Well it feels like that nine weeks flew by. I had grand intentions of updating regularly about our test driving experiences with the plug-in Prius, but at the end of the day, I suppose blogging about cars (even free cars) is not exactly my cup of tea.
The coolest thing about our experience with this car is the fact that we were able to charge it via our solar panels, therefore, all of my errands were nearly 100% solar powered. How cool is that? Pretty cool, I'd say.
However, there's the ginormous pink elephant of a question of whether or not the environmental cost of manufacturing this vehicle is worth the perceived "green-ness" of driving it? I've been hearing for years that the Prius is not as "green" as people like to think it is. In fact, it's a lot easier to find negative commentary about the Prius than positive. Apparently research is showing that while the Prius uses less fuel than most vehicles (keeping the air you breathe cleaner), the manufacturing and disposal of the nickel-metal batteries that power the hybrids are detrimental to the environment (where the metal is mined, and where/how the batteries are manufactured and disposed of). It seems like a classic NIMBY (not in my back yard) problem. We can feel good about our surrounding environment driving a Prius, knowing that we're not spewing fumes - but across the way - there are environmental atrocities happening in order to mine and manufacture the batteries, and then years later, to dispose of them. It's like caring about this environment over here, but not that one, over there.
For example, this report suggests that a Hummer (cringe) is, in fact more environmentally sound than the Prius. Yikes! That's a scary thought. And this article concludes that, "If you want your commute to have as little impact on the environment as possible, the Prius is one of the worst (and most expensive) ways to do it." The author goes on to say that the best car for the environment is a diesel, like our Golf, especially if it's run on recycled bio-fuels. I do love our Golf, but it's a bit small now that our life includes a car seat... although they do make TDI wagons. Hmm. (Honey...? Maybe a TDI wagon is in our future?)
There's so much information on the web about the environmental impact of the Prius. As with anything on the internet, it's hard to decipher fact from fiction, but there are recurring themes across the board. I'm not sure that accurate comparisons are available for the plug-in model and if its energy usage varies much from a standard hybrid (again, we charged our batteries from our solar panels - which went carbon neutral last year - not a coal fired plant). But at the end of the day, those batteries were built somewhere, and they'll have to be disposed somewhere. I'm neither geeky enough nor motivated enough to figure all of this out on my own (that's what my man is for). Picking a vehicle that's best for hauling people, kids and stuff requires a lot of research if one is to approach the question considering the environmental impact of our decision, and honestly, we can't afford not to consider that, now can we? More and more it seems like a 10 year old diesel vehicle may be the way forward.
Having said all of that, I'm happy that we were given the opportunity to test-drive the plug-in Prius and I'm a little bummed to have to give it back today. The experience was like winning the lottery even though we had to give back all the prizes. The plug-in Prius is a good looking car with a cool user interface and it offers a comfortable ride. And, I have to say, just as many other Prius drivers report, I felt good about myself while driving it (now that's good marketing).
Time to move back into our little Golf.
(Oh, and here's the legal disclaimers I have to include per Toyota's request: (i) the Permitted User received complimentary use of the 2010 Plug In Prius; (ii) the statements made are those of the Permitted User and not of Toyota, and only reflect the Permitted User's experience, which may not be representative of all users' experiences and (iii) Toyota does not warrant the accuracy, completeness and /or applicability of the information to any particular circumstance.)