Hills & transmission stress

Dear Car Talk:
I have a 2014 Prius. I live in Oakland, CA at an elevation that is 98 ft. above sea level. To get to my house, I have to drive up hill about 75 ft. I can either take a route that takes me up a steep hill and then levels off or a route that gradually rises the entire way. My theory is that the second route puts less stress on the transmission and is uses less gas. (Yes, even a Prius burns gas!) Do I have my head up… er, in the clouds, or am I standing on solid ground?
Wondered for a long time…

There is NO difference in the amount of gas used to get to your home, none. You travel the same distance horizontally and vertically. The work is the same so the energy to do that work is the same.

The steeper hill does put more strain on your engine and transmission, however. A tiny bit more. The car should be able to take it without undue wear and tear.


Wait, a 75 foot hill? Or gotta go up 75 feet above sea level? Just use lower gear and don’t lug the engine or transmission. But don’t come to Minnesota where I think we’re about 1000 feet above sea level. I like to have a little safety margin.

Omaha, NE is also about 1000 ft above sea level, but that didn’t help much when the Missouri and Platte Rivers flooded earlier this year.

That issue might have been good for 4 or 5 pages for John Dryden but here it only gets 3 lines…

Oakland’s upper-Rockridge area definitely has steep hills. I’d take the gradual route myself, might provide a little less wear and tear on the car parts. Not something to lose any sleep over though. Either way works.

Gradual is always preferable to steep.

I would be more interested in which route generates the most regenerative braking on the way down. Not sure how much overall distance we are looking at, but you could attempt resetting the MPG indicator and seeing which routes nets the best MPG.

Highly doubt it will do much harm to the transmission, my parents do an even steeper climb on a monthly basis to visit my brother who lives at the top of a hill where you gain at least 1000ft in elevation by the time you level out onto the street that leads to his house. Usually have to hit the PWR button on the console to climb the hill but mileage barely changes. 2010 Prius

The Prius transmission is the eCVT, would not really damage it IMO. You might get better mileage on the less steep route because you would be using less of the gas engine I guess.
At the end of the day, I think you are over thinking it. Take the fastest route.