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Grier Observes: First Prius

Grier Observes: First Prius

The dealer told me I had just bought the first Prius sold in Dallas. It was January, 2001, and the six-month wait after ordering a Prius online was over. Car salesmen flocked around the car, which was silent even when the motor was going and moved as quietly as a golf cart when I started off slowly in the dealer’s lot. The dealer told me that it had cost Toyota $75,000 to manufacture my Prius when all costs were factored in, three times as much as I was paying for it. Toyota’s idea was to develop a new energy-efficient technology and market it at an initial loss, betting on the future. The Japanese were right, and licensed their technology for real money to other car makers after early Priuses, such as my own, proved successful.

My Prius and I have now completed 11 years together, and it’s been a good relationship. The only breakdown was when the big battery which powers the electric motor failed after 5 1/2 years, still within Toyota’s six-year warranty, so we got a new battery for free. The high point of fuel economy was in Colorado. I set the mileage gauge at the top of Monarch Pass, and for the next 850 miles my mint-green beauty averaged 58 miles for each gallon of gasoline it burned. She took full advantage of downhills, where her electric motor turned into a generator and recharged the battery from our own kinetic energy, and of the thin, cool Colorado air which minimized air resistance and made air conditioning unnecessary.

She was rare when we got started, but now I notice Prius cars all over Dallas. She’s not an object of pity because of her small size – some of my neighbors have even volunteered apologies for their much-larger vehicles, explaining that they need to cart their son’s basketball team to practices or giving similar justifications. She’s not intimidated when we park, as we frequently do, next to a much taller, wider, and stronger Texas pickup or Suburban. She prides herself on quiet efficiency, on doing well her job of transporting one to four people safely for whatever distances are required. I do suspect that she’s a bit uncomfortable with the scattering of much smaller, very energy-efficient new European vehicles which are showing themselves in Dallas shopping centers. But she’s my baby, and I have no intention of ever trading her in for a new model, even one with fancier makeup and a new coat.


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