Early last year I tried to find a “greener” alternative to the medium sized SUV I had been driving for several years. An extra push was given by my friends who were questioning my sustainability efforts at the winery while still driving the SUV. The Toyota Prius was my first choice, but with gas at $4.50 a gallon and countless people searching for fuel efficient cars, it was at the top of everyone else’s list as well. Needless to say, finding one was next to impossible. My local Toyota dealer wanted a $2,500 dealer premium to put me on a waiting list. Imagine that! So I went back to work on other items on our sustainability list.
Strangely, when gas prices went down no one wanted the Prius.
A few weeks ago, I received a call from the dealer who was now willing to discount the car $2,500. What a difference a few months make! So I bought the thing and I have to admit, I like it more than I thought I would. My first fill up was $35 (a bottle of Super T) and I’ve gone back and forth to the office twice with the fuel needle barely budging from “F.” Even better, the little car actually rides nicely. It has decent acceleration and there is plenty of room inside. The dash is like a video game with an electric motor, battery and engine with a bunch of arrows that tell you what’s happening. I’m sure the novelty will soon wear off but for now it’s pretty useful to figure how to get the most out of every gallon of gas.
For all of you who have been sitting on the fence when it comes to switching to a hybrid, I recommend you take advantage of the low gas prices and lack of demand and get one while they are still affordable. By the way, I also drove the new Honda Insight, which is somewhat smaller, and liked it too. I probably would have chosen the Insight if I did not need to have three rear seat passengers on occasion. I hear Toyota is releasing a somewhat improved model of the Prius for 2010 and that it will have more power and be priced the same as the current model. However, when the economy recovers and gas prices jump again, expect demand to increase and the bargains to decrease.
Speaking of sustainability efforts, it looks like the economic stimulus package will give huge incentives to install and operate solar panels at the winery. We have hired a consultant to evaluate this alternative so don’t be surprised if you see some changes to our rooflines. In theory we should be able to run most of the winery on solar power, particularly on those hot summer days when our air conditioning demand is so high. The jury is still out on cost and benefits but I’m pretty sure we will be making a decision soon.
We continue with all our efforts to conserve energy and to lower our environmental footprint. There is so much to talk about that we have added dedicated page to our website and blog so you can give your feedback and, if possible, get ideas on how to reduce your own footprint. As always, we thank you for your support and hope to see you at the winery soon.