The first 1000km in our Toy­ota Prius PHV

It’s not pure-of-EV-heart, but our plug-in Prius is still prov­ing to be an ex­tremely green choice.

Waitaki Herald - - MOTORING -

I’m learn­ing that you can’t be a purist when you drive a plug-in hy­brid.

Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle (EV) ‘‘evan­ge­lists’’ (that’s the most po­lite term I can think of) have been telling me that for ages, of course. For many, any plug-in that’s not fully elec­tric is ei­ther cheating or re­garded as a plan­etkiller like ev­ery other com­bus­tion-en­gine car on the road.

I’ve just cov­ered 1000km in our long-term Toy­ota Sig­na­ture Class 2014-vin­tage Prius PHV and I’m still nowhere near vis­it­ing a petrol sta­tion for the first time. So I’m good, thanks.

But max­imis­ing our pure­elec­tric mo­tor­ing is in­deed the point of hav­ing the Prius PHV and that’s the bit I’ve had to come to terms with. Trickle-charg­ing it at home overnight gets just over 20km range into the bat­tery, which is not quite enough to get me to work and back (it’s 26km all-up).

To be­gin with it was tempt­ing to just run the PHV in EV-mode un­til it went flat, which got me to work and a bit of the way back again be­fore it it turned into a stan­dard Prius. But given that I’m a bit EV-OCD, that proved a recipe for frus­tra­tion; be­cause the PHV seems to be quite tem­per­a­ture-sen­si­tive in win­ter.

The car lives in a car­port, so it’s cov­ered but still out in the cold. You can have a full charge and be run­ning in EV-mode, but the car still of­ten in­sists on run­ning the petrol en­gine gen­er­a­tor-style for 2-3km on startup. Bat­ter­ies do op­er­ate best with a lit­tle heat in them, so I’m as­sum­ing Toy­ota has cal­cu­lated this is an ef­fi­cient way to achieve that.

It cer­tainly doesn’t hap­pen when the car is garaged overnight, which it has been on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions. When it starts out warm and snug­gly, it sticks to EV mode no mat­ter what.

How­ever, it is frus­trat­ing to have your plug-in in full-EV mode and still be hear­ing the hum of an Atkin­son Cy­cle petrol en­gine in the cabin. If I’m eat­ing up my pre­cious bat­tery power, I ex­pect to­tal si­lence.

So I’ve taken to be­ing a bit more proac­tive with the EV/HV button, which al­lows you to switch be­tween elec­tric and hy­brid op­er­a­tion. In the lat­ter, the cur­rent state of bat­tery charge is saved un­til you go back to EV con­fig­u­ra­tion.

For my morn­ing com­mute I’m gen­er­ally now keep­ing it in HV un­til the car is warmed up. I also opt for HV in mo­tor­way run­ning and on big hills, but stick to EV in ur­ban driv­ing when­ever pos­si­ble.

And of course the ul­ti­mate in nerdy fun is to try and run out of bat­tery in EV-mode just as I ar­rive home at night to recharge. Per­haps I’ve said too much.

Who said driv­ing a plug-in isn’t en­gag­ing? Get­ting the most out of my elec­tric­ity is keep­ing me very busy be­hind the wheel. En­joy­ing the chal­lenge, ac­tu­ally.

Any­way, af­ter 1000km the trip com­puter tells me we’ve driven 36 per cent of that in EV mode. Of course, the car has been on elec­tric power a lot more than that, be­cause it of­ten runs just on bat­tery even when it’s in the HV set­ting (like a reg­u­lar Prius, in other words).

We’ve av­er­aged 3.41 litres over­all, which is ac­tu­ally a re­mark­able fig­ure. Achieved with lots of help from elec­tric­ity, of course.

Another part of this project is keep close tabs on how far in­di­vid­ual jour­neys are for a real car driven by a real per­son for

Prius PHV at a race­track. That’s ‘‘at’’ a race­track, not ‘‘on’’ a race­track. Let’s stay sen­si­ble.

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