Balancing Act

First gas-up for 2013

020413Since relocating closer to work (5 miles), I have enjoyed shorter commutes and total elimination of competing with other drivers on LA’s bumper to bumper traffic during rush hour. Today’s the first day I had to gas up for 2013. I’ve been driving on the same tank of gas since refilling after the trip to Monterey, CA in late December, 2012. As you can see from the photo, total gallon consumed was 9.9 (with 3 clicks after automatic shutoff).

With the Prius fuel tank capacity of 11.9, that means I have 2 gallons left in the tank. For this fill-up, I have driven the Prius 20 miles past zero on the cruising range meter (aka miles to empty). The Prius manual states that when the last fuel bar begins to blink, there is approximately 1.6 gallons or less left in the tank (p. 498 of the Owner’s Manual). I find the official value of 1.6 gallons remaining as soon as the low fuel indicator begins to sound and blink inconsistent with real world data. After tracking this number a couple of times in the past, the accurate gallons remaining is a staggering 1.9 to 2 gallons. So once the low fuel indicator starts blinking, you have between 80-120 miles left of driving range, depending on ambient temperature (extreme weather affects MPG negatively) and driving conditions (consistent uphill driving and stop & go traffic also kills MPG), before the tank goes dry.

My gas expenditure used to be anywhere from once every two to three weeks to once a week (due to excessive road trips) to now once every five to seven weeks. However, because of the shorter commute and colder winter climate these days, the MPG has decreased dramatically. I may need to look into grill blocking strategy to kick the MPG up a notch and jump back into the 50+ MPG arena. Still, spending between $35-$45 on gas once every 1.5 to 2 months is not a bad deal compared to $200-$250 a month with the RSX. Depending on how often we take my Prius on road trips instead of the lady’s Prius C, gassing up 7-12 times for the entire year is not too far from reality. If I had the Plug-in Prius (which I regret not getting instead), I’d probably run on 100% EV mode all day everyday. At approximately $2.00 a charge, it would’ve cost me only $16.00 a month for charging. As it is, the total cost of owning my Prius (since it’s already paid off), is about $82 a month, factoring gas and insurance.

4 thoughts on “First gas-up for 2013

  1. Johnny

    I’ve been reading your blog since I purchased a Plug-in Prius back in October 2012. The rebates that were offered made the base model cost about the same as a Prius Three. So I jumped on it. Your HID installation DIY was extremely helpful. Thanks!

    Anyway, I’m averaging $0.75 to $1 a charge per day due to high California electricity rates, $0.30 per kWh. In other words, gasoline often times cost less than charging the car. Solar companies don’t want to install panels at my home because my monthly usage is under $100. I am in that unconfortable limbo where I am too efficient to save money on solar but too much to save on a Plug-in Prius.

    I’m looking forward to your power side mirror DIY.

    1. 5teve-0 Post author

      That’s new to me, I figured any solar company would not hesitate to install panels to anyone that are interested, but it appears they’re trying to work “efficiently” as well. Are you charging your plug-in during off-peak hours? And is your daily commute short enough to drive on 100% EV mode only? If I had to do it over, I’d definitely purchase the Plug-in Advanced. But since my Prius is my first hybrid and I didn’t know better, I just played it safe. And then again, knowing what I know now, I’m glad I kind of didn’t since the 4th gen is coming out within 2 years. Thanks for the comment and I think the power side folding mirrors will be in my hand as early as tomorrow (5/6/12), according to EMS tracking.

      1. Johnny

        PG&E pricing structure is very convoluted wih TOU plans and tiered pricing. It’s difficult to calculate just what it costs for electricity. You don’t know how much it costs until you do it which for me is averaging $30 extra every month for me.

        Hence, a $1 per charge per day. I will be switching to the E9A rate schedule next month and charge my car at off peak hours to see if things improve. My calculations show the savings to be about $5 because low cost charging at night is subsidized by substantially higher peak rates as much as $0.20/kWh at Tier 3 versus E1 rates.

        I only called solar lease companies for quotes and they can’t show a net reduction in utility payments with <$100 electricity bills when the solar lease itself is $110. I could purchase the solar panels on my own but I am wary about the decades long payback period.

        My round trip commute exceeds 100 miles. Even though my commute exceeds EV range, EV helps me optimize my fuel usage by allowing me to drive with the gas engine 100% on the freeway at high speeds where it is most efficient. Subtracting out EV, I'm getting greater than 63 mpg on gas. And because EV is opposite and performs better at low speeds, combining the two nets me 72 mpg overall.

        1. 5teve-0 Post author

          Ah, I learned something new today from an actual plug-in hybrid owner with numbers to back up instead of hearsay. It’s something definitely worth considering when I entertain a successor to the current Prius. I’ll definitely look into something more efficient than the Prius since we’re house shopping in communities that require a 100+ mile round trip commute. But still, getting an average of 72 mpg is still really good.

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