Prius Myths explained, by Evan Fusco:
1) Prius owners have been duped into thinking they'd save money—On the contrary, most Prius owners/buyers never considered that saving money was a priority. Like those who pay extra to get a luxury car or others that pay extra to get a V8 instead of a 6-cylinder engine in their SUV Prius buyers paid extra for the added features. Those features happen to be saving gas, reduced emissions, quiet ride, amazing technology inside and out and HOV access (where available). Although a small fraction of Prius owners could actually save money with the Prius over a comparable vehicle based upon the distance of their commute and gas prices, that isn't the point. If saving money is of key import then one should never buy ANY new vehicle, you should buy a reliable used car that gets reasonable base mileage (i.e. Used Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, etc.)
2)The Prius is a compact/small car—Probably the most common thing I hear the first time someone sits down in my car is "Wow, there's a lot of room in here". The Prius has nearly the passenger space of a Toyota Camry and more than the Corolla. The hatch-back design provides an amazing amount of cargo capacity. On several occasions I've taken my family of 5 and all of our luggage for up to 10 days away from home (including a baby's Pack-and-Play and stroller) in our Prius with no problem at all. Although the exterior design gives one the illusion that the car is small the inside meets criteria to classify it as a mid-size sedan.
3) Don't you have to replace the battery after 100,000 miles?—Toyota says the battery will last the life of the car. Experiences from fleet taxi services have shown the first generation Prius lasting upwards of 250,000 miles without need for battery replacement. Few second generation Prius are that high of mileage, but many reports of those over 100,000 suggest that it will perform even better due to the improved battery maintenance regime of the newer generation and superior battery technology.
4) If the battery dies it'll cost $5000 to replace—This is a little bit of an unknown, however the few batteries that have died have been under warranty (8 years/100k miles everywhere and longer (10yr/150k miles) in California emissions states) and covered at no expense to the owner. I've heard of a handful of cases where batteries had to be replaced due to damage from an accident and salvage batteries were found with minimal miles on them for less than $500. Considering there is not a traditional transmission (a common source of breakdown and expense in conventional vehicles), that the brakes will likely never need replacement (due to regenerative braking), and that the ICE (gas engine) will be used approximately half of the time it would on a conventional vehicle (since it shuts down a low speeds and at stops) for the same distance traveled those potential replacement/repair expenses are essentially eliminated.
5)When the batteries die they'll just contribute more pollution and waste—Toyota has a system set up to recycle the batteries and will actually pay for the used batteries if/when they need to be replaced. They will not contribute to further pollution.
6) The Prius is slow and under-powered—While certainly not a performance vehicle the Prius performs quite well under real-world driving conditions. Zero to 60mph in about 10 seconds with a top speed of 105mph. The electric motor provides a significant amount of instantaneous torque to allow for brisk starts and hill climbing ability. It will merge into fast-moving traffic with ease. If you want a race car this isn't it, but there's no need for more power than the Prius has for the normal commuter.
7) You have to plug it in—Despite the number of Prius on the road today and a big campaign by Toyota this myth still persists. In fact there is no way to plug in the Prius without expensive modification. The high voltage battery acts more as a buffer for excess power from the engine that would otherwise have been wasted and for a reservoir for the energy recaptured by the regenerative braking that would have otherwise been lost as heat. It then parcels out that energy as need to assist the very efficient but low horse-power Atkinson cycle engine to give good acceleration and additional horsepower when it's needed. Many Prius owners are campaigning to have a plug in option available for the next generation Prius. If a larger capacity lithium battery were available with higher 'all electric' speeds one could virtually have a perfect 'cross-over' vehicle with the benefits of a full Electric Vehicle (EV) and of a conventional gas vehicle. The ability to use cleaner energy like electricity for normal short range commutes balanced with the ability to take long trips without worrying about recharging the car seems to be a great way to go for many. Presumably fuel economy would exceed 100mpg for local commuting thanks to the Plug-in ability of this new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV). Regardless, it would not be necessary to plug it in, but to get maximal benefit of the larger battery and extended EV range one would probably prefer to plug in whenever possible.
8) In a crash rescue workers could be shocked and killed—The hybrid battery is completely disconnected from the car in the case of an accident. If, somehow, that system failed and the car remained 'running' and connected the only way an injury could occur is if the rescue workers intentionally cut into some of the clearly marked cables wrapped in bright orange covers. Normal rescue techniques (cutting off the roof, using jaws of life, etc) pose no additional risk…all high voltage cables are under the hood, under the car, or in the battery area only.
9)They don't really get as good of mileage as Toyota claims—First of all, the mileage numbers are determined (in the US) by the EPA. Toyota cannot claim higher numbers in their advertising and would be foolish to use lower ones. Also, those numbers are quite legitimate given the conditions under which they were determined. The EPA testing is quite out dated and not consistent with current driving conditions. Indeed they tend to artificially inflate mileage numbers for all vehicles though few people pay close enough attention to their driving to see by how much their vehicle is off until they get a Prius. A look at a web site like Greenhybrid.com's database shows the wide range of fuel economy numbers for the Prius and other vehicles. The hybrids do tend to be a bit more sensitive, on a percentage basis, than conventional vehicles to specific driving situations and driving styles. Those with near ideal commutes and good hybrid driving habits can significantly exceed the EPA numbers. Those who accelerate hard, follow close, brake late and have short commutes achieve significantly lower than EPA numbers. The majority of people, however, once their vehicle is broken in tend to get within 5-10% of the EPA rated mileage.
10)Prius owners are all just trying to make a statement about Global Warming—While there are a number of people who are very involved in the conservation movement and might be considered "greenies" one will find the profile of the average owner to be quite different. Many Prius drivers are older adults, many are professionals and large percentages are not active in any conservation movement. There are republicans and democrats as owners. The common threads tend to be 1)support of improved technology, 2)desire to save fossil fuels by burning less gas (not necessarily to save money), 3)generally interested in making a smaller negative impact on pollution. A few admit to HOV lane access as being the main reason for getting a Prius. I think the bottom line is that we can 'have it all' with a Prius. We can help save our environment, we can reduce dependence on foreign oil, we can send a message to auto-makers that we want and will pay for better vehicles that help us do those things if they'll put the effort into getting better technology.
Note from a former Toyota sales person regarding Prius reviews/pricing:
A friend of mine and I were discussing the Oscars, and how many celebrities showed up in their hybrids. He told me how stupid and naive he thought that was because he had heard on Rush Limbaugh that hybrids have proven to be a bust, that they cost more in the long run than conventional vehicles, due to actual cost of ownership figures, and in the long run we would still use the same amount of oil that we are using now!
I read what he had to say about hybrids on his website. As usual, Rush is talking completely out of his "rear end". BS BS BS, and a little bit of TOTAL BS seems to be his recipe for misleading propaganda.
As a former Toyota salesperson specializing in Prius and Rav4 EV (how about NO oil!) sales, I cannot speak for the American hybrid offerings other than to say that Toyota invested $25 Billion in developing their hybrid technology, and the American automaker to invest the most so far, Ford, has only put in about $2 Billion! You get what you pay for I suppose. Toyota invests in the future. The big three invest as far ahead as next years sales.
Rush says that you have to pay $10,000 more for
a hybrid than you do for a comparable non-hybrid vehicle. Hmm! What can you
compare a vehicle as unique as the Prius to I wonder? The Prius is one of
the smoothest, quietest, most enjoyable vehicles I have ever driven! A buddy
of mine says he prefers driving it over his brand new BMW 745!
He even says the GPS navigation technology is more sophisticated in his Prius than it is in the BMW!
The Prius starts at $21,000 - very well equipped! Let's see, that must mean that Rush feels a comparable vehicle to the Prius ($21,000-$10,000) goes for around $11,000! Wow! What can you buy for $11,000? Do they still make Yugos? Even if they did, I doubt an $11,000 Yugo would have power windows, power door locks, AC, cruise control, Automatic (Maintenance Free!) CVT Transmission, AM FM Stereo with CD Player, keyless entry, etc. etc. etc. (all standard features on the Prius) The Yugo also doesn't get over 50mpg!
Even the Highlander Hybrid gets DOUBLE the mileage of a Ford Explorer, with more power, more standard features, a similar price point, and 1/10 the emissions!
Another thing that Rush forgets to point out is that all these "Enviro Wackos" as he defines them, really ARE helping to reduce pollution by driving a Prius, due to the fact that a Prius produces 1/10 as many pollutants as your standard 5 passenger sedan. Put into perspective, when driving in the city, that means that often times the pollutants created by the engine, coming out of the tailpipe, are of lower concentration than those already in the air it is being released into! Maybe we should feed a hose from the tailpipe of the Prius into the passenger cabin when driving in downtown during rush hour so as to avoid breathing in all that smog!
Another point to mention is that if every vehicle in America was traded in today for a Prius, it would reduce the amount of oil our nation requires to a level that could be fully supported by our own resources. Not a drop of foreign oil required, thank you very much!
Rush says that the Prius's MPG numbers are fudged! Well duh! Who do you think comes up with those numbers? It's not Toyota, I'll tell you that much! Those numbers are generated by the US government. Toyota stands by the fact that you will get about 45mpg-52mpg on average in the Prius depending on your driving habits. This is less than the 60mpg City listed in the window, true. However, that being said, you certainly CAN get 60mpg in the Prius if you drive it conservatively enough. I have done it myself.
What Rush fails to point out is that NO VEHICLE, driven normally, gets the mileage listed in the window! They ALL, on average, including the Prius, get about 26% less than the mileage listed in the window! When you compare a Hummer to a Prius though, the Hummer getting 7.4mpg instead of the 10pmg indicated in the window seems trivial compared to 44.4mpg instead of the 60mpg indicated in the window. They are both only 26% lower than advertised however.
Rush also states that the Prius has no get up and go. When asked if Rush has ever driven a Prius, his response is... (of course) "He'd never be caught dead in one!" What he doesn't realize is the Prius goes from 0-60 in 10 seconds! That's pretty darn fast. (As fast as a Camry, and MUCH faster than a Yugo!) Thanks to its electric motor, which can run simultaneously with the gas engine, the Prius also has more torque than many vehicles on the road.
Rush stated that the cost of ownership is higher over 5 years on a hybrid than a "regular car". This of course includes him factoring the $10,000 "premium" people have supposedly paid to buy a hybrid.
In reality, the Prius is one of the first vehicles offered by Toyota to include a maintenance free transmission with only 5 moving parts! (a standard automatic transmission has over 500 moving parts, and requires maintenance every 15,000 miles) The Prius transmission does not even use transmission fluid! The transmission and all hybrid components in the Prius, including the batteries are also maintenance free, and GUARANTEED for 10 years, 150,000 miles in the State of California (and I think 8 years, 100,000 miles in the rest of the country). This is just the warranty however, and Toyota states that the actual life of the transmission, and all hybrid components, including batteries, should exceed the "lifetime of the vehicle". In other words, you should never have to worry about or do anything to those items... EVER.
The ONLY scheduled maintenance even listed in the maintenance guide other than the occasional inspections of components is oil changes!
So basically, Rush's entire argument about the higher cost of ownership of the Prius is based ENTIRELY on his flawed comparison of the Prius to an $11,000 Yugo! (I say the Yugo, because there is no such car in existence at that price range to compare to!). I'd say it is more comparable to a Lexus is300 (which costs more than the Prius), both in ride quality, power, and amenities. If you want to compare it to a Toyota branded model, the closest match is the Camry XLE, which also has a HIGHER price tag than the Prius!
The bottom line is that you shouldn't believe everything you hear, especially if it comes out of Rush's mouth! If you want to give the Prius a fair shake, then go down to your local Toyota dealership and judge for yourself! I've rarely seen a person walk away from a Prius test drive without a smile on their face, and they are usually headed towards the sales desk!
As for us using more oil in the long run due to increased hybrid sales, I cannot fathom how he came up with that. I guess Rush just pulled that one out of his *ss!
--------------- and a follow-up:
I could care less about what Rush has to say on the subject of hybrids.
Consumer Reports published an analysis of the cost of ownership of hybrids that is better documented and thus much more irritating in its misleading flaws. I've respected Consumer Reports for many years. Now I'm not so sure.
The Honda Civic Hybrid has an easier benchmark for comparison because it's almost identical to the Civic EX (non-hybrid). CR asserts a price difference of $4000 between the two. That's much more than the difference in MSRP between the two, but let's assume they are right because the greater demand for the hybrid raises its market price premium. (And still you have to ask, where did Rush come up with $10,000?).
CR goes on to add a depreciation difference of $2900 between the two models. I don't know how they can come up with such a number. If you have already counted an extra cost of $4000, you would add depreciation of another $2900 if the hybrid actually were to decrease in price by $6900 more than the EX over five years. That's an outrageous assumption. From all I've seen, people are getting better resale values for used hybrids than for conventional Civics. I think CR double counted the $4000 price and $2900 depreciation difference, at best.
Then CR adds in $500 in extra financing costs.
WTF is that? If you paid $4000 extra in cash for your hybrid, you have no
If you pay $500 more in financing costs, you didn't pay all cash for your hybrid. Double counting again!
Finally they make a strange comparison of fuel economy. They use 37 MPG for the hybrid and 28 MPG for the EX. That's 32% more MPG for the hybrid. The EPA numbers of 50 and 34 respectively indicate a 47% advantage to the hybrid. Reports from actual drivers at www.fueleconomy.gov show 46.3 and 31.5 respectively, which magically also comes out to a 47% advantage for the hybrid. I believe 47% is the most realistic mileage advantage to use. Based on that difference, CR should have calculated a $2500 saving in fuel cost over five years, instead of their $1700.
The bottom line of all this is that CR calculated the Civic Hybrid to have an added cost of ownership of $3700 over five years. With my corrections I come out with a $500 cost advantage to the hybrid. The benefits of less pollution, less greenhouse gasses, less dependence on foreign oil, reduced trade deficit, all come free.
Sadly, I think Consumer Reports has much more influence on the vehicle buying public than Rush Limbuagh, and they are doing considerable damage with their flawed analysis.
----------------- and another follow-up
Consumer Reports numbers don't make sense to me, either, for all the reasons you state.
They also show an extra five-year maintenance cost for the Prius of $300, apparently because they assume that maintenance of the hybrid will be done by the dealer, and maintenance of the Corolla (their comparison car, not really comparable at all) will be done by an independent shop. I think that independent shops can do Prius oil changes.
On the bright side, in the vehicle profiles
section, page 76, the Prius is a check-marked, recommended vehicle, top-rated
for reliability, satisfaction, and depreciation. (Even though on page 19 they
show an extra $3200 cost for depreciation.) They even go so far as to state
"The Prius has an unbeatable combination of economy, acceleration, and
interior room." "Reliability is outstanding."
--------------- And then, as if on queue, Consumer Reports publishes this:
Prius, Civic hybrid owners save money, Consumer Reports now says
Last week, the organization released a statement ahead of its well-read April auto issue, which hit newsstands today, that said owners of the six most popular hybrid vehicles would pay more than buyers of comparable gasoline-only vehicles over their lifetime of ownership.
Late today, however, Consumer Reports issued a
statement acknowledging ``a calculation error.''
The new calculations show that owners of the Toyota Prius will save $400 and owners of the Honda Civic will save $300 when compared with gasoline-only counterparts. Owners of four other hybrids -- the Honda Accord, Ford Escape, Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX 400h -- will still end up spending $1,900 to $5,500 more during five years of ownership and 75,000 miles, Consumer Reports said.
-------------------- Danny (of PC Chat) writes:
For any hybrid fan who happened to be in some remote nether region of the world where no Internet is present, you may have missed the big stink caused last Wednesday over an upcoming April Consumer Reports article citing that “If you’re thinking of buying a hybrid vehicle to save money, you won’t — ever.” In the 125+ post thread at PriusChat, the PC member comments range from “Yeah yeah, blah blah” to my personal favorite of “…On top of all that I drive a hybrid to prove that it works. And it works damn well. for what it’s worth, screw CR.”
How much criticism did they receive? Apparently enough to go back and check their math - perhaps even to write it long-hand on actual paper. Will acknowledging a “calculation error” and stating that they “deeply regret the error” be enough to appease the hybrid (kind of) masses?
So what was the cause of this math-mishap? Dividing by the square root of the Pythagorean Theorem and adding that to the Cd of the Prius? Nope. Simple addition, according to akt0001 over on PriusChat. He’s way smarter than me, so I’m going to let his post explain it:
“…correct calculations of the bottom line would have shown a net saving of $450 instead of an extra cost of $5250 figured by Consumer Reports for owning a Prius instead of Corolla over a 5-year period. There would have been similar differences in the other models compared by Consumer Reports.
The problem lies in the way both the difference in the purchase cost and the difference in the depreciation cost are simply added together (besides the other factors) to calculate the difference in the ownership cost.
The extra purchase price of a car is important for calculating the extra sales tax, finance cost, insurance etc, but once that has been done, only the extra depreciation (along with sales tax, finance cost etc) needs to be considered in calculating the ownership cost: the difference in the purchase price must not be added to that in figuring out the difference in ownership cost.
For example, using CR data for expenses over 5 years, let us say that Corolla LE depreciates by $8000 from the new price of $16,607 to $8607 in 5 years. Then, the Prius will be estimated to depreciate by $11,200 ($8000 plus $3200 differential estimated by CR), resulting in decrease from new price of $22,305 to $11,105 in 5 years. The capital cost associated with the owning the cars (besides financing, sales tax etc) is only $8000 for the Corolla LE and $11,200 for the Prius for a differential of $3200 over five years. The differential in capital costs is not $8900 ($3200 plus the difference in purchase price of $5700).”
---------- CR retraction:
ONKERS, NY--March 7, 2006-Consumer Reports is revising the cost analysis in a story that examines the ownership costs and financial benefits associated with hybrid cars. The story, titled "The dollars and sense of hybrids," appears in the Annual April Auto issue of CR on newsstands now.
Consumer Reports is correcting a calculation error involving the depreciation for the six hybrid vehicles that, in the story, were compared to their conventionally powered counterparts. The error led the publication to overstate how much extra money the hybrids will cost owners during the first five years.
CR's revised analysis shows that two of the six hybrids recovered their price premium in the first five years and 75,000 miles of ownership. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid provide a savings of about $400 and $300, respectively, when compared with their all-gas counterparts--as long as federal tax credits apply. But extra ownership costs during the first five years and 75,000 miles for the other four hybrids ranged from an estimated $1,900 to $5,500, compared to similar all-gas models.
Previously, Consumer Reports had reported that its analysis showed that none of the six hybrids it had tested recovered its price premium in the first five years and 75,000 miles of ownership.
The error does not affect the main message of the story, which is that most hybrids do not save their owners money in the first few years, and that the benefits and costs of hybrids vary significantly, depending on the model. Because of the wide range of hybrid vehicles available, it's especially important for consumers to look carefully at all aspects of a vehicle before buying.
"In maintaining our commitment to the highest levels of accuracy and credibility, Consumer Reports is posting a revised version of the report on its Web site as quickly as possible," said CR's Automotive Editor Rik Paul. "We deeply regret the error."
Paul said that it's important for consumers to have the most accurate information in order to make informed buying decisions. Consumers need to know both the pros and the cons of owning a hybrid vehicle, he said.
The revised story, including a new and more detailed comparison chart, will be posted at www.ConsumerReports.org/autos2006.
Consumer Reports has repeatedly pointed to the environmental and performance advantages offered by hybrid sedans and hybrid sport-utility vehicles. Hybrids typically do well in CR's test ratings, as well as in its reliability and owner satisfaction ratings. The story in the 2006 Annual April Auto Issue examines whether hybrids will actually save their owners money over the first five years.