Yesterday (Sept 26) we had the pleasure of picking up our new Prius Plug-In, at a local dealership. Apparently it’s the first one sold in British Columbia (not including prototype vehicle testing fleets, which’ve been around a couple years, but weren’t available to the public for purchase). It’s so new, in fact, that Toyota salespeople haven’t been fully trained on it yet! :)
It seems like an amazing vehicle — mind you, when your prior car is twenty years old, how could it not? :) Funnily enough, it took us a few minutes to turn it on the first time, because I kept forgetting to put my foot on the brake pedal when depressing the power button. The 17 km drive back home from the dealership went smoothly; we made it back with 200 m of electric-mode range to spare. Woot!
All of which brings us to our first challenge as plug-in owning renters: getting access to a plug. Basically, we’ll have to trade parking spaces and negotiate with the landlord for use of one of the outlets. Many people aspire to a dream house, but me, I’ll settle for a dream garage. ;)
More after the jump…
For those whose interests steer away from cars, the car is similar to a regular Prius, which pairs a gas engine with a medium-sized battery and electric motor. The original Prius’ big innovation was that it recovered some of the energy from braking, and used this to recharge the battery. Through the electric motors, the battery could also drive the car, for short distances at lower speeds.
As I understand it, the Prius Plug-In adds a second, big battery, which can drive the car for longer distances. To make space for the second battery , they seem to’ve taken out the spare tire (“run-flats” and a tire repair kit come in the trunk, instead). This is clever, because it means the regular and plug-in Prius models both have the same trunk space, so customers are less likely to feel the plug-in version comes with a trade-off. Apart from the extra $10,000 that is. :)
I wonder if this “spare tire or big battery” strategy is one other automakers will follow, when they deploy plug-in versions of existing models: Honda has announced a plug-in hybrid Accord, and Ford will have a plug-in hybrid Fusion soon.
Seeing as the Plug-in Prius (“PiP” to the folks hanging out at Priuschat.com) has technology I’ve never had in a vehicle — plug-in battery! hybrid powertrain! air conditioning! — I figured I’d actually read through the owner’s manual. Which, it turns out, is 684 pages. And it’s dry reading, though not without some funny bits. :) e.g.
p.121, and repeated on p.122: “Fingernails may scrape against the door during operation of the door handle. Be careful not the injure fingernails or damage the surface of the door.” (This sounds like it came out of an automotive FMEA, or Failure Modes & Effects Analysis, assessment)
p.390: “Do not place anything other than pet bottles in the bottle holders.” (in Japan, pop bottles, which are made of PolyEthylene Terephthalate, are called PET bottles.)
I understand some automakers have experimented with putting their manuals on iPads; the idea makes a lot of sense to me, and I hope the idea catches on, even if they continue issuing paper manuals. Electronic manuals can include animations and other features to help people better understand the material.
Overall, it’s a neat feeling to be an “early adopter” since I typically convince myself that I can’t afford gadgets, or can make do without. Life’s more affordable that way. :) In this case, my original hope was to replace the 1991 Sentra (without air conditioning) with a slightly younger but still-several-years-old beater (with air conditioning) when the baby came. Once I heard about the PiP, though, that became my goal.
My thinking was that, if I could make an enlightened choice with a big-ticket item, that might make up for some of the easy, quick shortcuts I take every day, which worsen the world my son inherits. Various studies have shown that plug-in vehicles are cleaner than regular vehicles; and as a bonus, while we’re digging up dirtier, fouler oil each year to meet our needs, the ascent of natural gas and renewables mean electricity is gradually getting cleaner.
Furthermore, since some combination of luck and hard work put me in a position where I’m in that fortunate part of the population who could reasonably afford to purchase a plug-in car, it felt almost like a moral obligation: if I held ideals of stewardship and sustainability but never acted on them, I’d be worse than apathetic; I’d be a self-deluding hypocrite. (Wow — three commas, a semi-colon and a full colon in one sentence! :) ) So ultimately, my conscience made my choice for me.
And who knows? Maybe my status as a plug-in owner means I’ll be a bit more responsible in my routine daily activities: my newfound self-identification as a trying-to-do-the-right-thing PiP owner may pressure me to walk and cycle more, buy more organic food, and support more local businesses, to avoid the cognitive dissonance of thinking one way, and behaving the other. The journey to minimize one’s carbon footprint, begins with the first step! :)