Rocky Mountain Driving

Discussion in 'Gen 2 Prius Main Forum' started by rockluvr, Mar 27, 2004.

  1. rockluvr

    rockluvr New Member

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    Ok, it pains me to have to post this, but... The Prius did a terrible job of climbing up the mountain passes on my trip this last week. The trip was from Denver, CO to Grand Junction, CO and back along I-70. For those that don't know there are several mountain passes that require many miles of steep up hill climbs. Since getting the car in Dec. I've only done one short drive to Evergreen, CO (this is all uphill from Denver and the car did fine.) However, on this trip, on the drive up to the Eisenhower Tunnel from Denver nearing the tunnel after climbing for maybe 45 minutes, I couldn't go faster than 45 - 50 mph. At that, the engine was very loud and it was struggling. :cry: On these up mountain climbs, the battery shows one pink bar within a minute or two of climbing (going from full green to pink) so the car is relying entirely on the ICE. Now you should know that this is a change in elevation from ~5300 feet to more than 10,000 feet. The weather was warm (in the 70s when we left Denver and in the 50s and 60s in the mountains) and no snow on the road. I remember reading a similar post from someone (also from Colorado) in this forum, but when they did the trip, it was in winter conditions with a strong headwind as I recall.

    Ok, now for the good news. Other than that, the car did very well. In fact, on the way to Grand Junction, CO (on the western slope of Colorado near the Utah state line) I got 52.2 mpg via CPU. On the return trip with my husband driving (no babying the car with him-strictly pedal to the metal - often at speeds of 80 mph), the overall mileage was 50.5 mpg! :flame:

    If I had to do a lot of mountain driving, I could not recommend the Prius - it simply could use a bit more power. Luckily I don't do trips like that too often and for around town, I love it.
     
  2. Hoagie

    Hoagie New Member

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    A friend of mine was telling me he had read a review about the Prius by someone in a similar situation. He mentioned that the writer indicated he had to stop every 30-45 minutes to get the battery recharged. Not sure where this drive took place though.

    Thankfully, I live in the nice flatness that is Ohio. :lol:
     
  3. Ken Cooper

    Ken Cooper New Member

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    The Eisenhower tunnel is at over 11,000 feet in elevation straddling the continental divide. It's the highest vehicular tunnel in the world. Several years ago, my wife and I, on vacation, approached that tunnel and thought our fine Audi Diesel was going to die. It was chugging, whumping, spewing terrible black smoke, and moving along at just a few miles per hour. It's scarry going into a tunnel like that wondering if your car's life might simply come to an end right there in the middle of it. Once we made it through and down the mountain about thousand feet or so, the car started running in normal fashion.

    Did you know that when flying in unpressurized planes (with me, the old P2V) it's mandentory to wear oxygen masks above 10,000 feet (reasoning becomes affected). There's really not that much air up there. I doubt there are many cars that normally reside at lower elevations that have an easy time of it up there in that thin air.

    But I agree with you on one point, if I had to drive it frequently, I'd own either a turbo-charged or super-charged car (a car that can compress what little air there is for proper combustion.

    Your story brought back fun memories.

    Thanks,

    Ken
     
  4. jeffrey

    jeffrey New Member

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    Well, it ain't the Rockies, but it is somewhat comparable in that it contrasts elevation effects: On Thu and Fri this week I made identical high speed trips in mileage, but not in terrain. Thursday was the roundtrip to Albany NY, passing thru the second highest I-90 elevation in the US (1734 feet) and generally running 1000+ feet above sea level (I live at about 100 feet elevation, on a river). Friday was the roundtrip to Newport RI, almost all at 100 feet or less of elevation. Temperatures both days were pretty similar- 40s initially rising into the 60s both days, and both trips were about 225 miles at mostly 70-75mph. The high terrain trip averaged about 42mpg, but the low terrain trip was closer to 47. I learn something every day :)

    Peace
     
  5. rockluvr

    rockluvr New Member

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    Hoagie - We only stopped once (not for gas) for a bathroom break. It is a ~ a 4 hour drive. I don't see how stopping would recharge the battery. Besides, the battery recharges on the downslopes all the way (all green bars) and then when climbing within a minute or two is completely discharged to one pink bar.

    Well, Ken, I can say the Prius didn't chug, whump, or spew black smoke! It was just slow and the engine was loud and couldn't go any faster. We were able to pass the slowest 18 wheelers, but most others were passing us. I will also say that my husband and I have traveled in the mountains many times before (he in his Geo Metro and me in my Subaru) and I don't remember having to go this slow. Anyway, for my normal drives in metro Denver and the foothills, it does fine.
     
  6. aforkosh

    aforkosh Active Member

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    What are people's experiences climbing the Sierra Nevada from the California Central Valley on the freeway routes (I-80 or Highway 50)? Classic or 2004?

    For those not familiar with these routes, they are 4 to 6 lane freeways, going from near sea level to over 7,000 feet in about 80 miles.
     
  7. plusaf

    plusaf plusaf

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    high altitude driving...

    my '82 Isuzu did the same at 5-6000 feet going over the Sierra Nevada passes on I80 in California.
    turned out to also have a clogged fuel filter.
    if it spit smoke at red-line, i knew the filter needed changing...
     
  8. rdverb

    rdverb New Member

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    I recently drove from Monterey on the coast to South Lake Tahoe over Echo Summit (73xx ft summit, 6300 ft Lake level, about 65 deg during the day). The Prius did fine, considering the road is 2-lane and windy almost all the time it's over 4000 ft, about 90 miles.

    I was able to hold 45-50 mph when the turns didn't require less speed for comfort (nobody likes a barfing wife or dog while on vacation). I've driven through Eisenhower Tunnel years ago and as I recall, the uphill gradient is quite steep and relentless for quite a few miles. US50's steep sections aren't very long and there are sections interspersed that are relatively flat or even downhill for a ways.

    Mileage going up was under 40 and over 60 coming down. With the added 4.5 hours of freeway driving, part of which must be done at 75 to keep from being run over, the average was normal for me - about 45 mpg.

    The engine raced quite a bit when the SOC got down low, but it never indicated less than about 20-30%. In another thread, another driver and I both reported no loss of seat of pants feel of power while at altitude - after SOC returned to normal, of course.

    I felt the Prius was a little lacking in comfort on the long (5.5 hr) drive, but it's probably associated more with my old bones than anything else.

    In my normal runabout mode, the Prius is just fine.
     
  9. aforkosh

    aforkosh Active Member

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    Sierra Experiences

    Last month I drove from the San Francisco Bay Area to Lake Tahoe via I-80 over Donner Summit. I reset the consumption screen at Roseville (in the Valley, about 200 ft elevation--just before the climb) and at Donner Summit (7200 ft), travelling both ways. Distance between the two is about 73 miles.

    Going up, I kept the car between 60 and 65mph all the way up. I was keeping up with traffic and felt that I had a reserve for quick acceleration, even when the battery meter got down to 2 bars near the top. Note that since my speed stayed within the narrow range, I never had to do a hard acceleration. I averaged 35.7 mpg on the ascent.

    On the return trip, I averaged 80.0 mpg for this stretch. I stopped at Gold Run (about 33 miles from the summit at an elevation of about 3200 ft.). At that point I was getting 97.4 mpg. In general, I descended smoothly, keeping the speed between 60 and 70 mph, letting gravity handle the downhill accelerations.

    As a footnote, on the relatively flat 95 miles between home and Roseville, I averaged 53mpg going and 49.4 mpg returning. Prevailing winds would have been a tailwind going and a headwind returning. Return mileaage probably would have been a bit worse if I had not encountered a slowdown on the interstate around Sacramento because of an NBA playoff game at ARCO arena.

    Final footnote: My around town mileage has been about 47 mpg. My 20 mile commute does involve a climb from near sea level to about 700 ft in the first 4 miles and a rolling descent to work. On the return, I usually have to deal with a fairly strong headwind. Traffic in both directions flows smoothly except for stop-and-go traffic for 1/2 to 1 mile at the top of climb due to the narrowing of the freeway from 4 lanes to 2 lanes to reverse commute through the Caldecott Tunnel.
     
  10. DaveinOlyWA

    DaveinOlyWA 3rd Time was Solariffic!!

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    hmmm i dont think that 1734 feet qualifies as 2nd highest since Snoqualmie Pass is about 3010 feet and Stampede Pass is 3800 feet and those are the "Low Passes" in WA St. on I-90. If you want so high passes, then try the North Cascades Scenic Highway. It has some of the most breathtaking mountain highway views anywhere in the world. Keep in mind that because of snow, the road is only open a few months a year in the summer.

    actually considering that most of the first 150 miles or so of I-90 is higher than 1700 feet... but then again you of course realize that Boston was an afterthought where I-90 is concerned dont you??

    :wink:
     
  11. DonDNH

    DonDNH Senior Member

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    and that at the Boston end of I90, the Ted Williams Tunnel is below sea level.
     
  12. DaveinOlyWA

    DaveinOlyWA 3rd Time was Solariffic!!

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    very true but what a tunnel!!

    i saw a special on "Modern Marvels" about the tunnel. it was quite an engineering feat to say the least!
     
  13. DonDNH

    DonDNH Senior Member

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    It should be spectacular. It and the rest of the Big Dig cost the taxpayers of the US upwards of $14.1 Billion last I heard.
     
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