Last summer I purchased a hybrid car. My old car had served me well, but I noticed that the gas mileage was not as good as it used to be and that repair bills were starting to get more costly. Hybrids had come down in price a lot since the last time I was in the market and Toyota had come out with the compact model, which looks a little sportier and fun than the traditional. There are a lot of neat things about this car, but I ended up learning a lot of things I wasn’t expecting.
- Most people don’t know much about hybrid cars – The first thing most people ask me when I tell them what car I drive is “how long does it take to charge and where do you plug it in?” Hybrid does not mean full electric. Hybrid means that the car is fuelled by both gas and electric power. The electric batteries are charged using regenerative braking and time spent using the gas engine. Every time to you brake, the batteries are charged using the energy developed during the friction of braking. When you are driving on gas, the electric batteries are charged by harvesting energy that would otherwise be wasted — similar to how an alternator works in a full combustion engine. Sometimes you are driving and using both engines.
- You probably accelerate too quickly – The Toyota display is really clever and lets you know how environmentally you are driving as you go. When I first started driving I noticed the car almost always switched out of electric mode when I accelerated and my gas mileage was good, but not great. After observing the feedback over the first few weeks I changed my acceleration curve and now most of my trips are in the 3.0-4.0 L/100KM range.
- Gamification works – The display includes scores on how your behaviors are affecting the overall environmental impact of your driving and your gas mileage. Seeing a bad score makes you feel bad. Seeing a bad score compared to your spouse makes you competitive. My husband are I are constantly competing for the best braking score or the best L/100KM score.
- You re-acquire an appreciation for a good cruise – When I first started driving the car, I kept getting the feeling that it was sort of like my old days of driving a manual transmission but I couldn’t figure out why. The reason for that is that you are always after a long stretch of road in which you can maintain a steady speed. In the same way that in a manual you’d seek it out to not have to shift as often, you do the same in a hybrid to stick in that electric mode.
- You save a lot of money on gas, and not in the way that you think – Yes, filling up my car once a month instead of four times a month obviously saves me gas. That’s what I was hoping for, that was the point. But what I didn’t realize is that we are also now saving money on gas for the other car. Because the Prius is so much better on gas, we rarely take the other car out for in town trips any more. It only gets used for out-of-town and longer distance drives. So now it too only gets filled up once a month.
The only disadvantage to it noticed so far is that I sometimes forget what side the gas is on, because I fill it up so infrequently.