Local resident test-drives plug-in Prius


By Michael Abramson

Special to The Almanac

Sally Cooper never minded answering market research questions. And now that responding to some questions over the phone and online earned her the chance to test-drive the new plug-in electric Prius, she is sure to answer them even more often.

Ms. Cooper, who is a financial controller for her company Menlo Money Matters, has been a Menlo Park resident for 14 years and is a native of London, England.

She normally drives a 2007 Honda Civic Hybrid, but jumped at the chance to test out the plug-in Prius when she was offered the opportunity.

That chance, however, almost ended before it began.

"I got a phone call and it sounded like a spam phone call," Ms. Cooper said. "I nearly put the phone down."

She didn't, and after answering several car-related questions, she was invited to take a survey online. Though still unaware that it was for Toyota, she agreed. After finishing the survey, she was informed that she qualified to test drive the new car for six weeks.

Mrs. Cooper's plug-in Prius is one of only 20 that have been lent out for market research testing by individuals, all in the Bay Area. Another 130 have been lent to universities around the country for their testing.

The car Mrs. Cooper is testing is the first Prius to use plug-in technology that runs the car for the first 14 miles solely on electric power. After that, the car's hybrid electric-gas system kicks in.

Ms. Cooper says she has been able to get about 67 miles a gallon in the plug-in Prius. That's pretty impressive compared to the 43 mpg she gets with her Honda Civic and the 51-mpg Toyota reports the 2010 Prius gets.

It was 20 days and 800 miles before Mrs. Cooper finally had to put gas in the car.

To charge the car, Ms. Cooper only needs a regular wall outlet and about three hours. According to Toyota, Ms. Cooper said, charging the car for three hours requires about as much energy as keeping a hair dryer on for the same amount of time.

Mrs. Cooper hasn't determined how much she is spending on charging the car, but her experience has been positive regardless. "I would definitely consider buying one when they come out," she said. "I really like driving it."

The Toyota plug-in Prius is scheduled to be released in 2012.

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Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

With California's highly expensive marginal cost for electricity, just how much does it cost to charge one of these electric cars every night for a month? It's amazingly hard to find this information.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael Abramson
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

The reason that is so hard to find is that it differs for everyone depending on how much other electricity you use. Because PG & E has rates for different tiers of electricity use, charging the car can cost different amounts based on how it affects which tier of electricity use you are in. Ms. Cooper's daughter came home from school (raising her electricity use) at about the same time as she got the car, so she has been unable to figure out how much the charging has cost her.

Like this comment
Posted by INSIGHT
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2010 at 8:22 am

I have a 94 Honda Insight as a second car and have been averaging 60 MPG since I bought it.
The car is a two door, great handling and rarely ever mentioned product from Honda, mostly because of the fact it has always been the all time winner in savings on gas since its inception around the time of the attack on the mid East.
We also have a new Mercedez which is strictly my wife's choice because she is very materialistic by nature. I think it is vulgar.
The main reason they quit making the Insight, is its aluminum construction which makes it lightweight and also a gas saver.
It is more fun to drive than any car we have owned and every review that was honest praised it, while those who wanted it off the road, gave it all kinds of safety violations. I do not race.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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