October 1, 2007

Winsted chaplain's hybrid car environmentally friendly

The hybrid car’s gas pedal is connected to a computer which controls its two power sources – gas and electricity

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Fr. Eugene Brown, chaplain of St. Mary’s Care Center in Winsted, is definitely satisfied with his ecofriendly hybrid car.

It doesn’t matter that he was on a waiting list to purchase the car for more than a year, and he did not get any kind of dealer discount – he still thinks he got a good deal.

Two years ago in January, Brown bought a 2005 Toyota Prius. The Prius is a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle that can run on just the engine, just the batteries, or a combination of both.

It gets close to 50 miles per gallon and it fulfills the two things Brown looks for in a car.

“I have always been interested in purchasing a car that gets good gas mileage and I am concerned about the environment,” Brown said. “Just out of the showroom, it meets pollution standards in California, which is the strictest of all of the states,” Brown said.

“It is certainly the best car I have ever had,” he added.

According to Brown, the hybrid technology was out about four years when a priest friend of his gave him the opportunity to drive his hybrid car.

In addition, he had the chance to drive another hybrid car available at the time. His decision appeared to be easy. He was most impressed with the Prius because the car was bigger and gave a better ride, and the electric motor was larger than in the other hybrid.

Trying to buy the Prius turned out to be more difficult. First, he ordered it from a dealership in Brooklyn Center.

“I had my name in for a year and I called and asked how it was coming. They said there were still 100 people on the list ahead of me and they were able to get in only three cars a month.”

When it looked like another three years of waiting, Brown went to a dealership in Watertown, S.D. where he was told he would have to wait four months. It turned out that within two months, he was able to get the car, although he did not get the color he wanted. His Prius is silver, which he has grown to like, but he would have preferred a salsa red color at the time.

Its four-cylinder, 1.5-liter gasoline engine with 76 horsepower, and the electric motor with 67 horsepower, give the car the pickup it needs on the highways and freeways, Brown said.

The on-board computer decides which motor to use – the electric or gasoline for power.

“Most of the time it is using both and you can watch on the LCD panel to see which one is being used, Brown said. “It uses the electric motor more in town. That is why it is rated at getting better mileage in town than on the highway, which is the opposite of the gasoline engine,” Brown said.

There are two myths Brown hopes to debunk regarding hybrid cars. The first myth is that people think that you cannot drive an electric car on the highways and freeways.

“The Prius will go over 80 miles per hour and that is faster than the 75 miles per hour speed posted on the South Dakota interstate. The car goes faster than you should,” Brown said.

The second myth is that the hybrid car needs to be plugged in at night which is not true.

“You recharge it when you drive, mostly when going down hills and when you brake,” Brown said.

The Toyota Prius is in its second generation

Toyota introduced its second-generation Prius in 2004. It’s a four-door hatchback body which can seat up to five people.

The word Prius is said to be a Latin word meaning “to go before” and a Toyota spokesman did, in fact, say in 2004, “Toyota chose this name because the Prius vehicle is the predecessor of cars to come.”

The hybrid electric vehicle was developed and manufactured by the Toyota Motor Corporation and one of the first such vehicles to be mass-produced and marketed.

Toyota’s design goals are to reduce the amount of pollution and to maximize fuel efficiency.

The Prius first went on sale in Japan in 1997, and worldwide in 2001. By the end of 2003, nearly 160,000 units had been produced for sale in Japan, Europe, and North America.

It has won several awards, including the Car of the Year in Japan 1997-98, the North American Car of the Year in 2004, and the European Car of the Year in 2005.

Under the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s recently revised testing procedures, the 2007 Prius is the most fuel-efficient car sold in the US.

Brown normally drives his cars for 12 to 13 years, so he still has another 10 years before he will be looking for a new one. However, he does say that he would definitely be tempted to purchase a total plug-in hybrid if one were to come out.

The first generation Prius hybrid came out in 2000. Due to its relatively long sales history, it is a strong candidate as a used hybrid vehicle. It was upgraded to increase the electric motor and the gas mileage in 2004.

According to Brown, “The resale would be pretty high. I would probably be able to sell the Prius for as much as I paid for it,” Brown said.

“In California, I was told not only do they charge full list price for the Prius, with no discount, they will sell them for $1,000 over list price, Brown said. “I think all of the movie stars drive them. In California, if you didn’t buy the car, someone else would walk in the door and buy it.”

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