Gasoline

Count the Priuses

Image

My son Jackson just turned 10. For about a year now, we've been playing a game, mostly of his design, while riding in the car. We count Priuses. That's, of course, the Toyota hybrid that's become enormously popular in our Los Angeles neighborhood. According to Wired Magazine, hybrid sales were up 38% last year, and Toyota can't make enough cars to meet demand. All the same, hybrids still only account for 2.3% of the market. Counting them on the roads is still child's-play.

One day, on the three mile drive home from school, we counted nineteen Priuses. Now, that's a Babe Ruthian sort of record that may stand for the ages. But on any given day, we'll easily count eight, or ten or even twelve.

Jackson's Prius-envy goes beyond just counting. Not long ago, my trusty old Volvo blew up. Literally. As I was pulling up the hill that leads to my driveway, it exploded into smoke and flame. It was clear I needed a new vehicle.

"Get a Prius, Dad. It would be SO cool if you would pick me up at school in a Prius."

A Prius is SO cool. Not a BMW convertible, not a Bentley GS, not even a Mini. According to my 10 year-old the bee-hind-ugly Toyota hybrid is the epitome of hip.

I bought a used, conventional vehicle instead. Maybe it was the wrong choice. But we still count Priuses. And lately Jackson's added a twist. Now, along with the hybrids, we count those big, expensive, carbon-burping Porsche Cayenne's. You know, the S-U-V for people with more money than morals. It gets twelve miles to the gallon going downhill. Some Prius drivers get fifty.

And there's good news for the planet, at least in our corner of it. The latest count, Prius 11, Cayenne 4.

Have you noticed an upsurge in Priuses on the road? Counted more than nineteen in a day? Let us know and keep and eye out for updates on Jackson's count over the summer.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

My husband and I have a similar game: a modified version of Slug-Bug. Whoever first spots a Prius on the road, has to point and yell "PRIUS!" and then gets to punch the other in the arm or leg. It's pretty fun until we pass by a Toyota dealership. They are off limits now.

Sent by Erin Tarver | 7:03 PM | 6-27-2008

Hey Dad, it's me Jackson. The other day I saw 16 Priuses and only 2 Cayennes.I saw them on the way home from school the second to last day. I forgot to tell you about it. I was amazed. I hope you are having fun in D.C. I love you,
Jackson

Sent by Jackson Proffitt | 1:07 AM | 6-28-2008

Hey Dad, It's Jackson. Today I saw 21 priuses and 3 cayennes.I was sitting on the sidewalk and counting them I saw 19 priuses and said to myself "I have to see two more." Well I't turned out I saw two priuses and two cayennes. It was very shocking. I love you dad. Jackson

Sent by Jackson Proffitt | 12:09 AM | 6-30-2008

If I could ask only one question of Toyota and Honda, it would be simply this:

"Why are they so ugly?!"

Every hybrid car on the market looks like a cutesymobile out of children's programming. I half expect to see Kermit the Frog behind the wheel. Why can't they make a hybrid that looks like something a grown man wouldn't mind being caught dead in? Don't they want customers?

Sent by Kasreyn | 10:20 AM | 6-30-2008

I recently moved to California's San Fernando Valley from Washington State to take my dream job. I come from a cool, quirky, intellectual "Volvo family". My parents had matching Volvo wagons when I was growing up. I developed the notion that a Volvo was the supreme car for style, safety, and a statement about the kind of person I wanted to be. About three years ago, my Dad shocked all of us by returning home from a short trip with a brand new Prius! I fell in love with the sleek and silent little car and all that it stands for. I would often tell my friends that if I were not so attached to my 1996 Volvo 850 (my 3rd beloved Volvo) and my individuality, I would join the "silver Prius army" in a heart beat!

My best friend, who grew up in the same Washington town as I did, has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area now for 5 years. On the day in April when we were driving south together on I-5 in my old Volvo she jokingly told me as part of her snarky "introduction to California" that part of the reason the state deficit is so huge is that when you move here, they issue you a Prius. We amused ourselves with a running joke about this until our freeway Prius tally had topped 20 that day and we lost count. I spent about $400 dollars on gas to make the trip to my new home. My worldly goods were loaded in a moving van, my Siamese cat was screaming in the back seat, and sometime during the final day of that thousand mile drive I revised my personal California dream to include a Prius.

Sent by Becky Jamison | 3:31 PM | 6-30-2008

Kasreyn: Just think of them as what they are: transportation, BEAUTIFUL transportation! FYI: Cars expend energy mostly in two ways: overcoming rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag. Rolling resistance is all about vehicle weight, the smoothness of the road surface, and the firmness of the tires. Aerodynamic drag is all about shape. The Prius shape is one very big reason why it is so efficient. The power plant is just part of the whole design package.

Sent by Jim Jamison | 4:43 PM | 6-30-2008

My best friend and I met for the weekend in San Luis Obispo, about half way between my new home in the Valley and hers in the Bay. We decided it would be fun to count Priuses on our way home and compare notes. She counted 50 headed north and I counted 35 headed south. If you do the math, that is at least one Prius about every five miles for each of us!

Sent by Becky Jamison | 8:12 PM | 7-7-2008