Test drive shows hybrids are ideal for city traffic conditions

A series of test drives of the Toyota Prius around Thessaloniki conducted in the context of a European program titled Immaculate Project – run in Greece by the Transport Institute and headed by Evangelos Bekiaris, in cooperation with other bodies – came up with some interesting findings. «The Prius showed that it consumes up to 50 percent less fuel than a conventional car in a circle of the city,» notes Sakis Tsitouras, a transportation expert and scientific adviser to the Thessaloniki-based Transport Institute. «Actually, on some specific routes, such as along Tsimiski in a traffic jam, it consumed up to three times less. On a circuit that takes in parts of the city center it showed a reduction of 30 percent, while in the suburbs it was down by 25 percent.» In order to monitor the Prius fully, the program managers placed a black box on the car that recorded the driver’s every move as well as the state of the roads the car was traveling on. They also placed an emissions counter which showed exactly how much fuel was being consumed. The hybrid car was being tailed by a top-of-the-line conventional model with a catalytic converter, of similar size and shape, to serve as a comparison. During the test drive, the hybrid model revealed all of its qualities. One impressive finding was that on a 52-minute drive, the hybrid used its electric motor for a full 29 minutes of the total time (that is 56 percent), during which it produced no emissions at all. The fuel consumption for the 20-kilometer route was measured at 0.0692 liters per kilometer, which is a lot less than that consumed by the conventional car driving behind the hybrid. According to Tsitouras, the big issue is tutoring drivers to drive in an environmentally friendly manner. «The advantages of the hybrid car are at their best when we drive in a calm manner, accelerating slowly and breaking slowly, so that we do not need the gas engine to kick in. However, for this to be achieved, we need to tutor drivers,» he said, adding that this is one of the Transport Institute’s goals. Another interesting finding came from a public questionnaire conducted by the institute: 52 percent said they would definitely buy a hybrid car and 38 percent said they probably would. Their greatest concern, however, was the cost, as 55 percent said they would buy it if it cost as much as a conventional car but only 24 percent said that it was a very positive thing irrespective of the cost. «The conclusion is that we need to see more economic measures to boost hybrid car sales, both from the state and from the companies,» noted Tsitouras.