Toyota Prius Plug-In To Be Driven By 'Eco-Savvy Influencers' In MPG Challenge

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In May, we told you about the first round of Toyota's Prius Plug-In MPG Challenge. If you missed it and don't feel like clicking through to read the magnificently written article, here are the high points:

  • Toyota loaned 2013 Prius Plug-Ins to a handful of nonprofits for 30 days.
  • The nonprofits used those vehicles to carry out programs, zip off to board meetings, run errands -- whatever they needed to do to fulfill their various missions.
  • Organizations promised to put at least 75 miles on the odometer each week and travel at least 500 miles in the Prius over the course of the month. 
  • After the 30 days were up, Toyota gave $2,500 to the nonprofit that had earned the highest average fuel economy. The next two runners-up received $1,000 and $500, respectively, and every organization that participated took home a $200 gas card.
  • And because this was more about advertising than philanthropy, Toyota expected each participating nonprofit to document its travels in the Prius Plug-In on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Still with us? Good.

The first-round winner was the Helping Hands Food Pantry, a New Jersey-based organization that delivers free groceries to those in need. When the contest's 30 days were up, Helping Hands staffers had driven 506 miles in their Prius Plug-In and earned a whopping 356 MPGe. (According to Toyota, that's 261 MPGe higher than the Prius Plug-In's official fuel economy in EV mode.)

Now, Toyota's competition is moving to round two, and the contestants this go-round are a little different -- not so much charities as "eco-savvy influencers" (Toyota's term, not ours). Translation: they're bloggers.

According to a press release, the list of participants currently includes:

  • EcoKaren, a chiropractor-turned-green-living-consultant and blogger focused on the connection between the environment and health
  • Green Living Guy, author and editor of the “Green Guru” series
  • New York Green Advocate, a blog authored by environmental activist Paul McGinniss focused around the latest news about the world environment, sustainable living, renewable energy and green building

Apart from that, the challenge remains largely the same, though Toyota did dial down the 30-day travel requirement from 500 to 300 miles. The winning blogger won't receive prize money herself, but Toyota will gift that amount to the charity of her choice.  

Our take? We really want to dislike this program. Currying favor from influencers is fine -- companies do that every day. But adding a charitable element just to draw attention to the campaign? Somehow, that cheapens the whole thing. 

And it's made doubly cheap by the fairly minor prizes, which, when added up, couldn't even buy a new Prius Plug-In.

On the other hand, Toyota has a long history of philanthropy. The automaker contributed huge sums to recovery efforts after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, 2012's Hurricane Sandy, and this year's tornadoes that ravaged Oklahoma. Since this MPG Challenge is funded by marketing dollars, rather than funds from the Toyota Foundation, maybe we'll give the company a pass this time.


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Comments (21)
  1. 356 MPGe, really!!

    That's only 94.7 Watts per mile (33.7 kW/Ge / 356 MPGe); less than the energy to light a 100 W lightbulb for an hour. The 506 miles over 30 days cost only $5.26 (based on U.S. avg. $0.11/kWh price-rate of electricity). Driving a month for the cost of a grandé of java-juice on the energy used to make it… priceless.

    More impressive is that the $2500 prize would power the Plug-In Prius for 39.6 YEARS if the 356 MPGe and 506 miles per month of driving were sustained!

  2. Correction, it is 356MPG NOT MPGe.

    That is really a MPGbs or Fake MPG that doesn't include electricity cost.

  3. I trust that @Richard verified this is "a whopping 356 MPGe" as he stated.

    The Plug-in Prius has a 22 mile (& 95 MPGe, EPA) electric only range, so it is quite possible to drive 600 all-electric-only miles a month. (20 miles * 30 day is 600 miles) Charging more than once a day would allow further distances. The trick is achieving the distance while maximizing MPGe. This implies no accessories on, very low speeds, etc.

    My guess, a 356 MPGe was accomplished driving 0.5-3 miles (low speed urban) at a time and plugging-in between trips during the day. In reality this usage pattern is an ideal case for a NEV than for using a hybrid vehicle; but without data logs we will never know.

  4. plug in prius has 11 mile all electric range. The only way the 356 number can work out is if is MPG.

  5. "I trust that @Richard verified this is "a whopping 356 MPGe" as he stated."

    Ok. Let us do some "real" math here to see if that makes sense.

    356MPGe would be 356 miles per 33.7KWh. That is 10.56 miles per KWh consumption rate (not including the 15% charging loss). About twice what a typical EV is getting during hypermiling.

    For a 85KWh Tesla, that would be over 800 miles in range. For a Prius Plugin, that would be about 40 miles ALL electric range. For a Leaf, that would be over 200 miles in range and Volt would have 100 miles in its all electric range.

    Even at 20 mph, it won't stay in that consumption rate. Impossible for any daily driving. Unless you ONLY drive it downhill all the time.

  6. @Brian: Not sure where your "22 miles" came from. This page shows the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid having an electric range of 11 miles:

    And the window sticker on the car actually specifies that only 6 miles of that is continuous electric range. Even on the relatively gentle EPA city test cycles, the plug-in Prius has to switch on its engine before the battery is depleted just to complete the cycle.

  7. Why do people think it has a pure EV range of 11 miles when the window sticker says 6 electric miles and 11 combined use..????

  8. Because the PiP DOES the equivalent of 11 electric miles, that's why.
    "Blended" only means that it takes the vehicle more than 11 miles total to do so.

    Example: say a vehicle drives 6 miles on electricity alone, then its gas engine kicks in but only provides 50% of the power on average, for another 10 miles (so 16 total). Only after that, the battery is depleted and the ICE provides 100% of the power.

    [The proportion is certainly different on the Prius, but the end result is the same]

    If we were to count how much gas was used for those 16 miles, driven on a mix of electricity and gas, it'd be the same quantity as 5 miles on gas alone. The remainder, 11 miles, was effectively driven on battery power, like if the vehicle had 11 EV miles.

  9. But it gives buyer a "false sense" of 11 miles EV ONLY commute.

    I have two co-workers who are PIP owners and neither of them can do a "11 miles EV only commute" in their 11 miles commute to work. They both thought they could when they bought the car....

  10. ($4/50 miles)/(4.4 kWh/11 miles) = $0.20/kWh for GGe cost, using assumed values based on EPA tests/plug-in Prius specifications. At $0.11/kWh, it's a bit more than half the cost of a gallon of today's $4 gasoline.

  11. you might want to check your math and put the units in. A prius with 11 mile electric range, 4.4 kwh battery and electricity at $.11 per kwh works out to (4.4 kwh/11 miles)($.11/KWH)= $.044/mile. Comparing the cost of energy using GGe is bs because electric motors are at least 5 times more efficient than ICE engines.

  12. This is another proof that Toyota is using its influene to scam the world.

    @John V, here is another proof that how Toyota is manipulating the number.

    First of all, it is a MPG fake number that doesn't include electricity cost.

    Second of all, it is ONLY 300 miles per month or less than 10 miles per day. At that rate, why bother with a Prius Plugin? And at that rate, you should get an infinite MPGbs or fake MPG since you should be able to stay in the EV mode within that 10 miles.

  13. Oh, here is another great finding from the design of Prius Plugin. One of my co-worker (die hard Prius fan) found out that if you fully charge your PIP and live on top of the hill, then start driving down the hill. The regen will fill up the battery even farther and eventually cause the ENGINE to start so it will burn off the excessive regen!!!

    That is FREAKING ridiculous. Which other automaker make their PHEV/EREV to start the engine to burn off the excessive electricity from regen once the battery is full?

  14. "When the contest's 30 days were up, Helping Hands staffers had driven 506 miles in their Prius Plug-In and earned a whopping 356 MPGe. (According to Toyota, that's 261 MPGe higher than the Prius Plug-In's official fuel economy in EV mode.)"

    So, either the marketing dept of Toyota are full of idiots who doesn't understand the difference between MPG, MPGbs or MPGe or they are just a bunch of liers.

    According to the facebook of Toyota Prius Plugin MPG challenge, there are mixe usage of the word MPG and MPGe. Also, the quote has been carried by the three bloggers who entered the contest.

    So, how can you have a "contest" of anything if they don't even understand the term that they are using in the contest itself.

  15. Well, I have to say that Toyota Prius is one of my favorite Japanese car :)

  16. Yes Toyota does have a very good reputation. The 11 mile electric range for the PIP is the only thing keeping me from buying one.

  17. Look closer at the window sticker, its actually 6 miles pure EV rating.

  18. Anything to avoid the fact that the EPA all electric mileage on the window sticker is 6 miles, not 11. 11 is when also using gas...


  19. In the real world, as opposed to the EPA's world the EV range of my Plugin Prius is ~ 12 miles. One trip option when leaving home is relatively flat when I take that route I can get about 15 miles EV.
    I selected the plugin Prius over several others PHEVs after analyzing my driving pattern and the performance data of currently available PHEVs. The Plugin Prius works for me (191 MPG; 77 MPGe). On Fuelly the Plugin Prius is averaging ~ 77 mpg (gas only).
    Considering the price of the Plugin when you include incentives and the tax rebate is about the same as a standard Prius I think I got a great deal (total cost ~$23.7k). The Plugin Prius is perfect fit. I get great milage and avoid the extra expensive of a bigger battery.

  20. "On Fuelly the Plugin Prius is averaging ~ 77 mpg (gas only). "

    gas only? *sigh* Another stats that is misunderstood. The Fuelly report of 77mpg INLCUDES EV MILES but do NOT account for it in the "mpg" report.

  21. You are correct, the Fuelly MPG does not include electric miles. At this point all we can do is ask everyone to contact Fuelly and ask that the add MPGe as an option. Fuelly, does not even list the Volt. Fuelly, has the potential to be a powerful tool n the effort to encourage the purchase of EV and PHEV and to increase the overall fuel efficiency.
    The point of my post was to illustrate the role of driving pattern in determining the 'optimal' PHEV battery size. The Plugin Prius does get the job done for me and others who have a short commute. If you have an urban driving pattern like use then the Plugin Prius is a cost effective option. If your commute is in the 20 to 30 mile range you might want to consider other options.

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