Retro Future Electrics

A page about retro electronics, from the introduction of electricity until 1970-something. We refit old gadgets with new tech, and wonder at the makers who came before us.

A Not So Retro Electric Vehicle

We recently moved to Hawaii from Okinawa, in an pandemic, with a dog. That’s crazy you may say, and you’d be right! Our work was having none of it and we had to move. I drove a regular Prius before we went to Okinawa, and I was looking at a plug in hybrid on return. The two major contenders were the Prius Prime and the Honda Clarity. These are both pretty nice cars, and in 2020 they both are eligible for American federal tax credits, the Prius around $4,000 and the Clarity around $7,000 (the credit is more because of the larger battery). Both of the credits only cancel out tax liability, so if your taxes are less than $4,000 or $7,000, your rebate will be capped at your tax liability. So check with your tax advisor before you count on your rebate dollars.

2020 Toyota Prius Prime vs 2020 Honda Clarity

The pros and cons of these vehicles to me make an interesting chart. Some, like my strong desire for cloth seats over leather/pleather, will be completely dependent on how your likes, this was the chart for me:

ItemToyota Prius PrimeHonda Clarity
Electric only range28 miles48 miles
Gas efficiency54 mpg42 mpg
SeatsEco Leather (aka fancy vinyl)Cloth (leather on touring trim package )
Cost for model with safety features.~$35k on the road (Hawaii)~37k on the road (Hawaii)
Federal tax credit (Tax year 2020)$4,000$7,000
Quality of safety featuresBlind Spot Monitor (BSM), full suite of collision detection and avoidanceNo BSM, full suite of collision detection and avoidance, but less advanced
Estimated 10 years Maintenance cost (from Consumer reports)about $5k about $7k
Good LooksLooks good Looks a bit boring
History of Hybrid 20 years, essentially invented the modern commercial hybrid10 years, Clarity seems extremely poor selling and the potential to be an orphaned car
TiresCheap and nerdy 15” wheels18” gangster tires.

Both cars shared a lot of features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, Cup holders, Power windows, 4 wheels (neither has a spare), and the like. The Prius is a true hatch back and has a lot of cargo space with the seats folded down (significantly less than a non Plug-in Prius, as that’s where a lot of the batteries are). While the Honda tries to be a sedan, so it has a quite roomy trunk for a sedan, but the seats fold down only to a small pass through. So you could haul some 8 ft lumber, or skis, or other long items, but not nearly the size or quantity of the Prius Prime.

Hawaii is a bit interesting with the power situation, it’s quite expensive. On the most populated island of Oahu power is about 24 cents a kiloWatthour (kWh, which is one thousand watts for one hour, so to run 10 old school incandescent 100 Watt bulbs for one hour would cost you 24 cents). Due to the pandemic gas is cheap at just over $3.00 a gallon. The electric efficiency therefore is also important, the Prius Prime get 25.9 kWh/100 miles… this is the EPA’s strange way of calculating things. So one mile will cost you .259 kWh, which in Hawaii would be 6.2 cents a mile on electric, vs the current cost of gas @ $3.15 a gallon/ 54 mpg = 5.8 cents a mile! Now if you have solar panels or time of use metering that works for you, you can make the electric considerably cheaper.

The Honda Clarity had worse gas MPG and worse electric miles/kWh. So it’s per mile fuel costs at the same rates are: gas: $3.15 a gallon/42 = 7.5 cents a mile gas and at 30kWh/100miles = .3kWh per mile x 24 cents = 7.2 cents a mile. So you can see that your fuel costs (whither fuel you use) with the Prius will be less by more than 10%. Of course if you are looking at a hybrid the money isn’t your only concern, the Prius is also consuming somewhat less of our planets resources. If your electricity is purely green (like you have your own solar panels), then the added range of the Clarity might make this a better option from an environmental standpoint, and end up saving you money.

Time of use power metering

Many areas, including Hawaii, offer time of use metering which can save you some dough, unlike many areas where overnight is the cheapest, Hawaii is cheapest during the day due to the large amount of solar installations. Given our 9-5 work schedule, we could only take advantage for vehicle charging on the weekends.

Oahu 2020 Time of use metering, ~25 cents for non TOU

Prius Prime 1-week impressions

So I’ve had the Prius Prime for about a week. My initial impressions are good. It’s a joy to drive, especially in all electric mode. In hybrid mode (selectable by a button, or when the battery is depleted to about 10%) the drive feel is very similar to my older 2007 prius, the gas engine turns off on braking and the start of acceleration. The extra large battery compared to a standard hybrid will help you out if you live on a hill. My regular hybrid prius would fully charge it’s battery on the way down my hill, and the last half of the way down all that potential energy would just be turned into heat by the friction brakes. The Prime captures all of it.

The climate control is a little annoying, as you have to hit a button, wait for the climate control screen to come up, then then select what you’d like. This is particularly annoying when you get in a hot car and want to get the A/C going. A similar story with the radio and getting Apple CarPlay on the screen. On the whole minor annoyances, but something that other cars have done better.

2020 Prius Prime with a happy wiener dog
Otto approves of the Prius Prime

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