Toyota Prius Fuel Economy – Ahhh, the Flat Prairies! Or so we thought

Toyota Prius Fuel Economy and Thoughts on our Alternatives by Rick Butler

Travelling through southern Alberta and Saskatchewan brought many surprises, in attractions and land marks, (which you can read about in Irene’s Blogs) as well as in Emili’s (our Toyota Prius) performance. Many people are under the impression that the prairies are flat and uneventful. In fact, I have heard comments over the years that central Canada is very boring to drive through. A remedy for this is to travel on routes other than the Trans Canada. The secondary motorways reveal many wonderful sites; beautiful landscapes of rolling hills and fields of colourful crops, stretching as far as the eye can see, against a magnificent blue sky with puffy white clouds (when its not storming). Most enlightening to me is the continual climb in elevation in what visually appears to be flatlands. Driving west to east many times in the past, along the Trans Canada, in vehicles that do not measure fuel economy, I did not realize the extent of the climb. Emili brings this to light in vivid detail. Moose Jaw for example is 1880 feet above sea level, so needless to say Emili consumed more gas than I thought she would.

Emili drank fuel at the rate of 4.5 litres per 100 km from Lethbridge to Drumheller. During the drive from Kindersley to Moose Jaw we experienced a blistering head wind and torrential downpour during which Emili guzzled her drink of choice at 6.2 litres per 100 km. By the time we reached Regina she was downing 5.5 litres per 100 km. Obviously, when auto manufacturers determine the stated fuel efficiency, they do so under ideal driving conditions, on a flat surface with no winds. With 4500 kilometres behind us Emili’s fuel consumption is a respectable 4.8 litres per 100 km.

I discovered one flaw in Emili’s sleek design. While using the windshield washers on the highway, the spray comes in the drivers open window. There are no rain gutters and her smooth aerodynamic curves allow for this to occur. Along Highway 21 south of Kindersley in Saskatchewan, we endured the heaviest rains and Emili met her roughest conditions yet. The road was very poorly paved; many pot holes, and stretches of gravel. Lakes appeared in the middle of our path and Emili navigated these swirling waters with little effort. Due to her tight, almost sport suspension, she did not float over the bumps; however, she handled them admirably.

Each night brings another hotel so we are finding Emili’s hatchback to be very handy. With sufficient room for our back packs (1 each, we travel light) our portable office and our lap top, we easily unload at our new home. During the day, while driving, Irene can easily reach what she needs; the lap top, office, dictionary, a snack, what ever.

Mark’s comment on my last Emili Blog asked to determine the pay back in fuel costs for the difference in price of the Toyota Prius and a comparable car. As Emili is in a class of her own it is difficult to find another vehicle similar; however, I researched the Toyota site and found the following. The Toyota Prius is a cross between the Matrix Hatchback and Camry Sedan. These 2 vehicles, with predominantly the same features, price out at $24,640.00 and $24,800.00 respectively. Emili’s price is $29,980.00 for a difference of approximately $5,300.00. The Fuel efficiency for the Matrix and Camry combined is 10 litres per 100 km city and 6.8 highway; remember the Toyota Prius is 4.0 city and 4.2 highway. If we assume an average person drives 20,000 km a year, equally city and highway, and gas is 90 cents per litre (we have paid from 75 cents in Alberta to $1.00 in Vancouver), the Matrix / Camry owner would pay $1,512.00 per year for their gas. The Prius owner would pay $747.00 for a savings of $765.00. At this savings the pay back would be approximately 7 years. The more you drive and the higher the price of gas, the quicker the payback. (for example; 30,000 km per year at $1.00 per litre the payback is 4 years) In addition to and more importantly in my opinion, is the savings to the environment the Prius offers. Emili qualifies for the SULE (super ultra low emissions) rating. It is a real good feeling to know when you are stuck in traffic that your vehicle is not consuming any fuel (the gas engine shuts down when not needed) and better yet is not adding any pollutants into the atmosphere.

The average Canadian household generates 10 large garbage bags per day of greenhouse gas emissions. We believe if each one of us does just a little each day to lower our dependence on fossil fuels, we will add healthy years to our lives as well as those of our children and grandchildren. Small changes in small habits can make a huge impact.

We invite your comments. Be well and “be the change you want to see”.


  3 comments for “Toyota Prius Fuel Economy – Ahhh, the Flat Prairies! Or so we thought

  1. Mark Butler

    Hi Guys-thanks Dad for doing the comparison-i would have thought that the Prius was more money than that-considering the warranty on the Prius & the fact that Toyota’s are well built cars to begin with, seven years really isn’t that long of payback period-coupled with the environmental payback. Mark

    P.S.-When the $%@# are you guys going to get here-we have things in Manitoba to see too you know-lol

  2. at

    Nice Rick- I appreciate the cost analysis sparked by Mark’s question.

    As to the so-called-flaw, are you sure Emili just didn’t think your glasses were dirty?


  3. Stella Johnson bid idc

    I enjoy reading about your travels. T he info you provide on the enviornament, is especially interesting to me.
    As you know we in Abbotsford BC are still fighting the SE2 GIANT! (Sumas Energy 2-power plant.)
    May 02 to 26 The Poets Potpourrie Society and myself put together an art exhibit and poetry readings on the enviornament called “NO SE2 a TRIBUTE IN WORDS AND IMAGES”. It was a stellar success. Whis you could have participated in it.

    I see you are heading into Manitoba, my country.
    I will be there AUG 06TH TO 21 visiting family in Winnipeg.
    I can hardly wait to see what you plan to write about in Manitoba.

    A travelor at heart.
    Stella Johnson

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