Prius Plug-in Month 2



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Sunday Oct 21, 2012 – Prius Plug-in Month 2 – On Friday morning I filled up with gas for the first time this month.  I’ve been finding more charging stations and as I moved my purchasing to areas where there are chargers I have been getting more EV travel which adds up to less gas.


The stats of this tank of gas reflect this increased EV usage.  The fill-up took just 7.8 gallons.  The car reported that I had done 484 miles since my last fill-up and managed to turn in the equivalent of 65mpg.  The average speed for the tank was just 16mph but that is driving mostly on surface streets in West LA and Hollywood where 16mph is actually not a bad average speed.
Driving in EV mode is great; it’s so quiet and smooth.  There is one minor annoyance.  If I punch the accelerator hard the gas engine turns on even though I am in EV mode.  This wasn’t unexpected since this is the reason that the EPA test shows only 6 miles of EV range.  At the 6 mile point there is a heavy acceleration segment which force on the ICE.
This isn’t bad but once the ICE comes on it doesn’t switch off immediately.  Supposedly it will run for about 90 seconds to go through a warm-up cycle but mine seems to run a lot longer and I have had instances where the ICE has run for several minutes.

Once during a test drive I was told that the engine is kept running in anticipation that you will need to accelerate hard again soon so.  Others have said that it is to put back EV range that may have been lost during the warm-up cycle.  I don’t know if either of these are true but personally I would be a lot happier if the car would complete its warm-up cycle then shut off the ICE if I am not still accelerating hard.  I do know of at least one PIP driver who will pull over and turn the car off then back on again to get back into EV mode.


I have said before that I have been moving business to areas that provide charging.  The city of Beverly Hills is a prime example.  They installed chargers in all the city garages.  My wife has just started physical therapy again and this time we found a place in Beverly Hills just half a block from one of these chargers.  On Friday night I was able to charge for a little over an hour and the car reported and estimated 12.6 miles of range.


There have been the old fashioned chargers in Century City since 1997 but they were removed about a month ago and replaced with 110V 20A outlets.  We can go there, get lunch at one of the restaurants then do some shopping at Gelson’s or one of the other stores and get about 8 miles of EV range.


One thing I am beginning to realize is that 12 miles of range really goes quickly.  It gives me a much better understanding of “range anxiety”.  Of course with the plug-in hybrid if you run out of battery then you just run along like a regular Prius.


The Plug-in Prius doesn’t always behave like the regular Prius though.  One of the biggest differences is the amount of regen that can be done.  During my commute home I have a long downhill stretch coming off the top of the Cahuenga Pass.  I found the behavior of the battery system to be quite interesting.


In HEV mode the battery charge indicator looks like the one you would see on a standard Prius.  It will show about 1 bar low as I reach the top of the pass on the 101 Freeway.  As I come down the hill and take the Highland exit, the indicator will move to full.  There is still a long stretch of downhill to go and the car remains in regen even though the battery indicator shows full.  At some point in the decent the battery indicator will switch from HEV to EV but at this point the range will indicate .8 or .9 miles of EV range.  The car can then be switched into EV mode.  Range will continue to climb and as I turn right onto Franklin the range indicator usually shows between 1.1 and 1.2 EV miles. 


This is a major difference between the Plug-in Prius and the regular Prius.  1.1 miles range is about the maximum you could drive on a regular Prius before a full battery was depleted.  The Plug-in Prius can recapture much more energy that the older Prius can when going down large hills and this helps the Plug-in give the excellent gas mileage even if it is rarely charged. 


Even without regular charges the PIP is quite capable of delivering outstanding fuel economy, with regular charging things are even better.


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