Auto review: As winter whips EVs, Prius Hybrid makes a statement

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

This has been the winter of electric vehicles’ discontent. First of all, it’s winter. Despite decades of predictions of snowless winters and dried-up Great Lakes, Chicago was still an icebox this January, registering subzero temperatures and wreaking havoc on EVs, which — when taken out of their natural California habitat — have a strong allergic reaction to cold.

A WGN-9 Chicago story went viral nationwide:

The subzero temperatures are taking a toll on the EV batteries, leaving drivers frustrated.

Darryl Johnson, an Uber driver, said he waited hours just to get to a charger, only to wait even longer while it charged. But the frustrations continued even after he left after he found his battery draining faster than normal.

“It’s horrible ... it takes two hours to charge, then the charge leaves really quickly, so now you’re back at the charger twice a day,” Johnson said. “They definitely have to work on it because I’m out of this Tesla after today. I’m not going to ride it again.”

Maybe he should try a Prius.


You remember the Prius? The hybrid gas-electric moral statement that launched the green car segment? It caught fire in the early 2000s as the car to be seen in if you preened green. All the cool kids had it, including Hollywood stars Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks and Leo DiCaprio, who drove them to the Oscars to advertise their commitment to the planet. Prius introduced a new green language to our automotive lexicon: hybrid, tailpipe emissions and California high occupancy vehicle lane passes. And, of course, Pious.

The latter was the nickname non-believers gave to the Prius faithful. Pious sold like hot cakes, until it didn’t. The movement moved on to pure electrics and Prius became oh-so-15 minutes ago — losing its California carpool lane status, its $7,500 tax break, its popularity for not going all-electric. Sales plummeted to 35,800 last year as the Tesla Model Y became the new green king at 385,900 sales a year.

Suddenly, the OG is relevant again. Thank Chicago.

“It’s what we Prius owners have always known,” said my friend Susan as we chatted on a 32-degree Michigan winter day next to her 2020 Prius Prime plug-in hybrid and my all-new 2024 Prius Prime plug-in tester. “When the battery runs out, you have to have a gas engine backup. At least until there’s better electric infrastructure.”


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