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Friday, June 23, 2006

Prius Update

So I finally found a couple of things that I don't like about the Prius, but now knowing about both of them they are easy to live with. The first is that the charger outlets don't stay active when the car's power is off, so you can't leave your cell phone trickle charging overnight. I'm going to chuck the spare wall charger in the trunk so that problem is solved.

Problem two comes with a much more entertaining story. The Prius comes with digital display of the fuel gage. It's divided into ten squares. So as I headed to Anaheim, I was keeping an eye on it, being amazed at my fantastic gas mileage, and thinking, "Well okay with 2 pips left, and well over four hundred miles on this tank so far, that gives me at least another hundred miles, so I'll be sure to get gas within fifty just to be safe. So I did the math and figured I'd be at Harris Ranch in about 35 miles. This would be perfect. Step one, get past Cowschwitz. Step two, get gas, food, and go pee. Right, got it.

But it turns out those pips aren't evenly divided exactly. After 20 miles, the second pip disappeared. After another 10 miles, the final pip started flashing and the car said "Add Fuel Now". This is the part where I recall my conversation with Kevin last week about running a Prius out of gas. He said it's no big deal, especially if you can coast into the station on battery. If not, it sucks, but it doesn't really hurt the car. A bunch of warning lights come on, but they all turn themselves off after 50 miles. Could I make it the last five miles? If not, could I do them on battery? How big is this battery anyway? And oh dear god, what will Cowschwitz smell like this time of year! So, visions of me stranded on the side of the road, waiting for Triple A while I remembered vividly why I don't eat beef.

At 2 miles to go, the engine cut out. I threw on the emergency flashers and pulled to the side, using the battery to keep going at about 55. The whole time I'm saying, "Come on Shadow! Give me two miles!" Shadow, being a very good car, did just as she was asked. We rolled off the freeway, around to the right, coasted down the hill into the gas station. I started filling the tank, went to the bathroom, and then immediately called Kevin. I left him a voicemail which he returned a few minutes later saying, "I think you get a prize for running your car out of gas faster than anyone I know after just purchasing it." Yeah, I earned that prize. So, after powering down the car and powering up again (Yes, I rebooted my car.), she started up and we were off and running. And sure enough, by fifty miles later, all the warning lights were off.

And just for the record, I went 530 miles on an 11 gallon tank of gas. Oh, and also, the first pip didn't disappear until after 150 miles, so it's definitely not evenly distributed between the pips. The Prius rocks, but I'll definitely be filling up at 2 pips from now on.


  • So, what's the buzz on used Prius at this point?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 9:39 AM  

  • We ran out of gas in our Prius on our way to Disneyland once. But that was way back in 2001, so we didn't have any sort of advice or warning about what would happen. We also were at 2 pips, when about ten miles later all the warning lights came on and the screened yelled at us in French. It scared the crap out of us and we pulled over immediately. I called AAA for a tow truck, because the manual said to take it to a dealership immediately. AAA came and said "You ran out of gas, I've seen this happen with these cars." He put in a couple of gallons of gas and followed us the 10 miles to Buttonwillow (just to be sure). We filled it all the way up, the warning lights went off, and it ran fine the rest of the time. When I got back I called the dealership and they told me the reason all the warning lights go off is because they don't want you running the car too long on electric motor alone as it is the gasoline engine that runs the cooling system for the electric motor (at least on my version) and you could therefore fry your electric motor. I was also told that the reason why the gas meter was inaccurate is that because on long distances the gas bladder gets hotter and creates some sort of pressure build up that make the meter read higher than it actually is and when you turn the car off that pressure is released. (I don't know how true that last part is...that was told to me by a another Prius owner, not the dealership). In any case, we also instituted the two bar rule thereafter, because we don't like it when it yells at us in French.

    By Blogger wendy, at 1:08 AM  

  • I just went through the experience of "running out" of gas. Scare quotes because it took only 10.8 gals in an 11.9 gal tank.
    Anyway, after the red triangle warning came on, the accelerator didn't have any effect--it would lock in the speed and you could only slow down. I stopped to drop someone off, and that was the end. There was plenty of battery left.
    Putting in one gallon didn't help at all. The dealer later told me you need at least 5 to get it going again.
    AND the computer goes into some kind of total shutdown mode. The dealer said he had to reset "all 15" internal computers, although I read elsewhere that after filling up and driving 50 miles they reset themselves.
    After he had reset everything it took only 9.8 gallons more and I really squeezed every drop in, so I don't think you can actually use the last gallon of gas.

    By Blogger hmar, at 11:49 PM  

  • This just happened to me. I was on my way to pick up dinner for the family. I had been on the blinking final bar of my gauge for about 20 miles. No big deal. I've had the car for 15,000 miles now. I should know how much time I have left, right? NOT. I was cruising down a country road and the gas engine started to flutter (like I was running out of gas). I thought, "no big deal, I'm less than a mile from a gas station." Boy was I wrong. I failed to account for the fact that I was traversing a hill. Within 1/4 mile the battery had been almost fully discharged and the car came to a stop. "Oh well," I thought, "I'll just drop in a gallon of gas and be on my way." Big mistake. I bought one of those 1 gallon gas cans from the mile-away gas station and dumped its contents into my thirsty Prius. No effect. I called a buddy and asked him to check the Web for any such problem. He found nothing (apparently this blog needs to advertise). He did find an anecdote about having to put in "more than just a small amount of gas." Having no other options at 9:00 PM on a Sunday night in Michigan, I walked to get another gallon. No effect. And another. No effect. One more should do it, right? No effect. Finally, I called in all the horses and got a lift home. On a whim I grabbed the five gallon container I use to fill my snow blower and hopped in my wife's Honda Odyssey. I stopped and topped it off, grabbed a half pint of rum and a coke, and worked my way back to the stranded Prius. This time after I dumped the 2 gallons in (for those of you keeping score, 6 gallons out of 11.8 capacity) the "Add Fuel" indicator did not come on, but the car did not go into "Ready" mode. Dumbfounded, I tried once more. It started and I came home with cold dinner and an angry wife.

    Moral: Toyata is negligent in not providing this information in the Prius owner's manual. Sure, it would have irritated me to know this issue was known and not resolved, but it irritates me MORE to learn that it was known and not made available ANYWHERE. Shame on you Toyota. I love my Prius and am willing to deal with idiosyncratic behavior. Just don't make me guess. I was moments away from disconnecting the 12V battery to force a reboot. I only hope my experience helps someone else.

    By Blogger Executive Slacker, at 6:59 PM  

  • I know I'm eons late, don't mind me suddenly catching up.....but I go by the info screen with the average mileage and total miles since fill up. I assume I can go 10 gallons worth of average mileage without any if I"m getting, say 42.7 average, I'll assume I can make it to 427 miles. And I OFTEN get to the add fuel bleep. Yet to run out of gas, or to put 11 gallons in.

    By Blogger BlackSheep, at 3:21 PM  

  • Out of gas... another one bites the dust. I saw the Add Fuel sign, actually my wife noticed it as I wasn't watching the screen, and I remembered a friend saying, oh that beep and the sign becomes more frequent as you get closer to empty. BS! It shows up just ONCE. Then its up to you to make your mind up when to get gas. I believed the friend and kept on driving.. the little square kept blinking when suddenly a big red flashy sign came on, followed by many other signs. And the screen said "Problem". I coasted out of the highway and tried to coast into a dirt lot. Just got the front of the car in with its behind still on the road. Desperate, I got out, put a shoulder to the car and pushed it as far as I could in the lot. I forgot to take it out of "Drive" position and pushed it anyway. Don't know if that hurt the car? Anyways, I tried to start the car couple times.. faint flicker and dead; I did get some power in one of those flickers to get the electric motor to move the car a few more inches so its behind was no longer on the road. Then I tried multiple times to put the car in neutral (oh that's a whole new story) and push it in a safe place in the lot. Didn't work at all. Actually it rolled back some when I put it in neutral. Long story short, AAA came with a gallon of milk, sorry, gas and poured it in the tank. The fuel indicator still showed no change. And the car wouldn't start!! I decided it was because the front of the car was higher. We pushed it back so that the back was higher and the fuel indicator showed life, the car started and the blinking lights disappeared. Wonder if I should take the car to the dealership to have it checked?

    By Blogger dsd1, at 3:56 PM  

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