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Climate Scientist Chooses the Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

A climate scientist and global warming activist explains why he opted for a Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

Prius Prime PHEV MPGe image 140Is there still a debate that the globe is warming? If so, the "no-warming" convention should be held next year in Beringia. Of course the globe is warming. Of course, man-made heat is contributing. Anyone with any science background or any common sense knows that if you light a candle and put it in a box the air in the box gets warmer.

Related Story: Toyota Prius Prime Plug-In Tops Sierra Club List of Best EVs

My explanation is based on just five years of post-high school science study. That's a lot less than Dr. Alan Betts has. Dr. Betts is a climate scientist based in Vermont. Good like trying to find a climate change denier in that vacation state that depends on tourism and skiing revenue to survive. If you've been to Vermont, there are basically three types of vehicles other than pickups in the parking lot of any given diner. Subarus are pretty popular. The older and cheaper the better. Next up, Toyota Prius cars of all generations and types. And finally, vehicles like the massive Cadillac Escalade with New York and Massachusetts plates and snowboards or mountain bikes on the roof headed to Killington. Dr. Betts' vehicle falls into the second category. He owns a Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

The Toyota Prius Prime is the top-selling electric vehicle in America costing buyers under $30K. It is easy to argue it is the top-selling "affordable" EV in American history, except the Chevy Volt holds that title. It was an extended-range electric vehicle (EREV). Both use a gasoline motor to help extend the EV range of the vehicle.

Now, we could re-write for you everything that Dr. Betts says in his video posted above. But you're a busy person. Let's just hit the highlights. Here are the reasons a climate scientist bought the Prius Prime PHEV:
- The Prius Prime is one of the most energy-efficient cars ever produced and has an MPGe rating higher than some battery-only cars.
- The Prius has a range longer than any battery-only car. Dr. Betts points out that he sometimes drives "over the Green Mountains." He likes to be able to do that and not worry about limited winter range in a a car with just a battery. Yes, Dr. Betts knows that EVs have a much shorter range in winter. Winters are tough in VT, and Dr. Betts is a smart guy.
- Dr. Betts has put 37,000 miles on his Prius Prime. His MPGe is a whopping 140.
- Dr. Betts puts about 100 gallons of fuel into his Prius Prime each year and travells between 10,000 and 12,000 miles.
- Dr. Betts says that when he is Hybrid mode (using gasoline) he gets 65 to 75 MPG.
- When Dr. Betts starts with a full battery and then drives over 300 miles he sees 85 MPGe.
- Dr. Betts notes than in his mountainous area, the regenerative braking is key to the car's efficiency.

Dr. Betts concludes, "From a climate perspective and from our childrens' perspective, this is a fantastic car." This is the third in a series of stories Torque News has produced highlighting the benefits of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Each story provides an example of an environmental activist and EV owner who sees value in PHEVs. You can read the other two at the links below.
Part 1 - Inside EVs Article Illustrates Why Affordable Plug-in Hybrids Make More Sense Than BEVs
Part 2 - Plug-In Hybrid EV Benefits Touted In 2nd Popular EV Publication - By Nissan Leaf Owner
Related Story: 3 Reasons Toyota Should Make A Pickup Prius

John Goreham is a life-long car nut and recovering engineer. John's focus areas are technology, safety, and green vehicles. In the 1990s, he was part of a team that built a solar-electric vehicle from scratch. His was the role of battery thermal control designer. For two decades he applied his engineering and sales talents in the high tech world and published numerous articles in technical journals such as Chemical Processing Magazine. John's work has appeared in print in dozens of American newspapers and he provides reviews to many vehicle shopping sites. You can follow John on Twitter, and view his profile at Linkedin.


Timothy Parker (not verified)    February 7, 2020 - 1:34PM

I like PHEVs, but the Prius Prime's EV range is just too short. If the EV range was 40 or 50 miles, I might have bought one. But, I think Toyota is wising up, given that the upcoming Rav4 Prime will have an EV range of about 39 miles. Now Toyota needs to update the Prius.

Al D (not verified)    February 7, 2020 - 2:55PM

In reply to by Timothy Parker (not verified)

I expect the Prius to be eliminated and the next generation Prius Prime to have at least 50 miles of electric-only range. Toyota should place a bigger battery under the floor and beef up the electric motors to make it faster and handle better. Toyota should do what they did to the RAV4 Prime to all future PHEV's and eliminate hybrids that don't plug in. That plug makes a big difference.

John Goreham    February 7, 2020 - 4:07PM

In reply to by Al D (not verified)

You beat me to this sentiment! I think Toyota will make the next Prius an all-PHEV or PHEV/BEV line in its next full redesign. And leave the Corolla as a hybrid perhaps. I'm sure the EV range will only grow. The first one was 11 miles (going by memory). 50 is a nice round number, but I suspect it will be whatever tips the trigger on the tax credit. Toyota has been pretty open in saying the problem is batteries. As that becomes more manageable, the PHEVs will eventually have all the range any typical commute might need. Seems pretty likely Toyota will make profitable PHEVs too. No automaker hes ever demonstrated a profitable BEV priced for the mainstream market.

Al D (not verified)    February 7, 2020 - 2:46PM

I'm buying a RAV4 Prime and grabbing that $7500 federal tax credit while it lasts. It's a breakthrough PHEV that should be the template for all upcoming Toyota PHEV's. Regardless, we'll soon have a PHEV revolution on our hands. Honda and the rest of the PHEV makers aren't going to let Toyota leave them in the dust.

Fred (not verified)    February 10, 2020 - 5:50PM

In reply to by Geno (not verified)

It was very easy. My Toyota dealer took a $500 deposit as a "hold" and be one of the first to purchase one when they are available. The particular dealer said they will likely be allocated 5 of these vehicles and by putting down a deposit I am now one of the 5 that can order one as soon as pricing is announced.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    February 7, 2020 - 6:59PM

Yeah, his reasons for choosing the Prius Prime were similar to mine for Choosing the Volt, and now ELR. They drive most all of the time as a pure electric car, and essentially the gas generator acts as a big battery backup with unlimited storage for unlimited range. I have also heard that the next generation of Prius will be just BEV models, and that the rest of Toyota's model line up will add more hybrids and PHEV models like the Prius Prime. I'd like to see the next generation of PHEVs have a 100 mile battery with DC fast charging.

Al D (not verified)    February 10, 2020 - 6:23PM

In reply to by Lee Erickson (not verified)

The Clarity is 1.9 seconds slower to 60 mph than the RAV4 Prime, which has on-demand AWD. The RAV4 Prime will also go 200 miles more than the Clarity fully charged and gassed up. It will have a fairly low center of gravity and better weight distribution because the battery will be placed under the floor. We'll have to see how it handles. Although I would have preferred a PHEV Camry with the same specs, the SUV does have some advantages over the sedan. I'll be able to throw my bike in the back and I'll like sitting up higher.

Lee Erickson (not verified)    February 10, 2020 - 7:13PM

In reply to by Al D (not verified)

I appreciate that the new RAV may have engineering improvements. I don’t really know as I haven’t researched it. My point was that in terms of electric range the Clarity shines over the Prius Prime. That’s my only contention.

Al D (not verified)    February 11, 2020 - 8:04AM

In reply to by Lee Erickson (not verified)

Despite having only 25 miles of electric range, the Prius Prime crushed the Clarity PHEV in sales last year. The next Prius Prime may be the only Prius left and it could have over 40 miles of electric range, better handling, and a bit more zip. That's the course I would take from now on if I were in charge. I'd discontinue hybrids that don't plug in.

Lee Erickson (not verified)    February 8, 2020 - 2:43PM

Honda Clarity is a better car. Too bad Honda has undercut its support for this great machine. I love mine and get near the top of the range estimates consistently--accounting for weather decreases in the cold. I drove and rejected both the Ioniq and the Prius Prime for reasons of range. My Clarity gets me through my daily commute and errands without worry and without gas.

DeanMcManis (not verified)    February 10, 2020 - 1:49PM

In reply to by John Goreham

I also like the Clarity, but Honda is still behind many competitors in barely supporting EVs. My understanding was that the Clarity PHEV is still available to be ordered from any dealer in the U.S. But only California will have them in stock at dealerships for people to buy.