Fortune magazine's written an interesting article on the birth
of the Prius.
There were some interesting quotes in the article, like this one from Carlos
Ghosn, CEO of Nissan:
"Some of our competitors say they are doing things for the benefit of
humanity," he says. "Well, we are in business, and we have a mission of
That just smacks of capitalist greed if ever I heard it. I mean, what
this guy's effectively saying is "Fuck the planet at all costs, shareholder
value reigns supreme". I wonder how the shareholders might feel about that
when the next hurricane Katrina wipes them off the map?
Anyway, why did we by a Prius?
Well, originally, a Prius in the US looked cheaper than one in Australia,
however after we were forced to buy one with the more higher-priced options
(with a lot of options we didn't particularly want) just to get the options
we wanted, and on-road costs, I think it works out much of a muchness,
price-wise, when you take into account the exchange rate.
So cost (compared to Australia) wasn't a big part of the decision in the
end. The main reasons (for me) were:
- an environmentally conscious purchase in a country that likes to guzzle
gas like it's going out of fashion
- a US Federal Government tax credit
- the ability to drive in commuter lanes with only the driver in the car
(normally you're required to have 2 or more in the car)
- a bonus from Google (to help defray the premium of buying a hybrid over
a conventional gas guzzler)
In California at least, these things are selling like hotcakes for the above
reasons. The Prius is the iPod of cars at the moment.
The fact that we get reduced fuel consumption/better fuel efficiency is a
really just a bonus. Petrol prices in the US are already a lot cheaper than
in Australia. We filled up the (11 gallon/41 litre) tank today at
$2.439/gallon (or about AUD $0.85/litre), and we're getting around 45 miles
per gallon at the moment. Petrol in Australia is up around the AUD
$1.20/litre at the moment, I'm told.
The other thing that makes the Prius cool is that it really is a geek's car.
It has an engine management system that doesn't try to hide itself. It's got
a very obvious computer in the middle of the dash with a touch screen. It
screams hack me!. Third-party mods already exist (if only I could
get the temperature to display in Celsius).
Sarah was initially fairly apprehensive about getting the car because of the
initial cost, given the timing of it with all the other expenses of moving.
It was pretty tight, but she really loves the car too, and we managed to
scrape by. She was concerned about its fuel efficiency for highway driving,
because reports had said that it was more efficient in start/stop city
driving than on the highway, but as we discovered from our trip
to Phoenix, the car did really well. I think we spent about $60 in fuel
for the entire trip.
The fact that the cost saving in fuel doesn't necessarily recoup the extra
premium paid for getting a hybrid is a total non-issue (to me). The fact
that a hybrid isn't insanely more expensive than a conventional car
makes it a justifiable expense on the grounds of environmental sensitivity.
These cars are only going to get more affordable and more mainstream if
people buy them.