The Green Spot: Driving a Hybrid

So recently at work I needed to borrow a fleet car and by luck got to drive a 2008 Prius for the day.  So here are my thoughts after my ‘test drive’ of a hybrid which was mostly highway driving.

First off you may think a hybrid would be gutless, but this car has some speed when you need it.  I was very happy with the ease of passing cars on the highway.  Perhaps the only real differences I noticed driving the car was the brakes slow you down a lot faster than most cars because it tops up the battery while doing so.  The other major difference was the  both car engines (gas and electric) turning off when at a stop light.  Other than that there are a few little differences like there is no park setting on the stick you use a button to do that instead.

I thought the car was highly educational.  Having an instant readout of your current fuel consumption is very interesting.  I learned that passing someone using a lot more fuel than I would have guessed (you spike to about 18 L/100 km).  Also I learned quickly any other faster acceleration uses a lot of gas as well.  I found by dropping speed from 111 km/h to 109 km/hr saves you about 1 L/100 km  off your fuel consumption, but turning off the air conditioning only saves about 0.2 L/100 km.  Yet a bad piece of highway will cost you about 0.5 L/100 km.

Now because of all the tracking on the car I know for my short day trip I averaged 6.1 L/100km for mostly highway driving.  My current car, the Echo,  is rated for about 5.5 L/100km for the highway and 7.0 L/100km for in city.  So the reality is unless you do a lot in in city driving a hybrid just isn’t going to save you much money on gas.  If you do a lot of city driving a Prius might be right for you.  I check on the city mileage rating, it was 4.0 L/100 km.

The car is a fun toy to drive if you want to improve your milage by adjusting your driving habits, but depending on how much in city verus highway driving you do don’t expect to save much gas with one.   So in my case I likely won’t be getting a hybrid very soon, but I will watch their developments with interest.

4 thoughts on “The Green Spot: Driving a Hybrid”

  1. Just keep in mind that the official mileage rating for all vehicles is completely innacurate – it’s based on tests in a lab, not real world driving. There’s a good chance your Echo is not as efficient as it claims.

  2. So Echo is rated for 5.5 on the highway, but the Prius is rated for 4.2 (and the new Prius 4.0 hwy). What do you actually get with the Echo? Like Darryl said, and you found out, the lab ratings are not the same as real world driving experiences.

    Plus there are a lot of factors to consider if you were actually choosing a new car. For instance, the Prius is a much bigger car than the Echo/Yaris, and yet is still rated as being more efficient, and for me that’s the magic of a hybrid.

    “I found by dropping speed from 111 km/h to 109 km/hr saves you about 1 L/100 km”

    Are you sure about that? You didn’t switch from a slight uphill to a slight downhill incline or anything at the same time, or from slowly accelerating to slowly decelerating? That’s a large change in fuel consumption for a negligible change in speed.

    “…the brakes slow you down a lot faster than most cars because it tops up the battery while doing so.”

    Again, are you sure about that? Hybrids do have regenerative braking, so energy can be reclaimed when slowing down rather than being wasted on friction (which also saves brake pad life), but IIRC the Prius has a braking distance that’s merely average, and is quite close to that of an Echo — whether that’s because only the friction brakes are used in panic-stop scenarios (like a braking distance test), or because braking distance is limited by the grip of the tires, I don’t know. Are the brakes on your Echo working properly?

  3. Potato,

    I agree ratings are somewhat misleading to try and use in real life. I noticed even how new the pavement was changed the L/km ratings.

    The 111 to 109 km/hr comment was based on what I could tell from adjusting my speed. Yes, slight hills and road conditions may have played a factor in it.

    My brakes on the Echo are fine, but trust me drive a Prius and you will notice the brakes feel heavier to use and are more touchy. It’s not a huge difference, but it was noticeable.

    Tim

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