It was the car, a Prius, not the celebrity offender, that grabbed the lime light and had everyone abuzz. Recently, Al Gore III, son of former Vice President Al Gore, was arrested for possessing marijuana and speeding over 100 mph on the San Diego Freeway in his Toyota Prius.
Ho hum another celebrity in trouble with the law. What’s new? A hybrid caught speeding over 100 mph that’s what.
Speed tests have shown that the new Prius can attain speeds up 103 mph. When compared with other Toyotas such as a Camry which can go up to 130 mph, that is not too fast. Even the Hybrid Camry can go 117 mph.
On the other hand, the Prius is not the slowest vehicle on the road either. Car and Driver magazine complied statistics which show that the AM General Hummer H1 has the top speed of only 88 mph.
The equalizer, however, is the speed governor that most American cars must have for liability reasons. The governor insures that a car will not go too fast for its tires. Although Pruis tops 103 mph, the governor limits both the Prius and the Corolla to 112 mph.
There are several factors that limit the Prius hybrid to 103 mph.
First, Toyota made a conscious decision to limit the Prius speed to 103 mph. Mike Michels, spokesman for Toyota, stated that the Prius hybrid is capable of going even faster. But the car is speed limited to 103 mph to avoid using up its battery.
He stated that “It can go 103 mph indefinitely.” Until the gas runs out that is.
Second, Toyota created the Prius to be fuel efficient which leads to it having less horsepower than a conventional car. A car with less horsepower will not consume as much gas, but will also have less speed.
Hybrids don’t necessarily have to have less horsepower. The gas motor and electric motor of a hybrid can be combined to create as much horsepower as a conventional vehicle. For example, the conventional, four-cylinder Toyota Camry has 158 horsepower. While the four-cylinder, Hybrid Camry has 187 horsepower. So, not all hybrid are designed for fuel efficiency.
But, how can the Hybrid Prius attain 103 mph?
Serveral factors come into play. First, automotive technology has raised the speed limit for all vehicles in general. Russ Rader, spokesman for Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that if he tried to go 100 mph in his 1983 Oldsmobile Delta 88, “It would probably shakes its bolts loose.”
Second, the globalized car market has resulted in higher driver expectations that the Prius has to meet. Some European countries have no speed limit while the rest have higher speed limits than the US.
Third, for Prius advocates, “Efficiency is just another way to spell performance.” In otherwords, Toyota optimized the Prius hybrid to have a high speed performance. They achieved this by aerodynamically designing the car to have low drag, light weight, and have tires with low rolling resistance which reduces the friction between the rubber and the road.
Michels states that the car has everything that a hotrodder wants “from aero resistance to rolling resistance, cooling systems and the powertrain itself.”
Although it is no help to Gore, his arrest has show cased the Prius as a high speed car to be reckoned with. A poster on Priuschat.com wrote “At least the bashers can’t say the car is pokey or slow.”