot to do with the different tires and the battery weight lowering the center of gravity.

The trip to Temecula was 96 miles and the car turned in a very respectable 53mpg at an average speed on 61mph. With two people and luggage in the car I would have expected about 48mpg in the 2005 Prius so I was very happy with the overall fuel economy.

When we got to the hotel our room wasnít ready so we took a drive into Old Town and got some lunch at a Mexican restaurant called the Bank. For those not familiar with Temecula, it was a stop on the Butterfield stagecoach line from San Francisco. The Bank was at one time an actual bank in old Temecula. The food there used to be good but this time it was the worst Mexican food we ever ate.

They do have public chargers at city hall just a block from old town but these are Blink chargers and the guest rate is $2 and hour which I consider way too expensive so I decided to pass
In the evening we spent a few hours at the Pechanga Casino which is situated on Indian Land within the boarder of Temecula. This gave me a chance to try out the Aerovironment chargers for the first time. Pechanga has 6 AV chargers installed in the North parking structure and these chargers are actually in a prime location. When we arrived there was nobody using them and none of the spaces were ICEd.

I pulled the car into the parking space nearest the casino and attempted to plug in but the charger cable was too short to reach the charging port. I had to back into the space before I could get a charge. I understand the reasons for Toyota placing the charging port at the rear; thatís where the charger and batteries are so it keeps wires lengths short reducing losses. It does sometimes make it difficult to use public charging though.

The AV chargers were really nice to use. I just plugged in the pressed start on the charger and the car started charging right away. When we came back from the casino three hours later the car was fully charged and the range indicator said 13 miles of EV range. This was enough to cover most of our driving the following day, including a trip to the Promenade, the local shopping mall,

The charge finally ran out in the early evening. We made another trip to Pechanga and topped up again at the AV charging stations while we lost our shirts in the casino. Mine was still the only car using the charging stations. The car was fully charged again by the time we left and once again said 13 miles of EV range at start-up.

Paula Casino is also in the Temecula area but it has Blink chargers at $2 an hour so we elected to go to Pechanga where they offer free charging.

The following morning we checked out of the hotel and set off to do some last minute shopping before we started back to LA. While driving back toward the Promenade I let my foot get a little too heavy on the accelerator and the engine fired up. Iíve communicated with many Prius plug-in owners on Prius Chat and this is one of the most annoying things about owning the car. Once the carís engine starts it has to run through its warm-up cycle before it will shut off again unless you pull over and shut the engine down. I never do that but I know people who do.

When I got back on the freeway heading for home I had 6.8 miles of EV range displayed and the car was reporting average fuel consumption for the trip of 60mpg. Rather than switch into HEV mode I decided to keep the car in blended (that is EV mode where the speed is greater than 62mph so the engine runs). EV range was finally depleted as I approached Murrieta. I kept the car on cruise control set at the speed limit which is 70 mph on the 15 in that area. Most of the trip home was actually done at around 70mph apart from some stop and go traffic on the 10 westbound as I approached West LA.

On the way back the car reported and average of 63mpg which I thought was outstanding. The whole trip was 232 miles with two complete battery charges. Average speed was 41mph and the car managed 61mpg. I am extremely pleased with these numbers and they could have been better had I started the trip with a full charge instead of starting out in HEV mode.

In a previous blog I had stated that I found the seats on the Prius plug-in to be very uncomfortable and that I had an increase in leg pain since I began driving the car. I found the solution was to sit on a cushion. I had to experiment a bit to find one that worked but I was able to complete this road trip in relative comfort.

I also noted that the 92 miles for this trip is beyond the range of most of the pure electric cars currently being sold. While there are a few places along the way that have public chargers there is no fast charger available on this route and no public chargers at all between Corona and Temecula which could lead to problems if you didnít get enough charge at the last charging location before heading down the 15 freeway. It is, of course, no problem for a plug-in hybrid.

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