Saturday, September 24, 2011

Prius Goes Plural

I have no clue how to write and spell the plural of Prius but Toyota has announced that the Prius line will now include four different models. The standard size model we have all seen, a new smaller model, a new larger model, and a plug in version of the standard size model. As you all know I think the Prius is a great car and Toyota has optimized the engine and battery in the standard model to attain 50 miles per gallon using a pretty small nickel metal hydride battery pack to augment the gasoline engine. Toyota sees competition coming from the Volt and the Leaf hence their desire to provide the option of a plug in version of the Prius. Toyota realized just how expensive the conversion to the larger battery packs as well as the conversion from nickel metal hydride to lithium ion chemistry will be. Therefore they limited the range on electric power to only 15 miles in their plug in hybrid. They also limited the speed on electric power to 62 MPH. The plug in model will cost $8,000 more than the base model and will rob the car of some of the MPG as the car is now heavier due to the larger battery pack. The plug in will only get about 42 mpg combined city and highway driving.

Let’s take the average motorist who drives 15,000 miles per year or about 40 miles per day. With the standard Prius they will buy 300 gallons of gasoline per year for about $1,200 of cost per year. With the plug in they will buy approximately 250 gallons per year of gasoline for about $1,000 of cost per year. They will need to buy approximately 1,500 kilowatt hours of electricity for a cost of $150 per year. After all is said and done they will save a paltry $50 per year on fuel and have spent $8,000 in initial investment to do this. I doubt the car will last 160 years to get the payback on the added investment in the car. No doubt some folks will buy the plug in version of the Prius but I doubt that this will become the most popular Prius.

The larger Prius called the V will cost approximately $3,000 more than the base model but will have 58% more cargo room than the standard model. There certainly are people who need added cargo space and will pay the extra $3,000 for this option. The Prius V gets reduced MPG due to its added mass and size and it is expected to attain 42 MPG in combined city and highway driving. The added gasoline usage per year compared with the standard model is approximately 75 gallons extra per year or an added cost of $300 per year. The smaller Prius is yet to be launched and I do not have the cost and the fuel economy but I will guess it will be $2,000 less expensive to buy and will get 55 MPG. This is a small savings and kind of shows that the standard Prius is pretty much the optimum vehicle to buy. My forecast is that the standard Prius will outsell the combined sales of the three new models. I also forecast that the plug in will sell the least amount of all the models offered. In the case of Prius the singular may exceed the plural.

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