– if they could only figure out how that halo works.

When Tom Weatherbee swapped his minivan for a Toyota Prius hybrid two years ago, he was mostly hoping to save money at the gas pump.

But he was pleasantly surprised by both the requests from friends for a test drive and the grins its aerodynamic profile drew at the grocery store, and he basked in the attention.

“Even the people who own more expensive cars acknowledge the Prius as being pretty cool,” said Weatherbee, 51, an electrical engineer who lives outside Traverse City, Michigan…

Toyota’s Prius, with a list price of $21,100 and fuel consumption of 45 miles per gallon, commanded 51 percent of the U.S. hybrid market in 2007. Now the No. 1 Japanese automaker is considering extending the Prius line-up — effectively making it a brand on its own.

GM, meanwhile, is focusing on its (plug-in hybrid) Chevrolet Volt in a bid to create its own “halo” car. Although GM will not sell the Volt until at least 2010, it has already started featuring it in TV ads.

GM’s Volt rests on a premise that has convinced Honda to follow their lead. And maybe Toyota. That is, double the electric range of plug-in hybrids and you may remove an additional disproportionate amount of fossil fuel consumption.

Of course, Toyota and Honda target a base price of $21K and up. Over the course of development, GM keeps adding foofaraw to the Volt and it looks like the critter will be $35-40K by the time it hits the street.




  1. Ah_Yea says:

    With the way the price of gas ha increased in the last 2 years and what it is projected to cost 2 years down the road, paying $35,000 in for a nice car with 45+MPG isn’t as crazy as it might sound. For anyone who does any significant driving, they might recover the entire extra expense.

  2. ECA says:

    1. The USA corps have already MADE cars (non hybrid) that get 30-35mpg OVER 20 years ago.
    2. The increase in gas price, KILLS your savings. $20 in your tank to go 400 miles 30+ years ago, or $20 in your tank at 50mpg to go the SAME distance NOW, is NOT an improvement to a LIFESTYLE.
    3. BETTER cars were PROMISED in the 70’s, Where are they?
    4. we were TOLD that Aluminum would be LIGHTER and give us better economy, DIDNT HAPPEN. As they had to add MORE reinforcement and the CAR weighs about the SAME as using STEEL.
    5. ALTERNATIVES?? there are some, many. But the Car Corps, have the copyrights to ALMOST anything that can be done. TRY and make a NEW format of car, and SEE how fast you get SUE’d.

  3. Janky-o says:

    People WANT to do ENVIRONMENTAL things but they don’t want to BE INCONVENIENCED. The PRIUS is just great for this!

    It would be REALLY NICE though if TOYOTA were to make a SMALL CAR that got, say, a real 60mpg.

    Hey ECA, I think that I will start typing RANDOM words in all CAPS. THIS is cool!

  4. Jetfire says:

    #1 Gas has to hit $5.00 a gallon before the hybrids will pay for themselves. I did the math a few years ago to add the Hybrid option. They other problem is they don’t get the 45+ mpg in the real world. They did a road test between the normal engine and hybrid version of the car (I think it was a Toyota) and after going cross county Drives switching taking turns in each. The Hybrid saved $0.01 per mile if you drive the car for 200,000 that only comes out to $2,000.00 savings for a $5,000.00 upgrade. They liked driving the normal engine version a lot more too.

    Like I keep saying Man made Climate Change is total BS. If you want something to replace oil for Energy source, it needs to be as cheap or cheaper as well as easy to use. Of course all these same nutballs stopped us from building new Nuclear power plants.

  5. SM says:

    I think we need to stop complaining and pointing fingers at gas companies and car companies, after all, YOU are the one getting behind the wheel, not them.
    How about purchasing a nice bicycle for $500 dollars and using it. I think to myself every weekend: Do I really need another saturday trip to the home depot for gods sakes? Do I really have to do something that involves driving, and in turn spending more money? 90% of the time the answer is no, what i have at home is enough! So instead I take a bike ride through the neighborhood. If it’s winter, I do what people have been doing for thousands of years, I stay in doors and find something else to do. And for those that have to commute to work, and that don’t live in an urban area; move closer to your job. Sure the big house and property on the other side of town for a better price may be attractive, but it’s going to cost you at the pump, you can change that, downgrade and live close to work, you and your family of 3 do not need a 5 bedroom house on 2 acres, get over it. And for those living in urban areas, take public transit or bike it. It’s simple. Not sure why people complain so much, driving wasn’t even an option 100 years ago for most. If your lifestyle is that important that you can’t change, then you should pay for it IMHO.

  6. JimD says:

    GM is run by IDIOTS !!! They had the Electric Car, the Impact, but the DESTROYED THEM ALL !!! It’s too bad that the Country Club set of Executives will be the last to feel the pain of their SCREW-UPS !!!

  7. Uncle Ben says:

    MY GOD PEOPLE! I know you have a CAPS LOCK button and REALLY I am IMPRESSED! BUT don’t feel like you HAVE TO USE IT JUST BECAUSE IT IS THERE!

    Is the new Fiat 500 being released in the US? Apparently it does 85+ MPG! Cute looking little car too:

    http://www.fiat500.com/eng/

    Kinda like the old Minis….

  8. morram says:

    “Even the people who own more expensive cars acknowledge the Prius as being pretty cool,” said Weatherbee

    Until they get into their Hummer/Ford Expedition/DodgeRam4Door, then it’s

    “Can you believe that Tom? Thinks he’s so cool driving that stupid little Japanese weiner dude car! Doesn’t he know GOD will make everything all better so we should use all the gas now. He’s such a loser.”

  9. gquaglia says:

    GM keeps adding foofaraw to the Volt and it looks like the critter will be $35-40K by the time it hits the street.

    Leave it to GM to take a great idea and fuck it up. Very few, except the extremely environmentally friendly are going to spend that for a vehicle, when they can get a fully loaded gas guzzler for much less money.

    GM once again proving they just don’t get it.

  10. gquaglia says:

    #2 ECA you are much better off using the HTML code for bold or underline then typing in caps.

  11. kyoto-antichrist says:

    I’d rather be driving my Hummer than a pious…which gets better MPG than my Hemi Dodge RAM. I love how this topic creates so much outrage, and how everyone is judged by what they drive.

  12. tcc3 says:

    Hybrids are a very clever marketing scheme. Considering the extra technlogy and expense they arent much better than traditional internal combustion.

    Turbo diesels have been getting Prius level mileage for years. VW is supposed to have their 75 MPG Hybrid Diesel ready in 2k9.

    And cram the “just ride a bike” bs. Sure its only been 100 years of cars – but its also been 100 years of suburban sprawl. its not as simple as choosing to drive less. Its a problem with zoning and how we build communities.

  13. @12: You are very close to the actual problem… which in my opinion is pointless power increase in modern cars vs. actual capabilities. Turbo diesels can do much but less powerful ordinary gas engines at present day technology level can do similar numbers. (Though I’d buy TDi with glee if offered in the category I need).
    Just ten years ago you could buy vehicle carrying 8 passengers with cargo volume of 85 cuft, capable of towing 4500 lbs, doing 28 mpg hwy. Catch: it had “only” 140 hp (read: it accelerated slowly).
    Now, there are plenty of 200+ hp SUV’s and “Crossovers” less capable than the example above (carrying less people, less cargo, less towing and with the worst fuel economy) but nothing in what I’d call reasonable bracket… At least in not in the USA.
    Underlying reason are car designers raised from the “enthusiast” crowd (arghh power!) and CEO’s who only know how to market power and size, not technology or reliability. GM Volt suffers from the same malady. It “needed” to be “powerful”. It “needed” to be “sexy”. But actual usability and capabilities – nah… Japanese however, must satisfy their domestic market where other factors are important too and will win.

  14. jim h says:

    I think the Volt is just more PR from GM. Just another booth at the auto show. I’ll believe it when I see them lined up in dealer’s lots.

  15. Marty says:

    The U.S. car companies are so dumb it’s not funny. But many of the people buying cars in the U.S. are dumb also. It’s like the U.S. car companies can’t take a hint that we don’t want to spend money on gas. The Japanese and other foreign cars have had fuel economy in mind for decades. VW is coming out with the Jetta diesel this Fall and it’s supposed to get over 50 mpg. Even the “old” VW diesels sold in the USA a couple years ago still average 40+ mpg. And you see how every quarter the American car sales keep dropping and everybody in the industry is complaining but they don’t think about the fact that the American cars get crappy gas mileage. I work for a union in Illinois and pretty much we have to buy an American car because you’ll be frowned upon by the other members for not having something American made. Now I’m looking for a new car and there is not much to chose from in American cars that gets good mileage and is under $25k. While the foreign cars have plenty of models.

  16. jlm says:

    “Now I’m looking for a new car and there is not much to chose from in American cars that gets good mileage and is under $25k”

    I was in the same predicament a few months ago when I was car shopping. I even have access to GM employee discount and I still didnt buy an american made car. Unpatriotic? nope, just tired of their crap.
    Everyone else can enjoy driving their average looking American made car that gets worse gas mileage than its previous year model.

  17. JimR says:

    Gas in the USA is still cheap. We’ve been paying $4.15+/gal just across the border from you in Canada and we have a shit load of our own oil. Buffalo’s gas is .89/litre or 3.35/ gal.

    In fact almost everything in the GOUSA is about 30-50% cheaper than in Canada.

    I’ve cut my driving down to 6000 km/yr for a family of 5…. 1 car 5 bikes. SM, I’m with you on this one.

  18. JimR says:

    Correction, make that $4.24/ gal in Ontario, Canada. Gas just went up again.

  19. PGM-FI says:

    #2
    Your half right.

    Aluminum is lighter, and used more often in cars now more than ever, BUT, Safety regs mandate safer cars which means designers have to use more and more heavy high-strength steel.

    Overall I do agree about the weight issue though. Every time i read a car mag i hear about how the new model is “bigger! More powerful!… and heavier”. Case in point, the new Accord.

    Point #3 i have to disagree with though. Even American cars nowadays can get hit 200K if you take care of them.

  20. bill says:

    Drive one… THEY ARE CRAP!

  21. Brian says:

    20-they aren’t crap, but then, I’m going to assume the only ‘real’ car to you is a 300+hp gas guzzling monster from Detroit? Am I right?

    As far as the original post goes, no, Tom, the Prius isn’t ‘cool’, no matter how many times you tell yourself that. Keep dreaming though. You might believe it someday.

  22. Ron Larson says:

    A couple of points.
    (1) The Prius does its best magic with stop and go city driving. It will not beat the pants off other cars for long highway trips. So if your driving is mostly long road trips, it is not the car for you.

    (2) I strongly recommend that you all read the “Volt Birth Watch” series at The Truth About Cars (www.ttac.com). They do an excellent job of separating fact from fiction. As it stands today, the GM Volt, if it comes to be, will be closer to $50k. It will also be competing with a 2nd, or 3rd more likely, generation Prius.

    (3) GM is till designing the Volt. I heard a rumor that they found it drives better backwards than forwards. So they are back to the drawing board. Plus they haven’t even settled on a battery system yet.

  23. MikeN says:

    Environmentalism is a religion, and like any religion there are true believers and others who enjoy wearing their faith on their sleeve. The latter are the Prius drivers.

  24. Re: The Chevy Volt:

    I think GM should be ashamed of themseleves. It’ll take them ten years to go from a car that goes 200 miles on a charge (EV-1) to a car that goes 40 miles on a charge (Volt). What a piece of shit!!

    And they wonder why no one buys their cars. They had demand and increasing market for the EV-1 when they killed it, literally pulling working cars that people wanted off the road and into their crushers.

    They complain that U.S. manufacturers can’t compete with Japan as Toyota builds new plants in the U.S. and GM closes theirs. Then they whine to the government about CAFE standards while they continue to build enormous gas-guzzling heaps of shit that fall apart in a third of the time of a Japanese car and are surprised that business is bad.

    Business is bad because they build shit that no one wants.

    By the time the volt hits the road, there will be so many better options out there that few will even consider it.

  25. Mark Derail says:

    I traded my Toyota Sienna for a Prius.
    – Nearly the same capacity for storage (hatchback)
    – Minus two occupants

    I’ve had the Prius two years now, comparing the last four years of identical driving in Quebec :
    – Sienna payment of 400$ + 600$ of gas
    – Prius payment of 700$ + 100$ of gas

    The 700$ payment is because I added 4k$ of add’l options, as I plan to keep it 10+ years, and adding OEM later is costly.

    Also it’s four years instead of five years. The Sienna was five years.

    Gas in Quebec is always more expensive than Ontario, I’m paying around 4.50$/Gal right now.

    Also I bought the Prius one year before two great things :
    – Dollar Parity with US has reduced new car price 20% or more
    – Federal Gov’t gives 2k$ cashback on Prius
    – Quebec Gov’t gives 2k$ provincial tax credit

    So if I bought the Prius today my monthly payment would drop to 500$ per month, factoring 4k$ in Gov’t cashback.

    A Honday Civic Hybrid doesn’t have folding seats, it’s awful for storage other than humans. That’s why I love minivans, and the Prius is a nice compromise.

    The Ford Escape Hybrid is also decent since it uses Toyota technology if you need power, however it’s green rating is low.

    GM VOLT
    – 2010 for testing
    – 2011 perhaps 10,000 units to “select” people
    – 2012 limited release
    – 2013 perhaps production in Prius numbers

    So in five years when you can buy a Volt, Toyota will be way ahead.

    Also, the VW Diesel Hybrid is a 3-Cylinder w/small electric motor. Puny.

    Toyota will have the IQ out soon to compete in the puny car high-mpg market next year also.

  26. Ivan A says:

    Never could understand yuppie obsession with the prius, i mean how can a car with two drivetrains(gas and electric)be considered eco-friendly. Can’t any company just build a small gas or diesel car that last forever like in the 90’s (Use to drive a ’95 civic 4-door, had over a million miles by the time i gave it away)

  27. Mark Derail says:

    #26 – in Vancouver, the first taxi to hit 500,000 KM got a free Prius. Toyota took it apart to examine wear & tear.

    Other than shocks and brake pads – nothing else was worn.

    So two drivetrains removes strain from the gas motor, the electric always providing the low torque. Also two drivetrains = pure electric mode is possible. Perfect for commuter cars.

    The Prius is paving the way for other hybrids – by either upsizing, or downsizing, the powertrain, to match the vehicle weight.

    Add LiON batteries, plug-in, and you have the best of both worlds.

    We just need to cut consumption of oil/gas to not surpass domestic production.

    Then you have SULEV, AT-PZEV, T2Bin5 technologies to make the gas / diesel motors cleaner, 90% less polluting.

    The all-electric Prius with a 200 mile range with LiON’s would cost 3x more money than the current Prius.

    Hybrids do make sense in today’s world for the next 10+ years, when done right.

    I saw a TLC show comparing a Dodge RAM V8 with a similar hybrid V8 pickup but smaller gas engine. Both pickups as similar as possible.
    A single drive-train.

    Then they did on-road, off-road, different tow scenarios. Hybrid won some tests, like tow, and was on par with other tests.

    IOW, for most large vehicles, the offset of hybrid & small battery pack, versus a larger capacity V8, will be roughly the same $$$ in TCO over 5 years. Perhaps even cheaper w/hybrid trucks.

    Take a school bus, or commuter bus. If you shave off 20% of fuel costs, typically buses “live” beyond 10 years and do over a million miles. Diesel-hybrids with T2Bin5 pay for themselves. Pollute less, and because “available” for bio-diesel – a better choice than ethanol.

  28. Mark Derail,

    FYI, NYC has a whole bunch of compressed natural gas hybrid buses. Even better than diesel, I’d think. I wonder if we can run them on the methane from the Staten Island landfill, the largest in the world.

  29. Mark Derail says:

    #28 Actually a better use for that methane coming off Staten Island is micro-turbines.

    The NG is already air-mixed, funneled, and powers the micro-turbines much like a jet motor, on a very small scale.

    Connected with gear ratios to a flywheel, then from that flywheel to a generator, can produce electricity. Probably enough to allow the entire facility to be off-grid for electricity, and create surplus.

    This article from the Canadian Gov’t :
    http://www.ec.gc.ca/wmd-dgd/default.asp?lang=En&n=BD0D9928-1

    Pilot project proved it works. City of Nepean is on the western outskirts of Ottawa.

    IOW, it works.

    Also, check out this Vermont couple.
    http://blog.tomevslin.com/2008/04/the-electric-bi.html

    Solar panels, in Vermont. A whole month of zero grid usage. Wow.

    Canada/US has enough domestic resources for energy, just stop wasting it so much.

    There are now hybrids in every vehicle class. Buy them.

  30. Smartalix says:

    Frankly, I’d rather give my money to a group of geeks with pocket protectors than a group of sheiks that support terrorism. Every penhy we don’t give the oil producers is a win.

    Besides, current models breed future models. We have to have the first-generation stuff or there is no development.


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