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Life with a Toyota Prius Plug-in: Month 6
Returning after a brief interlude - 21st March 2018
Back in the plug-in Prius after a few days away, I notice again how well it rides. The steering’s great too – meatier than average and just right for its combination of wheel size, gearing and rim effort. Maybe I’m becoming institutionalised after 9900 miles, but I reckon the handling would appeal to any driver with a reasonably open mind.
Putting the PHEV outside its comfort zone - 7th March 2018
“Would you like,” suggested Steve Cropley one day, “to trade your Mercedes-Benz E-Class Estate for my Toyota Prius Plug-in for several days? Oh, and if you can maintain the Prius’s average fuel consumption up around the current 92mpg mark, that’d be great.”
No pressure, then. The Prius has rewarded Steve with some exceptional indicated fuel economy claims, but many of his weekday trips have been short hops across the city, which play to the strengths of this hybrid’s powertrain. He’s able to cruise along at slow-ish speeds on the battery-powered electric motor, only occasionally calling upon the petrol engine.
Muggins here, on the other hand, would be putting the Prius through a 43-mile slog along the M3 twice a day and, as an added complication, I don’t have a EV recharging box bolted to the side of my house, which reduced my options when it came to keeping the drive battery topped up.
We have a charging point at Autocar Towers but, faced with 86 miles daily, there was a risk that I’d quickly deplete the battery pack’s claimed 39-mile driving range (which in real-world driving is considerably less) and have to rely more heavily on the petrol engine. That felt inefficient, and I risked incurring Steve’s wrath by eating into his average fuel economy.
It didn’t quite end up like that. I found I could let the hybrid system juggle the power sources on the motorway, then press the ‘EV City’ button to deploy electric-only mode as I reached the urban stretch near the end of my journey. That way, the car returned an indicated 70mpg-plus for the trip.
I would actually have liked to have used electric power at the start of my journey for the three miles to the motorway but, with ambient temperatures hovering around freezing, I needed to use the heater to clear the windscreen and warm the car, and that demand on the car’s energy supply seemed to be enough for the petrol engine to need to get involved.
Toyota claims the Prius Plug-in is good for motorway speeds on electric power alone, but that kind of behaviour causes the remaining battery range to plummet and makes little sense.
Even in hybrid mode, the car feels a little bit strained at times when you need to squeeze the throttle just that little bit harder to, say, maintain speed on an uphill section. The car reacts with a noisy flare of revs and the bar charts on the dashboard detailing your energy usage shoot to the top of their ranges, admonishing your rashness.
On the other hand, I found that journeys on undulating motorways such as the M3 offered ample opportunities for the regenerative braking system to send energy back to the battery, so much so that my fears of lugging around a fully depleted battery were unfounded.