a) My wife started a new job in Denver, which meant a pretty hefty daily commute for her.
b) Gas prices soared above $3.00 a gallon making this commute very expensive in her heavy SUV.
c) In Colorado we get a $6,500 tax credit for purchasing this car (3K federal and 3.5K state)
d) We were informed that a Prius driver can use the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane with only one driver because of a state law passed over three years ago.
So I spent a few weeks trying to find a car to purchase. The local Toyota dealership had a waiting list of 60 people deep and not a single dealer in Colorado or Wyoming had a car in stock. They all said take a number. So I told them all to call me if somebody who had ordered a car did want to purchase it, and two weeks later the phone rang and we got a silver package eight Prius.
Package eight is the most expensive blinged-out model with all the bells, whistles and electronic toys. We of course paid full sticker for the car, which was just shy of 30K. The base model starts at about 22 thousand, but you’ll never see one of these as most dealers order the most expensive cars so they can make the most profit.
So here’s what I have to report.
I just got back from the Chicago Triathlon in the Prius. I drove the Prius 1000 miles each way between Boulder and Chicago and used about $58.00 in gas for each one way trip. I fit all of mine…and my wife’s race stuff in the car which included two bikes, luggage, two sets of golf clubs, one bottle of homemade wine and a very heavy cement garden gnome.
The car averaged about 50 miles to the gallon on the highway, which meant I could go about 500 miles on a tank full. I must confess to a couple of things here:
1) I ran out of gas just short of Chicago. This is something the dealer said you should never, ever ever ever do. Well I did because the only gas station at the first highway exit I took to gas up was closed, and I had to drive another 20 miles to the next exit. At mile 18.5 on the way to the next exit the car ran out of gas and I though …oh uck. But it was crazy. I was able to drive at about 30 mph on the side of the highway to the exit and gas station, sweating all the way as I watched the battery meter drop.
2) The Prius is really more of a computer or an appliance than a car. Ours has all these electronics that make it fun to play with on long drives including XM radio, iPod jack, voice navigation and command, Bluetooth cell phone integration, energy and consumption display, keyless entry, and a very heavy cement garden gnome smiling at me from the back.
3) I must admit that I began to laugh diabolically every time I gassed up the Prius when the little pump display stopped at $22 dollars while my neighbor’s pump kept jumping by $10 dollar increments as he filled up his Suburban…$50…$60…$70…deep diabolic laugh…$80.
I know that this is sort of self-righteous but I do feel good driving the car around town to run errands. It just feels great knowing that when I have to go to the store to get a gallon of milk and I’m stopped at the stoplight, or stuck in traffic the car is using zero, nada, not a single drop of gas. At the same time it is not polluting or adding much to make this world warmer because quite frankly I suck eggs racing in the heat.
To wrap up here are the things I’ve learned by driving this strange and quirky appliance like car for the last few months.
1) My wife calls it the go-cart and she still prefers her luxurious German SUV to the Prius, but she grudging admits that it is much easier to drive and park.
2) We can’t sell the SUV. I suspect we’ll have to wait for the weather to turn ugly before folks are in the market for the 6000 pound all wheel drive beast.
3) We have yet to file our taxes for 2006, so we’ll have to see what the $6500 tax credit really means to the bottom line.
4) We can’t drive the car in the local HOV lanes. It seems that while the legislation was passed over three years ago the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has yet to implement it. Why? Somebody at CDOT seems to feel they should be making the laws or perhaps they are making some $$$$ on the side.
5) The Prius is really big on the inside. I don’t know how Toyota does it but it is one of those cars that are much bigger on the inside than on the outside. It is in fact a mid-sized car that will swallow five adults in comfort with all of their stuff.
6) The hybrid system is completely invisible to the driver (unless you run out of gas and/or you go to pay at the pump) and probably the biggest advancement in car technology since Henry Ford invented the assembly line back in the day.
7) You can purchase a very nice Garden Gnome in Chicago (which will easily fit into the back of the Prius) and when you look in the rear view mirror, it will happily smile at you all the way home to Colorado.