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A Car For Shopping Trips

We have a 2004 Prius and a 1982 Isuzu Pu’p, diesel. It is time to sell the latter to a collector!

The Prius does not give good fuel economy at all for the first few miles. It is not an efficient car for 2-5 mile shopping trips.

I am tiring of waiting for the arrival of an all electric, at least 45 MPH car that is good for just such a use.

I do not trust the EPA numbers to help me in finding the car delivering the best mileage for cold-start short trips. Can anyone point me to a place to look?



It will be a very long time before we see an affordable, all electric, 45 MPH car. Ride your bike, walk, get a scooter, buy a golf cart, take the bus or call a taxi. No car will be at optimal working temp in 2 - 5 miles. No way to get around the laws of thermodynamics.

Fuel mileage is not the only factor to consider. Depreciation, insurance, taxes, etc. can (and usually are) more expensive on a per-mile basis than fuel. For those short trips, buy a $500 beater. Sell your Prius and put the difference in the bank. It does not matter if you buy an old Toyota Corolla or big Yank Tank for 2 - 5 mile trips. The costs listed above will be far out weigh gas mileage.


The Prius is capable of traveling short distances on battery power alone. I would think you’d get great mileage on short trips around town. This is where the Prius gets its best mileage.

How many mpg are you getting now? How many do you hope to get?

If you live in a state that condones the sorta-legal japanese mini-trucks, one of those would probably be a decent little grocery getter.

Otherwise, I’d say keep waiting. Supposedly there’s some plug-in hybrids coming in the not too distant future that will, after charging overnight, go some number of miles before the engine even turns on. Those would be perfect for your situation.

EDIT: Also, on a side note, the driving you’re doing is the absolute worst you can in terms of gas mileage. So even though you’re never in a million years going to get the EPA rating of any car driving like this, you should be able to use the ratings to get a general idea of which cars will get better mileage than others. Honestly, any other car currently on the market will probably get WORSE mileage than your Prius.

What mileage are you getting with the Prius for these 2-5 mile shopping trips? Are you measuring the mileage by filling the tank, noting the mileage, then when you refill the tank, noting the mileage then dividing the miles traveled by the number of gallons used to refill the tank, or are you depending on some instrument read-out? I don’t think that there are very many vehicles that would have mileage as good as the Prius that are being sold today.

Pretty much any other car you get will get as bad mileage as the Prius will.

It sounds like you might be a good candidate for one of those conversion kits that allows the Prius to be a plug-in hybrid and run just on the batteries on short low speed trips.

If these are short 2-5 mile trips, how about a bicycle with a large basket on the back and a medium basket on the front?

How Much Gasoline Can One Possibly Use Driving Any Car On Trips Of 2 - 5 Miles?
How many such trips do you make each day? How many miles do you average per year? I’d concern myself more with the longer trips if I had any concern for MPG.

You’d be wasting far more money, gasoline, and resources by replacing this little car with something that gets better MPG.

How would an all-electric save anything? They are more expensive to begin with or else you’ll have a battery lease that is a considerable expense. They still use resources, both in their development, manufacturing facilities, construction, delivery, etcetera, and just cause the pollution and fuel consumption to be displaced to some other area where the electricity is generated, likely from coal or gas.

Later next year, Nissan will offer an all-electric with a leased battery (to make the initial price seem comparable to other cars). This may be just what you’re looking for.

Now that you have this little car, even though not entirely happy with it, drive it. That makes the most sense for now.


“I do not trust the EPA numbers to help me in finding the car delivering the best mileage for cold-start short trips. Can anyone point me to a place to look?”

No. There is no better place to evaluate gas mileage. If you don’t trust them, then you have no hope of finding useful information. It doesn’t matter whether you get the same mileage as they do in their tests if that is your concern. What does matter is that they have a procedure that evaluates all cars and light trucks the same way. If Car A gets 10% better mileage than Car B in their test, odds are it will get 10% better mileage for you, no matter how you drive it. If you don’t trust hybrid tests, then just look at gas and diesel only vehicles.

My choice for a “shopping only” car would be a stripper Hyundai Accent with only the basic options. You get low cost, very good reliability and decent fuel consumption. Since your shopping miles per yaer are low, as others point out, I would not fret over getting the last few MPGs. I would count overall cost to own and operate the vehicle as the most important criteria.

Of course a Prius makes sense when you drive a lot of miles per year, so the high purchase prices is justified.

You already have one of the, if not, the best car currently available for short trips. The Prius get’s its best mileage in city driving. Just about every other car on the market will get worse mileage in the scenario you describe.

The thing is the Prius that the OP already has gets better city mileage than any Hyundai.

If you can, wait a little longer, several makers are coming out with all-electric cars in the next 2 years.

How would an all-electric save anything?

Isn’t there an efficiency advantage to producing the power at a power plant instead of under the hood? An electric vehicle doesn’t just displace the energy production. The power plant should produce more energy per fuel used than a normal car with an internal combustion engine, even when they use the same fuel.

Then there is a fuel cost savings. When you compare the amount of kilowatt hours it takes to equal the energy produced by a gallon of gasoline, you come out ahead with an electric vehicle. After all, you buy gasoline at end user retail prices. The power plants buy their fuel in large quantities, so they pay a lot less.

This is also a national security issue. Coal and natural gas are produced domestically. In fact, recent advances in shale-extracted natural gas production techniques have allowed our national reserves of natural gas to vastly expand. Thanks to these techniques, we can produce a lot more natural gas than we thought we could a short time ago.

I don’t know, but I think, even with power loss along the transmission lines (since nobody wants a power plant in his back yard), you come out ahead using power produced at the power plant.

In this particular instance, the electric would be an advantage simply because it reaches full efficiency as soon as you start out instead of needing to warm up.

Whitey, I See The Point You’re Making And It Does Seem Like There Should Be A Gross Savings.
Running a home generator during a power outage illustrates your point.
I am certainly in favor of domestic energy production. The problem that I am seeing is that not much in savings makes it to the car owner/operator.

Have you read about the Volt and the new little Nissan car that is scheduled to go on sale later in 2010? The Volt is going to be very expensive and has a short range. The Nissan makes a little more sense with it’s lower selling price, but so far the user will have to lease a battery pack, and depending on miles driven and the speed at which the car will recharge (expensive home rapid chargers are optional) that the owner requires, will either be a possible net savings for the driver or be more expensive than conventional transportation. That will remain to be seen.

I just don’t think we’re at the practical electric car era, yet. I would like a car that I could plug-in and drive, providing it had a fairly long range, was large, safe, and comfortable, and didn’t cost a fortune to buy or operate. It will need to be able to tow light trailers and have adequate heater and defrosters. (We just experienced one of the coldest winters, spring, and summer seasons on record.) I believe this is possible, but we’re not there, yet.


P.S. I am impressed with advances in electric outboard boat motors and could see hooking up a solar charger to its batteries to charge while docked. We get sun here in the summer, not much in the winter. Also, conventional boat motors “cost a fortune” so sticker shock isn’t as big a problem.

I was under the impression that 2 cars were needed and the Prius was used for going to work. The second shopping car is a low use (cheap) vehicle and mileage is not really that important.

If OP really wants to cut down on greenhouse gasses, STOP EATING BEEF! The energy input to produce beef and the methane (a greenhouse gas 4 times as bad as CO2)caused by cows belching over a one year period will exceed the CO2 generated by your shopping vehicle.

In any case, get rid of the '82 diesel, preferably by scrapping it; the air pollution it causes is far worse than any greenhouse gasses saved.

In the US nearly 70% of all electric power is generated by “dirty” coal which causes greenhouse gasses in itself. The saving is mainly in urban pollution reduction.

In any case, a Canadian company has already put a small, slow electric car on the US market. It’s like a fast golf cart with a passenger compartment. Forgot the name, but it starts with a Z. Google it under “electric cars”.

Good luck!

Here you go…they’re available in my neighborhood for $6500-$7500.

What’s Running The Heat And Defrost At My Typical -15F To -20F Morning At Start Up?

I’m Usually warming in 1-2 miles. Between 3+5 miles I’ve got good heat and defrost. I can’t find an answer to this question, anywhere and I could be interested in electric. What’s the answer?


Don’t hold your breath…the only EVs you’ll see will be tied to the fuel cell or LH and/or very expensive as today’s energy companies will still control energy transportation prices. Direct competition with the gas powered car is still a long way off as the car companies will milk the hybrid fantasy and keep practical EV only battery powered cars off the market. Independent battery powered EV’s in mass will spell the end of passenger car companies; they’ll make you wait.