2021 Prius Prime informal review vs. a "vanilla" Gen4

Discussion in 'Prime Main Forum (2017-Current)' started by pakitt, Apr 1, 2021.

  1. pakitt

    pakitt Senior Member

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    I used to own a 2016 Gen 4 Prius and lived in Germany.I have recently moved to Colorado, and I now own a 2021 Prius Prime Limited.

    Here a list of considerations and first impressions, in no particular order, after driving 1500mi mainly in the suburbs and a one-way trip from Salt Lake City to Denver on HWY 70.
    • Like my old Gen 4, build quality is excellent. No creaking, no loose parts, no misalignments, no feeling of "cheap" anywhere in the car.
    • Considerably quieter than the Gen 4, even when the gas engine is at high revs.
    • The transitions between electric and gas motor are almost unnoticeable. I have had to use the MFD's Energy Flow screen to know what was going on more than once.
    • Fuel consumption in hybrid mode is astounding. And I am coming from owning a Gen4.
      • I managed 49 mpg (probably 46, calculated) driving through mountain ranges (10000ft peak elevation) at highway speeds. I did use the battery twice: once using the dealer's three-quarters charge and once after charging it in CHG Mode to 100% while going downhill heading to Denver.
      • Considering that the Prime is 300 pounds (!!) heavier than the Gen 4, its fuel consumption is insane. 25mi of electric charge at infinite mpg can do wonders to the overall average, even on a 600mi drive :D
    • I prefer EV Auto mode over EV mode. So much so that I'd like it to be the default mode.
      • EV Auto mode feels more like an enhanced HV mode, with a huge battery vs. the Gen 4's. You can drive fully electric for longer whenever necessary, and HV mode will kick in, often in a subtle way, to avoid using the battery excessively to push the car electrically only at higher speeds.
      • I can usually extend the traction battery's charge for up to 50mi in EV Auto mode, getting on average a better mpg than starting in EV mode, finishing the battery, and then drive in "plain" HV mode.
      • Due to lack of sound or other explicit feedback, it is unclear if and how much in EV Auto mode the gas engine is actually pushing the front wheels. Indeed the MFD's energy flow monitor shows that the gas engine is also driving the front wheels, but there is no feeling that it is actually doing it.
      • It is not apparent when the Prime decided to warm up the gas engine before using it in HV or to push the car. It seems simply to spring up from total quietness when necessary.
    • In HV mode, I definitely need to push the gas pedal more than the Gen 4 at the same speeds (often in the red PWR zone.) The 300 pounds I mentioned before clearly play a role. But somehow, the HV fuel consumption is still impressive. How do they achieve that? I'd really like to know.
    • I can confirm that the (giant) screen on the 2021 Prime has a non-reflective coating. Absolutely no issue with sun-glare.
    • Sometimes music playback over BT with an iPhone 11 experiences glitches. Never had this issue with the Gen 4. No problems, instead, when using Apple's Car Play.
    • Apple Car Play is really helpful. It is a pity it is not wireless. I also wish I could make the sidebar icons a tad more prominent (no options found anywhere) as they are small and a bit of a hit-and-miss when driving.
    • Using a 110V plug in the garage is not as much of a burden as I'd thought it would be. I charge the car only at night, set it to be ready by 7am. Therefore charging time is not an issue.
      • I never do "top-ups" during the day. I fuelled only twice in 1500mi so far, so I can help the fuel moving. I also don't have to plug it in and unplug it each time I need to go for another short trip around town. The overall fuel consumption is so low that I don't really care if I do some miles using the gas engine. And it helps in calculating how much it costs to drive the Prime (see comments below about it.)
    • I don't really care about the in-built navigation system in any car. I find this one to be clumsy and, in 3-4 years, it will be obsolete. But to get the head-up display (an excellent safety feature standard on all trims on the Gen 4s sold in Europe,) I had to get the Limited trim. Shame on Toyota USA for not offering the HUD as a standard feature on all Prii. The price difference would be negligible vs. the safety benefits of a HUD.
      • I'd rather have a big screen with Apple Carplay/Android Auto only and leave only the hardware-related functions to show up on the screen (i.e., HVAC, radio, BT music, and so on.)
      • Why car manufacturers insist on offering a navigation system when everybody has a mobile phone with the latest and greatest crowd-sourced navigation system with real-time traffic and up-to-date maps is beyond me. To make money, maybe?
    • Although limited in functionality, the iOS Toyota app helps see battery charge levels and can turn on the AC to make sure the car is warm/cold before you drive it. I wonder if it will be of any help, though, when I need to schedule the first service.
    • Talking of service, I find it absurd that a car runs a significant portion of its life using electricity still requires service like a regular car (i.e., every 5k miles.) Does the engine oil or other fluid go bad? Shouldn't the car tell me when it needs to be serviced based on actual gas engine use and time passed?
    • I don't think I will monitor mpg on this car anymore as I did with the Gen 4.
      • The information from the MFD is almost useless. The exact mix of gas and electricity from the plug that is used during a trip is unknown. The EV Ratio does not distinguish between the electricity from the plug vs. the one generated by the engine and regenerative braking. The average energy consumption is not reported as either an equivalent MPGe (converting MPG into MPGe) or in MPG (i.e., converting MPGe into MPG).
      • Is the average MPG shown for the ODO a real, meaningful value? What if I fuel the car once over 3000mi? Will the average be based on the portion of those miles driven with gas only, or what else?
      • I think it practically impossible to know how many miles have been driven using the gas or the electricity I put in. And how that affects the overall mpg of the car. I have decided instead to simply keep track of how much I spend on fuel and electricity and calculate a $/mi driven. This metric is easier to keep track of and will give me a good idea of how much it costs to drive the car. Fuel consumption, in the end, is a measure of the same thing. I can calculate the same metric from the data I have from the Gen 4, adjusting for fuel price (in Europe, fuel costs about 4x more than in the USA.)
      • The fact that, in 1500 mi, I have fuelled the car only twice (and I still have more than a quarter tank) is all the information I need to know. This car sips almost no fuel if you limit yourself to 100 mi (or less) trips and start with a full battery. And filling the battery from the plug is, mile per mile, significantly cheaper than buying gas (according to my calculations, about 35% cheaper.)
    • CHG mode is useful when arriving in a city after a long trip on the highway. It doesn't seem to affect the fuel consumption much in these types of trips. I think that using it in other scenarios ends up being a waste of fuel.
      • Once I have some routine in my driving habits or find a repeatable and long enough drive (e.g., 100mi), I'd like to run some tests. Starting, e.g., with a full depleted battery in HV mode only for an entire tank/trip and then do the same, engaging CHG mode once and then drive the rest of the way in EV Auto. I wonder what differences in average fuel consumption I will get. I haven't found yet on the forums here or elsewhere on the web a clear indication of how CHG mode affects overall gas-related mpg. Otherwise said, how much does it "cost" to charge the battery to 100% (actually 80%) using CHG mode.
    • It is nice to heat up the car without having the gas engine run (go heat pump, go!)
    • I didn't bother using the driving modes. I don't think they help at all with fuel consumption and are mostly a marketing gimmick.
      • In the Gen 4, supposedly, PWR mode would enable more firm steering and more engine braking (apart from the higher gas pedal response.) ECO mode would simply dampen the accelerator's response.
      • In the Gen 3, ECO mode was essential for me in winter city traffic to avoid wasting fuel in heating the car when standing still at traffic lights. It reduced "wind chill" from the HVAC by blowing cooler air at a lower fan speed instead of hotter air faster.
      • In both Gen 3 and Gen 4, all modes could access the drivetrain's full power by simply flooring the gas pedal.
      • Are there any firm indications of what ECO mode and PWR mode do in the Prime, apart from gas pedal response variations?
    • I have used 87 octane gas so far. I have been told by the dealer that 85 octane at high altitude could be used. Any thoughts about this? Can 85 octane be used safely on the Prime?
    • The TSS2.0 is a noticeable improvement over version 1.0 (which I had on the Gen 4.)
      • Automatic headlights finally are not blinding incoming traffic.
      • At least here in the USA, the road traffic sign reading works as advertised.
      • The LKA with active steering is a bit annoying and tends to wobble a bit, but still an improvement over the TSS1.0.
    • I have discovered why in the USA the Prime is not sold with adaptive LED headlights: meh.
    • Last but not least: at traffic lights, you can easily beat all other cars, except Teslas!, in EV mode. :D

    I think that is it from my side for now. More use and more experience with it will allow me to share more about my Prime. Thanks for reading! :)
     
    #1 pakitt, Apr 1, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
  2. Mendel Leisk

    Mendel Leisk Senior Member

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    Gotta come back and read this when I’ve got time. Thank you, lots to digest.
     
  3. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

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    Thanks, just going to answer of your questions.
    The bigger battery helps. It takes more energy to get the added weight moving, the battery's higher capacity can capture a higher amount of regen energy than the hybrid's much smaller pack.

    As you guess its about making money, with the Nav system paired with other features people want. Big corporations also tend to be slow to change.

    As for mobile phones, some car companies offer a Nav solution that makes use of the phone. GM had one for the Spark and Sonic, maybe other models. The app was around $50. It had maps that were downloaded to the phone, and it integrated with car's head unit so everything was displayed there instead of mounting the phone somewhere in view. Toyota also has such an app, but the few that have used here had negative comments for it.

    As for HUD, Toyota was aiming for lowest price point with the base trim here. For Europe, perhaps they felt more features were needed as standard with the import tax adding to the price tag. The Prius also has more in house competition from all three types of Corolla hybrid.
    This is something Toyota has chosen to not update, and it could be at dealers request. GM and Honda both have monitoring systems that track engine use and climate. GM, at least, was using it before they had hybrids.
    The Prime is a variant of the Prius. As such, things of low priority weren't changed. The %EV metric the Prime uses is the same one as the Prius. So tracking the miles for just HV or EV mode is impossible.

    The best you can do is track number of charges, estimate the amount of electricity if you don't have the means to measure it, and then calculate MPGe when the tank gets filled. Shouldn't be an issue to have any computer calculate it, but a car doing so isn't likely as MPGe is a US thing. Fuelly isn't doing it either, and I haven't heard of anybody else doing so for PHEVs.
    Should be the same as the Prius, as I haven't seen mention of it being different. B gear is different from the Prius though. While the battery isn't fully charged, it results in more regen braking. When the battery is full, it behaves like B in a Prius.
    Shouldn't be any problem. The ECU has enough range in what it can adjust to safely run the engine on octane a little lower than the manual calls for, so forgetting to put 87 in before getting to the lowlands should also be fine.

    The only time the manual recommended octane needs to be used in higher elevations is with engines that have a charger(turbo or super), as that is pumping the intake air pressures back up to sea level and higher.
    The entire vehicle code needs an overhaul, but the involved agencies need to go ahead from above first
     
  4. JGC61

    JGC61 Member

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    Great review.
    Thanks
    My first gas fill up at 525 miles was 1.1 Gallons.
    Traded my 2017 Advanced for a 2021 Limited.
    The 2021 plug in battery seems to get a greater distance than my 2017.
    This is my forth Prius.
     
  5. FuelMiser

    FuelMiser Senior Member

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    Excellent writeup! About the need to push the gas pedal more in HV mode: could be ICE produces less power at Denver altitude than Germany. Tradeoff is you get better MPG because less fuel is mixed per volume with the thinner air than at lower altitudes.
    This is discussed extensively on the Prime forum. Consensus seems to be follow Toyota guidance of 10K mile oil changes with 0W-20 oil. You did realize you could go 10K miles between oil changes in your 2016? That's the USA spec at least.
    We've had three generations of Prius hybrids (no Prime) in Colorado since 2005 and have used 85 Octane exclusively in all with no problems. Our current Gen 4 gets near 60 mpg in summer, less in winter due to needing the ICE for cabin heat. The 85 octane is available at altitudes above 5,000 feet.
     
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  6. pakitt

    pakitt Senior Member

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    Thank you for all the comments and compliments!

    To add your posts above.
    • At delivery, I was given a Toyota leaflet (see attached) for the 2-year Toyota care, that states clearly that I need to go for checks every 6 months. After 2 years, I wonder - I didn't check the maintenance manual yet.
    • Considering the price of gas and the added bonus of "cheap miles" with electricity, I think I will just use 87 all the time - the price difference is negligible. Electricity here is also really cheap vs. Germany. There I paid 0.25€/kWh (19% VAT included; from renewables - there is no other choice since 5-6 years in Munich, where I used to live, if you use the municipal provider; other providers are not much cheaper either). Here in Colorado I pay 0.11$/kWh net (0.16$kWh, on average, when including all taxes and fees, which are not proportional to the amount of kWh used per bill), which is a third (!!) of Munich's prices at today's exchange rate. Unless I start to drive thousands and thousands of miles, getting 85 Octane, assuming I find it to save, e.g. 20$c/gallon, is not going to make much of a dent to overall finances. I already own one of the most efficient drivetrains out there!
    • I found this website/app:
      Colorado Gas Prices - Find Cheap Gas Prices in Colorado
      • Of course (!) Colorado is one of the most expensive in the country (
        Average Prices By State - Colorado Gas Prices
        ) - 2.88$/gal. But California, ouch! 3.9$/gal! Still better than the current average price in Munich, 1.45€/L, that is 6.52$/gal. Germany fuel prices are actually fairly moderate. Some other EU states have even higher taxes (the base price of fuel is the more or less the same worldwide, I guess - taxes make the difference), and you can easily reach 7$/gal (like in Italy right now - it has reached 8$/gal...)
    Toyota doesn't sell the Gen 4 Prius anymore in Germany (full list of what they sell as hybrids, here). They only sell the Prime (base price, 38k€, 19% VAT included - that is, 45k$!) They have so many other hybrid models (many of which are not sld in the USA,) that I am not surprised they removed the Prius from their line up. It has never sold well in Germany (but much better in other markets) - all the reviews said that it was ugly - from Gen 3 onwards. I think I saw like 5 Prii in Munich last I checked in 2018. Expect of course taxis. But the Prius V/+ doesn't sell anymore either.

    I never used B, even on the Gen 4 (or Gen 3.) The only use I saw for it, as per manual, when driving downhill and want to engage the ICE braking before the battery gets full (and ICE braking is used regardless to disperse the energy in heat) or before your mechanical brakes start to fail. In regular driving, I have always used D.


    Munich is at 500m/1500ft. Denver and surrounding areas are at 1500m/5000+ ft - that surely makes a difference, now that you point that out. Thanks for mentioning it, didn't think about it.

    In Germany for the Gen 4 the services where, from the start, once a year or every 10.000km. A compromise between what I am seeing in the leaflet today and what seems to be Toyota's mandated service period after 2 years (?).

    On the website above for fuel prices there is no mention of 85 octane fuel - just "Regular Gas" - I'll have to check closely next time I go fuel up.

     

    Attached Files:

  7. FuelMiser

    FuelMiser Senior Member

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    When you read the maintenance schedule, you'll see the 5K, 15K services are inspections and tire rotations only. Only the 10K, 20K mile services are for oil/filter change. The brochure you attached actually depicts oil changes on the 10K and 20K services only with the icon for the oil can added to the other items. Your maintenance reminder (just like the 2016 Gen 4) comes on every 5K miles since last reset. There is no reminder for time between service. For the odd 5K service reminders, I simply reset the counter since I do not do tire rotations. If you decide to take it to the dealer for the "free" first 2 years, don't be surprised to be coaxed into paying for extra things that are not specified in the maintenance manual.
    I think you'll be surprised by the price difference between 85 Octane and 87 Octane in Colorado. Currently it is 37 cents/gallon difference in Monument. For local gas prices, I use GasBuddy.com (or the App) to find the best prices for my location.
     
  8. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    Congrats on your new PP. There seems to be growing PP owners in Colorado. The larger traction battery must come in handy on those long downhill. lol

    Just a few comments on your excellent review.
    Maybe your driving terrain or the way you drive is different than mine. For me, EV Auto did absolutely nothing. It was always the same as driving in EV mode until there is no more charge left and then it switches to HV mode. I had no switching between EV to HV during EV Auto mode for my normal commuting drives.

    5K service is just for tire rotation and fluid level inspections. When it was free, I took my car to a dealer to get free ice cream and shopping done in the city, but after the Toyota Care expired, I skipped 5K service and just did tire rotation at the time of winter and spring tire change.

    Yap, I agree. MPG on the display has no meaning unless you never plugin and charge the traction battery.

    Real in a sense that is the miles driven divided by the gas used. However, if you drive less than 25 miles every trip on EV mode only and never fire a gas engine, your number is waaaay off. The car will display 999.9mpg in this case, but it should be infinity. lol

    After some playing with numbers I can extract from eco diary and other data output, I did manage to come up with a formula that gave me a good estimation of miles driven in HV mode vs miles driven in EV mode and efficiency number as well as cost difference.

    Try using heat when the ambient temp is below 20F. In my two PP, the heat pump was not efficient enough to heat the cabin in most of the winter months. I switched to HV mode as soon as I started the car in the morning to use the engine heat during my morning commute.
     
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  9. pakitt

    pakitt Senior Member

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    Thanks for all the replies and comments. Much appreciated!

    One thing I noticed yesterday, is that the Prime does not have dual zone climate control like the Gen 4 had in Europe (at least I didn't see a setting for it). Is dual zone AC sold at all in the US market?

    Regarding EV Auto - it must be the very hill terrain here. Even the highway is hilly. I think therefore that EV Auto plays a bigger role in engaging the ICE than it would in a flat landscape.
    Sometimes I hear the ICE running (also on the energy flow monitor on the MFD), and the indicator does not switch to MPG... That weirds me out - why showing kWh/mile if you are using the ICE?

    I don't like much the fact that I need to decide when not to use EV mode only. Or press EV Auto every time I turn on the car. Even the user's manual hints to the fact that "if you drive on the highway, you should stop EV mode". It is 2021, it should be all automatic. The battery consumption on the highway is pretty steep in any case, and I don't see what is the benefit of using the battery on a highway anyway. The battery is not big enough to sustain a long enough trip on the highway. I understand that the idea is to commute to work, plug it in there, and drive back and plug it at home. But if you cannot do that, using the battery on the highway is a waste when you then have to drive back and hit traffic or slower speeds, on the way back. In EV Auto mode, at least on this terrain, I can do a whole 50-60mi trip with 100+ mpg on a single charge. Otherwise said, I can spread the benefits of EV driving on a longer stretch of road, rather than zap it in the first part of the trip, where maybe the EV only mode was not necessarily more efficient.
    Am I ranting? :D
     
    #9 pakitt, Apr 5, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2021
  10. GSK

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    I think I read somewhere here that this indicates that the engine is warming up, so the battery is still the power source for moving the car.
     
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  11. Tideland Prius

    Tideland Prius Moderator of the North
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    Dual automatic climate control was never available in the US.

    There’s also no “FAST” mode for our climate control.
     
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  12. Salamander_King

    Salamander_King Senior Member

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    Since we got PathHy with dual climate control (actually triple zone climate control including rear seats) DW would not ride with me in a car without her own temp control. Often she has heater blasting for her side while I keep my side with AC (cool). LoL

    Posted via the PriusChat mobile app.
     
  13. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

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    I made a trip in my 2012 PiP from Denver to Los Angeles doing about 80 mph most of the way and averaged 48 mpg. Not shabby at all for going over Loveland Pass at those kind of speeds.
     
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  14. pakitt

    pakitt Senior Member

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    So I went to fuel up the other day at the local Circle K and attached you see the prices that I have found.
    There are 0.45$ price difference between 85 and 87 Octane fuel. Yikes! That is quite the rip off IMHO for what the price difference pays for.

    Now, if I follow the manual and considering how NOT often I fuel this Prime, in the grand scheme of things fueling with 87 does not have seem to have that much of an impact on my finances. Moreover the user's manual states "Using unleaded gasoline with an octane number or rating lower than the level previously stated will cause persistent heavy knocking. At worst, this will lead to engine damage." (page 741)

    For example:
    • I fueled 7.646gal (BTW the pump clicked a lot sooner than full....), hence paid 7.646*0.45$ = 3.45$ more than 85 octane fuel. That sounds like a lot (and it is), but....
    • This is my third fill up in 1660mi. According to the Prime MFD, 46% of those miles so far are "electric" (EV Ratio). But we don't know where this electricity comes from in that number: regenerated or from the plug?
    • I charged the Prime 16 times since purchase for an average of 85% charge. So let's say I have driven an average of 20mi in EV mode. This means that 16x20mi=320mi of those currently in the ODO were driven EV only. That is, 320/1660=20%, are driven with electricity from the plug. The rest is HV driving.
    • If I drive 10kmi a year in the same way as of today, 8k miles are going to be driven in HV. Assuming, optimistically I agree, that the average fuel consumption will be 50mpg, I will need 8000/50 = 160gal of gas to drive those 8k miles.
    • Considering the 0.45$ price difference, this means 0.45*160 = 72$ in "octane tax" to get fuel with those 2 extra octanes required by the user's manual.
    • The more I drive in EV Mode, the lower this "octane tax" will be.
    If I were to drive all of the 10k miles in HV mode, that would require 10000/50 = 200gal, which means 0.45*200 = 90$ of "octane tax".

    Because this cars sips so little fuel and because with EV driving the fuel consumption is even lower (currently the lifetime mpg is 71.5mpg), getting 87 octane fuel is not such a big financial impact.
    What I don't trust though is the MFD optimistic estimation of the mpg driven. On my Gen 4 it was 6% optimistic, a bit too much for my taste. Do we know how accurate is the MFD on the Prime?

    When I get my car serviced in 5 months' time (i.e., for the tire rotation etc.) I am going to ask the dealer what I can put in and see what they say. If they reiterate that 85 is OK, as long as you are in high elevation like in Colorado, I will fuel with 85 and use the 80$ or so, saved in a year, to go to a restaurant to get a burger. We last week to Red Robin around here, and for 2 burgers and 2 beers we paid 50$ - yikes!

    PS: I just found out on Wikipedia that E10 in Germany is RON95 and MON85, so the US equivalent would be 90. No wonder I never had problems. "Regular" at 87, is actually 3 units lower than what I put in my Gen 4 Prius back in Germany. Putting less than 87 here seems to be "pushing it."

    tempImageVVzPRF.png
     
    #14 pakitt, Apr 9, 2021
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2021
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  15. Tideland Prius

    Tideland Prius Moderator of the North
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    Outside of Colorado, there are midgrade tiers (89 octane) which I suppose would be similar to what you're used to in Germany.

    I wouldn't worry about 87 octane as it's the standard regular grade fuel that the majority of vehicles in North America use.

    Also, $50 at Red Robins for 2 burgers and 2 beers does seem really expensive but I guess COVID pushed up all the prices in restaurants and groceries.
     
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  16. pakitt

    pakitt Senior Member

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    It was actually 54$, including 20% tip (which was due, they did very well and took care of all COVID related social distancing rules).
    So it was more 45$, still a bit too much for 2 burgers and 2 beers (they were not Coors Light, but still....). :D
     
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  17. Prodigyplace

    Prodigyplace Senior Member

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    The reason for the 5K / 6 month service it to give the dealer the opportunity to sell you high profit service. That is how dealerships make most of their money.

    Elon Musk was correct. The Dealer model is not good for low maintenance BEVs. No incentive to sell them.
     
  18. pakitt

    pakitt Senior Member

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    I managed to register my Prime today. Colorado State Law says I need to have license plates also at the front of the car. How do you put the license plate at the front of the car? there are no clear point to anchor/attach the license plate on the front bumper...!
    How did you solve the problem of attaching the license plate to the rounded (not-flat) front bumper of the Prime?
     
  19. PiPLosAngeles

    PiPLosAngeles Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2012
    1,011
    454
    0
    Vehicle:
    2021 Prius Prime
    Model:
    LE
    Yours doesn't look like this?

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Trollbait

    Trollbait It's a D&D thing

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2006
    16,420
    7,705
    0
    Location:
    eastern Pennsylvania
    Vehicle:
    Other Non-Hybrid
    A front bumper plate mount should have been installed by the dealer. With Oregon and Pennsylvania the only states I know of not requiring front plates, I'm surprised this wasn't done for your Prime.

    May not actually be acceptable legally, but I've heard of companies making vinyl decals of the plate for use on the front when you don't want the mounting bracket installed.
     
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