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Consumer Reports on the plug-in Prius
Old 01-03-2009, 12:58 PM   #1
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Consumer Reports on the plug-in Prius

Consumer Reports has an article in their February issue discussing the results of having a Prius converted to a plug-in version. The aftermarket conversion added a 5KWH lithium-ion battery and almost 200 lbs to the car - and cost almost $11K. On the plus side, gas mileage increased from 42 to 67 mpg in the first 35 miles of driving (before the battery depleted its charge).

Bottom line:

"Our Prius' conversion cost more than you could ever expect to recoup in gas savings"... "But our plug-in Prius showed us this type of technology can produce significant fuel economy gains. And as a sign of things to come, we found it encouraging."
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:10 PM   #2
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How do you get 67 miles per gallon traveling 35 miles when no gas is used in those 35 miles?

How about posting the raw data rather than some flunky journalists half-baked analysis?
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Old 01-03-2009, 01:56 PM   #3
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F_of_A - I assume the engine still needs to kick in for acceleration. I don't think an added 5KW is enough to run in battery-only-mode for 35 miles. But I would like to see the data also.

Their 'bottom line' is confusing to me:

And as a sign of things to come, we found it encouraging."

I think it is discouraging that adding a Lion battery pack to a Prius is not even close to being cost effective. It just demonstrates that we need significant battery cost improvements before this becomes a mass market option. We are a long way off, not on the cusp of conversion to all EV.

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Old 01-03-2009, 03:04 PM   #4
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I read this article, too, and as a subscriber, I think they wasted $11K.
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Old 01-03-2009, 03:52 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
Their 'bottom line' is confusing to me:

And as a sign of things to come, we found it encouraging."

I think it is discouraging that adding a Lion battery pack to a Prius is not even close to being cost effective. It just demonstrates that we need significant battery cost improvements before this becomes a mass market option. We are a long way off, not on the cusp of conversion to all EV.

-ERD50
Agreed. I subscribe to CR and read the article. When they said that you'll never recoup your $11k investment, that was a HUGE understatement. In fact, you'll never even come close to recouping your $11k investment. CR, with the help of Argonne National Lab calculated the savings per mile for fuel (gasoline @ $4 + recharging electricity @11 cents per Kwh) would be 2 cents. $10,875 coversion cost / $.02 = 543,750 miles to break even....... And that is the best case assuming you don't need a new battery during that time or that the extra do-dads added to your car cause no reliability problems, extra repairs, etc. And, oh yeah, don't drive over 35 miles without a recharge or the breakeven point skyrockets upward.........

You're right, if this example of plug-in technology is as good as it gets, we need some big breakthroughs if we're ever going to make it pay, especially if you drive over 35 miles without recharging very often.


Standard Prius: 42 mpg overall, 34 city, 47 highway

Plug-in with battery charged: 67 mpg overall, 56 city, 75 highway (approx the first 35 miles)

Plug-in battery depleted: 40 mpg overall, 29 city, 47 highway
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:04 PM   #6
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The pack doesn't take over completely. The car still runs on gas with a battery assist.
This particular pack (if they are using the Hymotion pack), is largely dependent on your commute.
If you drive 75 miles on a highway, you will get 60-70mpg (I am guessing this is what they did, any details??).
If you have a 10 mile commute between charges, you will get closer to 125mpg.
If you drive in cold climates, the batteries will not be as efficient.
Basically their conclusion is correct. It is NOT yet cost effective, of course, neither is a sunroof, or for that matter, a new car in most cases.
And as the battery technology improves, it will become more effective for more people.
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:35 PM   #7
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If you have a 10 mile commute between charges, you will get closer to 125mpg.
.
They did not achieve this. See the info in my post above taken from the article. They said "While the converted Prius operates the electric motor and gas engine as needed, as in a standard Prius, it spends more time running on electricity and relies less on gas. Still, when running solely on electricity, any moderate acceleration or mild grade makes the gas engine kick in." Perhaps if the driver was extremely light footed and never encountered an uphill grade, results closer to your 125 mpg might be possible. But not on the standard CR course where they do all their milage testing.
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:40 PM   #8
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I did, they stated 35 miles, not 10, and there were no details about the type of drive or weather conditions.
I have gotten that mileage myself, in summer, when going under 10 miles each way with a charge in the middle.
However, I rarely drive that way, so my overall mileage is much less.
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:41 PM   #9
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When they said that you'll never recoup your $11k investment, that was a HUGE understatement. In fact, you'll never even come close to recouping your $11k investment. CR, with the help of Argonne National Lab calculated the savings per mile for fuel (gasoline @ $4 + recharging electricity @11 cents per Kwh) would be 2 cents. $10,875 coversion cost / $.02 = 543,750 miles to break even....... .
Yup, and this also ignores the time value of money, as many of these break-even calculations do.
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Old 01-03-2009, 04:54 PM   #10
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Yup, and this also ignores the time value of money, as many of these break-even calculations do.

That's a good point. In this case, driving the half million plus miles to reach breakeven would take me 30+ years. The time value of money is very significant over that kind of span. And who knows what could happen to the car over that time, what new technologies would appear making your plug-in Prius obsolete or where energy prices will be?

Having said all that, my hat is off to folks investing in this type of technology because they are, in a small way, helping to advance the research and technology. I'm sure they understand they aren't saving money.
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:02 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Frugality_of_Apathy View Post
How do you get 67 miles per gallon traveling 35 miles when no gas is used in those 35 miles?

How about posting the raw data rather than some flunky journalists half-baked analysis?
How about shelling out $3.95 and buying your own Feb. issue?
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Old 01-03-2009, 06:11 PM   #12
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How about shelling out $3.95 and buying your own Feb. issue?
And delay retirement another week? No thanks, I'll wait for the free version.
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Old 01-03-2009, 09:11 PM   #13
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Also read the same Consumer Reports Article.

IN my local newspaper, "Road show section", (about car things), A person complained it cost almost $ 900 to replace 2 burned out headlights!

Labor was $ 200. This number sounded crazy until other writer's verified they had similar cost's replacing the Pirus headlights.

Happy new year.
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Old 01-03-2009, 09:42 PM   #14
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IN my local newspaper, "Road show section", (about car things), A person complained it cost almost $ 900 to replace 2 burned out headlights!

Labor was $ 200. This number sounded crazy until other writer's verified they had similar cost's replacing the Pirus headlights.
It's not hard to do, if you have small hands. I'd suggest replacing both lamps at the same time. The process takes maybe an hour on a 2005. You need to remove a plastic dust cover on the front of the engine under the hood, and either the top of a fuse box, or an air duct, to get access to the back of the headlamp. The bulbs are in a funky bayonet fitting that has to be turned and wiggled just right to release, and is finicky to re-install.

I haven't tried this, but the 2008 Prius manual has the procedure as:
Code:
Remove fender well trim ( a few screws)
Remove front bumper COVER (not the bumper- the plastic cover)
About 14 screws. Mostly on the underside, get a creeper, and a few
on the top.

Remove the (left or right side) Headlight assembly ( a couple more screws).
One assembly contains the headlight, turn signal and running light. Unplug
the electrical connector from the assembly. All bulbs remove from the back
of the headlight assembly. Headlight is held in place by bail wire, smaller
bulbs are 1/4 turn.
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Old 01-03-2009, 10:14 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M Paquette View Post
I haven't tried this, but the 2008 Prius manual has the procedure as:
Code:
Remove fender well trim ( a few screws)
Remove front bumper COVER (not the bumper- the plastic cover)
About 14 screws. Mostly on the underside, get a creeper, and a few
on the top.

Remove the (left or right side) Headlight assembly ( a couple more screws).
One assembly contains the headlight, turn signal and running light. Unplug
the electrical connector from the assembly. All bulbs remove from the back
of the headlight assembly. Headlight is held in place by bail wire, smaller
bulbs are 1/4 turn.
On my celica you flip up the lights, There's one screw on the exposed side with no obstructions to keep you from accessing it. When that screw is removed you unplug the headlight and plug in a new one. I replaced both headlights in under 3 minutes last year.
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Old 01-03-2009, 10:38 PM   #16
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Quote:
Remove fender well trim ( a few screws)
Remove front bumper COVER (not the bumper- the plastic cover)
About 14 screws. Mostly on the underside, get a creeper, and a few
on the top.
No Thanks! Changing a light bulb should be as easy as..... changing a light bulb!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frugality_of_Apathy View Post
On my celica you flip up the lights, There's one screw on the exposed side with no obstructions to keep you from accessing it. When that screw is removed you unplug the headlight and plug in a new one. I replaced both headlights in under 3 minutes last year.
I have heard of a few other cars where the headlights are a major job to replace, costs hundreds to have the dealer do it. My Volvo S40 is tricky, it's mostly a blind operation, and you have to get the bulb base seated *just* *right* or the clips just won't go into place. But you don't need to remove anything, and after you've done it once, you might get lucky and get it done in a minute, but five minutes is probably more like it.

I need to remember this on my next car purchase. It would kill me to think that a simple DIY thing like changing a head light bulb could cost hundreds, or take more than few minutes of effort. Is there a web site that lists crazy stuff like this on a model-by-model basis?

-ERD50
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Old 01-04-2009, 06:12 AM   #17
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Hmmm, my 1985 CRX Si got 50 mpg - approximately 10 gallon tank and could drive 500 miles before empty....could get from Phx to LA on one tank.

I drove the Prius as a rental in SFO a few weeks ago - was not impressed with the mileage, frankly - the display showing the powertrain connections and what was powering what was cool, though.
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Old 01-04-2009, 07:13 AM   #18
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This makes me wonder once again if GM still doesn't get it with their Volt, last reported with a price target of under $40K. Unless they have technology that no one else has, and it certainly doesn't sound like it, the Volt may be another money pit for them. They talk as if it's their future, but it looks like another miscalculation on their part. I hope I am wrong...
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:12 AM   #19
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It may be a few years before the PHEV become economically feasible for most consumers. I have not doubt that more experience and R&D into PHEV will yield progress.

If the USA winds up just using smaller conventional gas vehicle (on average) or more conventional Hybrids (like the current Prius)... we will reduce oil consumption consumption.

I suspect that the next vehicle that we purchase ( 4 or 5 years ) will be a hybrid of some sort.

It will be interesting to find out how rapidly progress is made. If progress is made quickly with leaps and bounds... It might make sense to lease. For example, if prices continue to drop, or if there is significant risk with early technologies... leasing may be a better option. It could mitigate the risk of buying a poor design or if prices decrease.... of course it depends on the residual value of the vehicle.
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Old 01-04-2009, 08:43 AM   #20
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It''s not easy to find info, and the U.S. figures are likely different, but the average distance for a car trip in Sydney Australia is less than 11 kilometres. A small electric car dedicated to this sort of trip would likely be incredibly economical.

Haven't read the article, be nice if CR did a study based on the most common car usage.
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