Toyota Prius 1.5 Hybrid 2008

So you might have noticed recently that all of the big auto manufacturers have some kind of hybrid car on the go, or they have an all electric model. This kind of thing makes the environmental people very happy, John Gormley has a thing about ripping every last penny from our pockets because you HAVE to drive to work. He believes that you and me should get up at 5am and stand on a freezing cold platform waiting for a train that’s late, that might connect with a bus that’s over loaded and takes an hour to get anywhere, so we can get to work late. There is no part of public transport that can come near the car. There is also nothing Mr Gormley can do about it, let me explain.  It would cost the state so much to put our public transport system right we as a country would never recover, all the money this country had was put into road building for the last million years. All the EU funding built and then re-built the M50, the N7, N8 and just about any by-pass you care to mention, and now that there’s a little Green in the party we should abandon all these roads and get on a bike or worse a bus.

Here’s an example: say I work in Dublin but I live in Portlaoise, there are lots of Dublin workers living in Laois. I can drive just about anywhere on the west side of Dublin in near as makes no difference an Hour, remember now that’s door to door with a cup of coffee even. To use public transport I would need to get a train, bus and maybe a taxi. If I worked in that huge industrial estate Ballymount it would take hours to get to work, and the same again to get home. Here’s something else too, ever wonder why there’s so many car parks out near the airport? Here’s the answer, there’s no train station out there. We are one of the few countries in the civilised world who don’t have a rail link to our international airport. Mr Gormley, we don’t all live in a city. The price of housing drove most people away from cities, also Dublin is not the only city in the country. The way to help the country right now is to make motoring cheaper, lower the price of fuel thus allowing the petrol stations to make more profit, delivery people make more profit and both will generate more jobs. The car owner won’t need a second mortgage to keep the car on the road, the country will be a better place. A whopping 70% of what you pay at the pumps goes to the Government in some form of tax! That means on 1 litre of petrol at €1.34 per liter the Government take is 94c. That leaves 44c for the shop keeper to pay light, heat, wages, suppliers, upkeep and so on. Is it any wonder there are no petrol stations left who just sell fuel?

So over the hill with a trumpet comes the hybrid and electric cars. One using petrol and a battery sometimes the other running entirely from battery. But the Prius is what I’m dealing with here, it’s a well built car so long as you’re not accelerating through the nearest wall you’ll be fine. As far as I know all the fixes have been done within Toyota now so no fear there. I have to admit the silence when you push the start button is a little strange at first, and it’s no better when you pull away. This car is in the lowest tax category because there’s a little battery that works at low speed and then when you get frisky with the go pedal the 1.5 engine cuts in to help you pull away, granted it wouldn’t pull you out of bed in the morning but that’s ok because it’s an eco car it was never meant to be powerful. It’s an interesting feeling, but it soon wears off and just becomes a car. The readout on the dash telling you where the power is coming from is neat if a little distracting. I got about 45mpg in real world driving around town and that’s good, out on the motorway that got a little worse about 40mpg and that’s average, almost all the power is coming from the petrol engine when going anything above 40kph.

These kind of cars are bought by people who ran out to buy the iPad, the same people buy the iPhone. It’s not bought for any sensible reason, neither is it bought because of what it can do, it’s bought for that “shiny thing” appeal. It’s the latest thing, same as the electric cars that are just around the corner. They will fill a gap in the market, they are the latest gadget. Just the same as the iPad will go for the real world buyer, something else will come along and the iPad will wind up in a drawer gathering dust. For the Hybrid and full electric cars, they are just a stopgap for whats to come. I think it will be hydrogen cars that will save the world of motoring, after all it was cars that saved the horse. Right now there are many more economical cars to have than the Prius, any Diesel will beat it on motorways but none of them that shout at the world so loud saying “look at my car, it’s eco and I have an iPad too”.

Result: It’s an eco badge of a car with some cool toys, stick to the iPad, at the moment it’s cooler.