Out of gas

So I came home yesterday and told my son: “I ran out of gas today”. He asked, “did you have to walk to the gas station?” I replied, “no, I drove to the gas station!”, and laughed.

That’s what you can do with a hybrid-electric vehicle like my Prius.

I mainly wanted to say what happens when you do run out of gas with a Prius and to address the question of “how far can you drive on the battery”.

When you run out of gas, you first notice an abysmal loss of power. I was accelerating from a stop light and going up a steep hill. The car simply wouldn’t accelerate. It held speed but that was it. A few seconds later the instrument panel lit up like a Christmas tree with error and warning icons including the infamous big red triangle.

The gas station was maybe 1/4 mile uphill. I filled up and afterwards noticed that the battery was around 20% charged. So you can run a Prius without gas, perhaps a mile in flat country (more downhill), but that’s about it.

As soon as I gassed it up, everything was fine.

56.7 MPG over 520 miles

About Kevin

Just an old guy with opinions that I like to bounce off other people.
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5 Responses to Out of gas

  1. Sam says:

    Do you find that it is really a fuel economy car? Because I’ve heard that it only works in optimal, controlled conditions, and that with stop and go traffic, they are actually just as fuel consuming as regular cars. Just intrigued.

  2. Kevin says:

    I have 16,000 miles on my Prius. The WORST gas mileage I ever got was 49 mpg on one tank. I drove on Interstate highways from South Carolina to Pennsylvania and then across PA. I got from 52-56 mpg on that trip.

    The EPA numbers are better for city than highway. In city traffic, you have stop and go but when you stop the regenerative braking charges the battery and when you go, the battery supplements the gas engine. Also when you get stuck at a light, the Prius gas engine shuts off, rather than idling like a conventional car. City driving is where the Prius shines.

    The kind of driving that is worst on gas mileage is the “short trip”. Start the car, drive 5 minutes. Go into the store, stay half an hour. Repeat. The car doesn’t reach maximum efficiency until it warms up. But get on the Interstate, set the cruise control for 65 and when it’s time to refuel the car, 500 miles later, expect about 51 MPG.

    Overall, I consider my average mileage to be about 52.5 for mixed city/rural driving. I made one 50 mile round trip, mostly rural but with one 65 mph highway stint, and got 60 mpg (being very careful).

    I have driven 600 miles on one 11.9 gallon tank of gas.

    Mileage seems to vary by time of year, better in spring and fall, worse in summer and winter.

  3. Jerry says:

    I have a 2005 Prius with about 9,000 miles on it. I have been averaging about 46 1/2 miles per gallon until a couple weeks ago. My mileage has been going down to the high 30’s of late. I called our local dealer and he told me it was normal to lose that many MPG when it starts getting cooler. We live in Oregon with a moderate climate, but I don’t think we are doing very much different in our careful driving for mileage.

    Have you experienced any loss of mileage with the change of seasons.

  4. Kevin says:

    Jerry, I notice a very distinct change in the mileage when the seasons change. Cold weather is the worst, hot weather the next to worst with spring and fall ideal. But since July of 2004, I have NEVER had mileage for a tank below 49.

    Unless it’s something to do with altitude, I can’t imagine why anyone would get mileage in the 30’s. I think it’s broken.

  5. Kevin says:

    A quick update. I now have 55,000 miles on my Prius. It’s been 100% reliable. The only “repair” was to have the throttle plate cleaned (under warranty). Gas mileage has continued in mid 50’s. It seems that the car gets better mileage when the tires are well worn than when they are new.

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