I happened to be visiting Los Angeles a week ago when I got the last rental Prius on the Hertz lot (Hertz is a sometime sponsor of ours). If you were to have overheard me tell this to fellow TreeHugger Summer Bowen with whom I was meeting for a quick coffee at LPQ, you might have thought me hysterical with joy for having purchased one of the first iPhones which had gone on sale that same day. Look, we New Yorkers don't drive often so this was a first for me and it was eco-geekily thrilling. Frankly, I can see one getting carried away. I must say, however, that I was as concerned as the next greenie when a few days later Al Gore III got pulled over by police for driving over 100 miles per hour just south of LA. They found drugs in the car. In his Prius. How would this poor PR reflect on our collective efforts to speedily put the world environment back on track? Was this a career-ender for the glamorous Prius? Wait, Gore's Prius was going over 100 mph? Our old friend Rush Limbaugh soon weighed in wondering "How in the world do you get a Toyota Prius to go 100 mph without a cliff to go over?" The LA Times explains the technical deets and reports that the folks at Priuschat.com actually found it to be a PR coup for the little Hybrid that could. It seems that sometimes you can get arrested in this town.Fittingly, Southern California, where Al the younger met with the law for a third time, is the birthplace of the hot rod. It turns out that the Prius is one too according to the LA Times:
A check of statistics compiled by Car and Driver magazine suggests that the slowest car on the road is not the Prius but the hairy-chested AM General Hummer H1, with a top speed of only 88 mph...The Prius is also one of the most aerodynamically optimized vehicles on the road, with a low 0.26 coefficient of drag. That means the car doesn't require a lot of horsepower to push through the air...The car also rides on tires with low "rolling resistance," which lessens friction between the rubber and the road. It's also a bantamweight at only 2,932 pounds, among the lightest cars on the market.
Officially the most fuel-efficient car on the road, it is capable of going even faster than 100 mph but the car, which uses an electric booster, is speed-limited to 103 mph to avoid depleting the battery. As automotive technology improved due to raised benchmarks for handling, safety and comfort, so have absolute performance levels. Another factor is the globalized car market since the Prius has to meet driver expectations in Europe, where the highways have higher speed limits and in some places, no limit at all.
That explains why it's so easy to get a little over-excited about Prius: