PriusChat Earth Day Live Chat screen

PriusChat Earth Day Live Chat screen

We love our fellow enthusiasts over at PriusChat, the forum for all things obsessively Prius. The members know more than the rest of America put together about the Prius, its quirks, the real deal on owning one, and pretty much anything else on the Toyota Prius we could ever come up with.

To celebrate Earth Day, the site offered a live chat with Toyota's Prius Product Manager, Doug Coleman, for questions and answers on the 2010 Prius. We were actually on an airplane at the time (one without internet access), so we checked back today to see how it came off.

Helpfully, PriusChat put the entire transcript up on their site. These were hard-core Prius fans; a full 63 percent of them plan to buy a 2010 Toyota Prius.

Several early questions raised the now-chronic complaint that certain 2010 equipment levels and packages aren't available together. User PriusByrds said, "I'm having a hard time deciding which I want more, Prius V with the high tech package, or Prius IV with the solar package. I'd like it all. Why can't I? I've seen the photos of Japanese Prius' with both the LED headlights and the solar package."

Coleman was clearly prepared for this issue, which Toyota has been hearing since it previewed the car in January. His answer: "It is a combination of weight (MPG) issues, as well as additional structural engineering there is a total weight cap on the car, based on these structural challenges."

He did say, "I don't like it any more than you do," and added, "WE HEAR YOU!" and that chief engineer Akihiko Otsuka and his team are working very hard to find a solution.

There were two small bits of news: First, based on customer feedback, a USB port and integrated controls for personal devices will be included in all cars fitted with the navigation unit from September or thereabouts. Owners of the earliest 2010 cars will be able to upgrade them at the dealer. And, second, the 2010 Prius will require synthetic engine oil (0W-20), which Toyota had initially said it wouldn't.

Despite several questions about the battery pack, Coleman said there are no plans to offer 2010 Prius owners the ability to upgrade to a different pack, specifically one with higher-capacity lithium-ion cells like those that will be fitted to the 150 plug-in Priuses that Toyota will offer to fleets in December.

Several questions dealt with dealer-installed accessories, including a remote-start (different from the factory remote air-conditioning option)  and the blue-backlit door sills. And many more asked about very specific options or paint colors, to which Coleman tended to say things like "not at this time" and "we would have liked to, but ..."

In the end, we have to admit to being just a tad disappointed. We'd hoped for a little more news, even for those of us who have been following the 2010 Toyota Prius. But maybe our ongoing "30 Days of the 2010 Toyota Prius" has just left us saturated.

Toyota's hardly the only carmaker experimenting with new forms of digital media, by the way.  To preview its upcoming 2011 Fiesta, for instance, Ford is designating 100 "Fiesta Movement" agents to drive European versions of the car and spread their impressions online. (Some of their YouTube application videos are pretty hilarious.)

Pre-Production 2010 Toyota Prius in Orlando

Pre-Production 2010 Toyota Prius in Orlando