Filed under: non-work stuff
The new generation Toyota Prius, the world's best-selling hybrid (petrol and electric) car, is set to go on sale in the US (Business Week review).
Toyota already has thousands of orders, including from tech blogger Robert Scoble, and the existing model is loved and adored by many, mainly because the Prius is, supposedly, a super-economic car.
The new 2010 model boasts solar panels in the roof for guilt-free, sun-powered air conditioning, low intensity high beam lights and a few other tricks. Best of all, the miles per gallon fuel consumption has gone up from a not all that impressive 46mpg, to an absolutely incredible..... 50mpg.
For a car this hyped, 50mpg really isn't all that smart, is it? Especially when you consider how the Prius comes together, with it's ultra-complex machinery and batteries shipped in from all four corners of the earth, and then re-shipped to wherever it's being sold.
I hired a Prius recently for a day trip to Canberra. 633km (393 miles) and 45 litres (11.88 US gallons) consumed, meaning around 30mpg. I would have got the similar, if not the same or better, out of our 2 litre VW Golf, and the new Golf diesels regularly do 60-65 miles per gallon.
Having said that... from my brief experience with it I was, strangely, mildly enamoured with the Prius. I love the concepts behind it, I love the electric motor that's really the interesting bit of the whole car, and the new one, pictured above, looks less ridiculous (although I'm sure it doesn't really need to look so odd, but Toyota seem incapable of making a truly attractive car, always instead going for something that simply looks like it won't offend anyone).
If this new Prius lets the electric motor go beyond 45km/h (it needs to go up to 60km/h to truly be useful in town), and they've improved the interior, and made it easier to drive to its optimum, then it might be a worthy alternative to other cars that are cheaper, do better mileage, look better, and are a whole heap more comfortable to sit in and drive. Until then, I think it's more of a semi-successful technical development exercise than the motoring revolution we're led to see it as, and certainly not the "King of fuel economy" that Business Week hails it as.
What do you think?