"If you don't make electric cars that are better than gasoline cars, what's the point?"
-- Elon Musk
The Prius is a remarkable success as a product vehicle for very cool technology. I was well aware of the risk that Toyota took when it decided to put its Hybrid Synergy techology together into a production car. And while other manufacturers took risks in other directions, notably Nissan decided to go big with its Titan and Armada trucks, the Prius has been the most popular and successful of all of the hybrid vehicles.
It has done so, I think, because of its styling and marketing as an anti-car. In other words, the Prius is a success precisely for those people who have no love for automobiles, but find them a mere device to get them from point A to point B. And as Hitchens often said of religion, once you buy into the truth of a fundamental lie (in this case that the best car is an anti-car) then every illogic follows.
What I want to make fundamentally clear is that the Prius, like any car, is not the only way to package a technology. The Prius as an energy saving transportation device is better or worse by design. Not by category. I don't hate efficient automobiles, hybrids, pure electrics or fuel cell cars because they are environmentally friendly - even though I hate most environmentalists and their ridiculous demands upon the auto industry. No, I hate the Prius not for what it originally stood for, but for what it became and now what it is in the marketplace and what it stands for now. It is the anti-car.
Still, I have my prejudices, and it would be sufficient for me to hate the Prius for being the darling of the Greens. Interestingly enough, when the likes of that lamer Ed Begley Jr, had his airhead thralls climbing fences and picketing the termination of GM's EV-1, I didn't necessarily hate the EV-1. I didn't hate the EV-1 any more than I hate CNG powered city buses, of which LA has hundreds. The EV-1 was weird in the same way that Saturn was weird, admirably weird.
First of all, the Prius has a stupid name.
Secondly, it's ugly. It is ugly in the very same way that the Pontiac Aztec was ugly, and the Aztec was probably one of the all time ugliest vehicles. It is ugly like the Citroen BX and the Chevette Hatchback. It has this butt ugly, large butt with no hips. It's shaped like a bad wedge, not an aggressive sporty wedge like the Fiat X1/9 or a techy boxy wedge like the MR-2, but a weenie roundy wedge, blunt-nosed porpoisey wedge.
Thirdly, the interior tries too hard to be other-worldy. The ergonomics were specifically designed to take you out of your comfort zone and prove to you that you are in no ordinary automobile. Even Toyota had to acknowledge that they were doing it all wrong. The newer models are alien, but still spacey.
Obviously, the car doesn't perform. The market that emerged doesn't want performance from the Prius. The price/performance ratio was all skewed from the beginning. Well, at least in the market that Toyota has ended up cultivating through the cult of Prius. You see the expansion the great technology of the Hybrid Synergy drive that improved in about every way over the years was spread to other products in the Toyota and Lexus brands. Some offered high performance instead of mileage. Others put higher mileage in old familiar cars. But the price never made it worth it; in fact it had never been economical to purchase the Prius or other hybrids based on the improvement in gas mileage. There have been plenty of other cars that get the same mileage for 10 - 12 thousand dollars less - a difference that would never be made up by fuel economy. But that wasn't the point for Prius owners, it was to be seen as green, not economical that drove the purchases. So Toyota has had to eat its inventory of hybrid SUVs, Camrys and Lexuses. In the future, only the Prius will get the hybrid engine, and so it will be expanded to a number of vehicles, one of which might even be sporty.
Here in California, Priuses managed to get some semi-exclusive access to carpool lanes by being low emission vehicles, but they were not as low emission as a real car pool. Not much of a point against the car as against the shallow attraction to the vehicle as a planet saviour.
Most people I talk about are aware of the green contradiction inherent in the manufacture of the advanced batteries that the Hybrid Synergy system requires. Again, not so much a knock on the car, but on the premises enabling its sale. It turns out that the battery pollution story was overblown but then again we've all seen Prius commercials in which flowers bloom as the Prius drives by. Which is a bigger lie?
That doesn't much matter because I'm a car lover, and the Prius is an anti-car. The Tesla is the car for a man like me, and that's about all there to say about that.