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Prius fever


Everywhere I go these days, there are Priuses.

At work, I occasionally amuse myself by counting the number of Priuses I pass in the parking lot on the way to my bike. (My shiny new Prius spends most of its time sitting in my parking lot at home, unused; I bike to work, and don't tend go anywhere else more than once every few days.) The number kept going up for a while, but it seems to have more or less levelled off recently. (Okay, so I don't actually count per se, just get a general sense of how many there are.) I still have the probably-annoying habit of saying, "Look, a Prius!" every time I see one while I'm out driving with someone. At some point, presumably the novelty will wear off, probably shortly before everyone in Silicon Valley owns one.

I think what's going on is that the only other car I've ever owned was not a common or popular one. There are two or three other Geo Metros in my neighborhood, but I only ever saw one maybe once every couple of weeks; it made me feel like I was part of a secret club of Metro owners or something, especially when I saw one the same color as mine. So that "Hey, cool, they have the same car as me!" reaction hasn't yet adjusted to the fact that the Prius is a far more popular car, at least in this area.

I now know six people/families (in various places, not just here) who have Priuses (though a couple of those are the older model): Jeremy & Amy, Jessica & Stewart, Jeff H, Lola, Vardibidian & co, Jay & Holly. I imagine that number will go up over time.

Especially since the tax incentives for hybrids are improving in 2006. Until the end of 2005, the incentive is a $2000 deduction (that is, you get to reduce your taxable income by $2000); starting in 2006, you get a tax credit instead, which is to say you get to reduce your taxes paid by an amount ranging from $400 to $3400 (depending on the car model). For some income levels and some car models, that won't be as good as the $2000 deduction, but for most people it'll be better. Looks like the Prius credit will be somewhere in the $2700-$3200 range. Note, however, that the credit will go away over time, depending on the number of cars sold by a given manufacturer; the credit may be cut by half for Toyota cars as soon as September of 2006.

What else? Vardibidian has some comments about the Prius; note that a couple of the pluses listed are also available in other cars. I suppose I could take this opportunity to give an abbreviated version of my own such list, but it's still pretty much the same as it was from the start:

Pros: Gas mileage; high-tech look; fairly roomy interior.

Cons: Bad UI design in most aspects of the dashboard (they really ought to hire a usability expert); very poor visibility (even compared to other 2005 cars) from the driver's seat to certain outside areas.

Also, the mileage still isn't where I would like it to be; I'm usually getting low- to mid-40s. Which is great compared to most cars, but not as high as I was hoping, and no better than my old Metro. I can probably continue to improve it slightly as I learn how to better coax MPG out of the car, but I'm already doing a lot of the things you're supposed to do. Actually, possibly my car's most salutary effect on the environment has been the fact that the mileage isn't as good on very short trips as on longer ones, so my desire to keep the MPG up has helped push me toward biking to work regularly. (As has the parking-space shortage at work.)

I did get my carpool lane stickers, and applied them to the car; they're not as intrusive as they initially looked like they'd be. So far, I haven't actually driven solo in the carpool lane during rush hour in my car, and the carpool lanes are getting crowded again (I think the Valley's economy is recovering, if increasing traffic levels are any indication) so I don't know if it'll actually provide any benefit for me personally. But a potentially useful option to have, and although I'm a little dubious about the idea of letting hybrids into the carpool lanes, I'm not so dubious that I won't take advantage of it should the occasion arise.

One more thing: I still haven't named the car. I enjoyed various people's suggestions for names, but none of them seemed quite right for this car. So if you have other suggestions, send 'em along. The license plate starts with NWD, which could be pronounced like "nude," but I don't think I want to use "nude" in the car's name.



Besides, they're cool, and surely one variety of another would be black and sleek. (Start here with a few images, but the info page amused me, too.)

Hee! Thanks for the link, Marsha; cool photos. And yeah, the info page is fun, especially the final paragraph. Excerpt from that last paragraph: "Nudibranchs are kinky little creatures and are both male and female, true hermaphrodites. They carry both eggs and sperm and cross fertilize each other. The mating process is very much like that in certain drinking establishments in South Florida."

I probably ought to have mentioned that I was talking about our Prius, and how it differed from other cars I've been driving. I mean, since I'm not usually the one paying for gas (or working for the household revenue), the coolest thing for me about the Prius is the transponder thingy that means the key-like-object can stay in my pocket. That has nothing to do with the Prius as such, and is presumably available on other cars, but it's new to me and v. cool, to the point where when I get behind the wheel of our other car, I grouse about having to take out the stupid key and put it in the stupid slot.

And I have the sense that for the dashboard/wheel controls, they did hire a usability expert, but that expert was Japanese, and working from some very different sets of expectations and habits. Or that's my guess. Otherwise, they're just crazy.


I, too, notice other cars like mine (to the point of noticing cars like the one I had three cars ago--but that was my favorite). Maybe it has something to do with training my eye to notice the car in the parking lot? I will note that I rarely notice other Toyota Corollas unless they're a similar color to ours, possibly because there are just. So. Many. of them around here.

For some reason, counting Priuses reminds me of a childhood occupation of mine. My school bus stop was near the end of a very long bus route that meandered through the Indiana University campus in the 1970's, and so I would count instances of VW Beetles each day and compare them with the previous day's number. No, we didn't have a Bug; I was also unfamiliar with the slug-bug game that some kids play; this was all my own invention. I have a recollection that my record was in the vicinity of 110-120. (As Stephen pointed out when I told him the story, it's certain that some of those sightings were repeats.) For some reason--nostalgia?--this memory still amuses me.

I occasionally notice other cars that match mine, but mostly ignore them. On the other hand, Lisa and I rented a vanilla-colored PT Cruiser for a weekend, and I spent weeks afterwards noticing all the PT Cruisers, especially the vanilla ones. It wasn't the best car to drive, it didn't have great knee room, and it felt pretty bland on the inside, but God it was beautiful to walk up to in parking lots and get into. I've always liked the design, but I'd never noticed them on the road that much until after that weekend of one being ours.

But cars are nude! Except those wearing auto-bras, I guess. And hovercraft have skirts.

What happened to the auto-bra, anyway? I don't recall seeing one in a while. Did they go the way of leg warmers, and other weird 80's accessorizing?

Nao: In the summer between 7th and 8th grades, I had a long bus ride across town every day to summer school band. Somewhere in my boxes of childhood detritus there is a little wire-bound memo pad with daily pages of tally marks for unmodified, convertible, and souped-up. Never hit 120, though -- I'm impressed!

Dan: Bloomington is a rather hippyish town, and even moreso in my childhood. I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. It's kind of reassuring to discover that someone else had this habit, though. (Even if I am in awe at your categorizations!)

Yes, Holly and I just bought one, and we are raving fans. I think Santa Monica must be the Prius capital of the world, although I admit that I haven't been in Bay Area for a few months. Here's a bit of trivia for you: the Prius 0-30 mph time (3.1 seconds) is the exact same as a Cadillac Escalade.

Also, has anyone noticed how popular the Prius is among rich folks? I'm talking people who could easily own any car they want. Of course all sorts of Hollywood folks have the Prius, but lots of non-movie star rich folks are driving them too.. That may start to fade a bit with the recently increased availability of the Lexus Hybrid, but here is a sampling:

1. A year or so ago, Holly and I had lunch with an old friend who is dating one of the young co-founders of a very known tech firm in the Bay Area. We walked our friend to her car afterwards, and she said it was (her boyfriend's) car...and of course it was a Prius;

2. A friend of mine does some work for David Gold, the founder of 99 cents only stores. Mr. Gold is roughly a billionaire or so, and he was so enthused about his Prius that he offered 99 people each a $10K rebate for buying their own Prius.

3. Another friend of mine became the sixth highest paid employee at JP Morgan during the dotcom boom; he had a guaranteed contract for $10 million per year for two years. (He was 29 at the time). He just got rid of his trucks and other cars...one Prius wasn't enough, so he bought two.

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