I have always wondered what happened to the auto industry in the 1980's.
While the previous decades had brought innovation after innovation, things seemed to stall in the
latter part of the 20th Century.
In earlier times we had seen the introduction of automatic transmission, power steering, and anti-lock brakes.
The 1990's brought, well, better cup holders.
Finally, at last, there are breakthrough cars appearing: the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. Hybrids.
(With the Honda Civic Hybrid soon to follow.).
These cars combine the different operating strengths of gas engines and electric motors to produce a car
with these characteristics:
With all that going for hybrids, why not choose one?
- Great gas mileage: 45-55mpg is typical with the Prius. And that's both
in the city and on the highway.
- Convenient: There's no cord or plug for these cars -- they charge their battery
by using the motor as a generator when you're braking (usually that energy would be
expended as heat) or by recharging the battery with the engine. Cruising range is
500-600 miles for the Prius, then you only need stop at a gas station for a fillup..
- Excellent acceleration: while the power of the electric motor is a modest
40 hp, at low speeds it alone provides 225 ft-lb of torque, about the
same as a Camry's V6. The motor and th 70hp engine working together give the car
- Clean: The Insight is a Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, and the Prius is
75% cleaner: a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (SULEV).
That means it produces 50% less CO2
and 90% less NO2 than the average car. That'll set back global warming.
- Quiet: When it's not needed, the gasoline engine shuts off completely.
This means no gas is wasted at stoplights, and the car can cruise around just on
battery power at low-medium speeds (this is known as stealth mode).
I've never before owned a car in which I could listen to quiet classical music.
- Inexpensive: Sure, hybrids cost a few thousand more than the equivalent
Twentieth Century car, but there are tax advantages (see below) that close that gap.
And how many gallons of gas do you need to save to cover the difference?
- Solid Technology: Frequently new technology suffers from teething problems.
You don't have to suffer that...the Prius has been out since the late 90's in Japan and
since 2000 in the U.S. The Insight and Civic Hybrid are also supposed to be very solid.
- Roomy: While a Prius looks small, climb inside one and you'll be surprised.
There's a lot of information already on the web about the Prius and Insight.
I'm not going to attempt to rival that.
However, here are a few very useful or hard-to-find links:
-- Toyota's Prius web site.
-- Prius diaries and information.
-- Yahoo has a large, active mailgroup for Prius owners.
-- Toyota answers the question, "Are Federal Tax deductions available for purchasing a Prius?".
The answer is yes: there's a $1500 deduction in 2002.
Some people think a tax credit is available, but Form 8834 pretty
specifically rules that out, IMHO.
-- Colorado offers a deep tax credit for the
difference between a clean Alternative Fuel vehicle and its conventional equivalent.
For the Prius, this is probably a Corolla LE.
The credit is doubled (up to 100%) if you trash an old car when
you upgrade to a low-emissions vehicle.
-- This government web site can show the incentives and laws applying to
Alternate Fuel Vehicles.
-- Colorado House Bill 00-1067, which mentions "'Motor vehicle' means
any self-propelled vehicle required to be licensed or subject to licensing for operation upon the highways of this
state, including a vehicle that uses a hybrid propulsion system.",
clearly indicating hybrids are eligable for the Colorado tax credit.
-- No Emissions Testing!
"Because the IC engine in the Toyota Prius does not run continuously under
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has granted
the Prius an exemption from exhaust emissions testing under a
specific provision of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR