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Toyota Prius c about the same size as its Yaris sibling. It’s better equipped inside though, and it packs a vastly more complicated powertrain.

Toyota Prius c about the same size as its Yaris sibling. It’s better equipped inside though, and it packs a vastly more complicated powertrain.

Toyota’s smaller rendition of Prius hybrid, the Prius c, lives up to its urban-use billing. Pity PH laws deny it a lower price

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THEY have costly components. They are costly to build. As a result, they have pricey tags when they land on showroom floors. We’re talking of hybrid cars, and the Toyota Prius c is one of the best examples of such.

At any local Toyota dealership, the Prius c has a sticker price ranging from P1.475 million to P1.540 big ones. To think the Prius c is already the small brother to the green car poster boy that is the Prius. (The “c” in its name stands for city—obviously the environment in which Toyota pitches this little thing as the perfect ride.)

Hybrids—whether they be full (like the Prius and Prius c), plug-in, mild or other mutations—can’t be sold as cheaply as cars with conventional internal combustion engines. And that’s simply because of the obvious fact that hybrids don’t stop at packing a conventional engine underneath them, but add an expensive electric motor and batteries into the mix.

In the Prius c’s case, another pricey addition to its hybrid system is an inverter, which basically harnesses wasted energy coming from when the car is coasting on engine power or during braking, to help charge the battery. This energy, in turn, supplies the juice to the high-output 60hp electric motor, which can exclusively propel the car for brief periods. When the battery pack’s electric juice level dips, the car’s 1.5-liter, 73hp engine switches on to run the wheels, as well as charge the electric motor. It’s all symbiotic, this, and the objective, of course, is to cut fuel consumption and emissions.

To consider the Prius c’s advantage in mileage—in almost a week of driving it to work, plus a blast up to Clark Field in Pampanga on a weekday, I averaged 17 kilometers to a liter—as an equalizer for its price tag, however, is incorrect. In terms of size, it’s about similar to its Yaris sibling (and as cleverly packaged with seating for five), which costs roughly half. When it comes to refinement, the Prius c tops the Vios but only approximates a Corolla Altis—both Toyotas are cheaper, by P300,000 for the Altis’s top-specvariant. Most likely, it will take more than a decade to recoup the car’s purchase price through fuel savings.

The best way to make the Prius c work out cost-wise, and thus appeal to a wider range of consumers other than the affluent “e-conscientious” set, is for certain fiscal incentives to come into play. This is the way it is done in the markets in which the Prius c and cars of its ilk are enjoying some degree of popularity; their governments are slashing taxes off them, offering perks like the use express lanes on highways regardless of their passenger count, or a combination of these. With such measures, hybrids’ price tags are reduced to a more competitive level, or the cost of owning them makes better sense.

In the long run, when more and more people turn to hybrids, economies of scale will kick in, which should also make these cars cheaper.

There’s actually a pending Hybrid Law in the Philippines, which will offer tax breaks and other incentives to manufacturers of such vehicles. But the progress at which it moves to get it passed is glacial, even stalling every now and then. The likely reason, not surprisingly, is that the very concept of the proposed law—lowering (or eliminating) taxes on a commodity—runs counter to pork-loving lawmakers’ instincts. A fatter national coffer is a far more tempting thing to dip one’s hooves into, right?

The supposed benefits, then, that the Prius c (or any other hybrid and electric vehicle) offers just become prohibitive for most car buyers, those who want to do the planet and themselves a bit of green-good.

And that’s just sick.

 

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