The traditional Prius liftback is being joined by three specialized models, presented at the May meeting of Drive $mart Wisconsin (formerly Milwaukee Hyrid Group) by Chicago Prius Group founder Wayne Mitchell. The Prius V is competing for the mini-van market, the Prius C for the economy car market, and the Prius plug-in is a step toward the demand for electric vehicles, currently offering 15 miles on pure electric drive at 65 miles per hour.
Fons averaged 82 mpg driving a Prius C from Pewaukee to the group's meeting at Oak Creek Public Library. At least two members of the group are devoted to their Ford Escape Hybrids, although the company plans to wind down production of the most fuel-efficient large truck model in America. It was raining when the meet began, but that didn't stop everyone gathering in the parking lot to admire each other's cars.
The Prius V - for Versatile - costs up to $36,000 with all available features, Mitchell told a packed gathering of 45 hybrid owners. That pays for 34 cubic feet of rear storage, 50 percent more than the standard Prius, and larger than 80 percent of SUV's provide. The space is created by the high roofline replacing a sloping rear hatch. With the front seat folded down it can carry objects up to eleven feet long.
The result is 200 pounds of increased weight, with a reduction in fuel mileage, but Mitchell rated it as delivering a fuel-efficient ride for a minivan. He added that many people buying this car are not attuned to methods for maximum mileage - which are exactly what Drive $mart has been teaching for several years.
Mitchell described the Prius C as quite the opposite of the V: a small, fuel efficient car, selling for somewhat less than the current liftback model, based on the Yaris. It has an EPA rating of 50 mpg (compared to 30 for a Yaris), and has 6 percent better fuel efficiency than previous Prius models. There are four variations, ranging in price from $19,000 at the most basic to $26,000 with all the luxuries.
The C is fifteen inches shorter than the liftback, weighs 500 pounds less, and with the battery below the rear seat, there is more hatch space and a lower center of gravity, making the car easier to handle while conserving momentum.
The plug-in model, Mitchell said, is great for short commutes, and averages 75 miles per gallon with use of the all-electric mode. The lithium ion battery pack can be charged in 3 1/2 hours. By the end of the meeting, the rain had moved on and the sun came out, allowing for a more thorough inspection of the models parked outside.
Milwaukee Hybrid Group was already the largest hybrid group in North America, with 1400 members, according to Fons, when it changed its name to Drive $mart Wisconsin to reflect the variety of care members drive, and the application of improved driving techniques to any model. By the next meeting, group member Randy Mays will be driving a Nissan Leaf. After twenty months on a waiting list, he expects delivery in seven days.