We’re wrapping up what turned out to be a really nice weekend with a niece and two nephews, plus our own boy and girl — seven of us all together. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law took a nice and well-deserved weekend for themselves. It was a lot of kids in a not-so-big house, but we did just fine.
None of the kids got a lot of sleep, except during our ride to the beach when they all conked out within the first 15 minutes of the ride. Aunt K. and Uncle P. (names withheld to protect the innocent) left their Nissan Quest mini-van and yes, we were able to get all seven people in the van. There were three things we realized on our drive to the beach.
First, like our Prius, the Nissan Quest has a fuel economy meter that displays the actual average mileage and current mileage. The average in the Quest was 18.8 MPG. Whoa. The average in my Prius is currently reading 47.8 MPG (which is city + highway). So we could have driven both of our Prii to the beach, had plenty of seating and still would have used less gas! In defense of its owners, the vehicle was purchased a few years ago; I don’t blame anyone for having one of these: it’s what everyone did. Plus, they are watching our kids in a couple weeks so we can have a nice weekend away, and I don’t want to get them angry at me :-)
Second, gas prices are high. Yes, we realized this when we filled up the Quest and paid nearly $60. The most I have paid so far, as gas prices creep up, is $30 for a Prius fill-up. Ok, that sounds snarky, and is not anything new (it has been said the Prius drivers emit “smug”), but it was something that we realized sort of in a kind of “oh, wow, gas prices really are high” kind of way. Our only hope is that they go higher, since there clearly need to be as much incentive for people to buy fuel efficient alternatives. Yes, SUVs are getting hammered, but mini-vans are really kind of the same thing for the most part.
Third, on the way back from the beach, we heard an ad on the radio from a local car dealership. The guy was talking about the Honda Pilot, I think, and used the word “astonishing” to describe its 24 MPG (EPA), which, according to the ad dispels the myth that all SUVs are gas guzzlers. Call it what you will: SUV, Mini-van, truck, car, whatever: a vehicle that gets 24 MPG in 2006 is anything but “astonishing”, it’s a shame, and by that I mean shameful, that we could think of a car with that mileage as being anything but mediocre. This is still one half of what the Prius gets in real life driving. Yes, there are people who use their large vehicles for real jobs, but most people don’t really need SUVs or Mini-vans, or high-performance, or large cars. They just want them. Or perhaps “wanted” them.
No, the Prius is not the solution to all known problems. In fact, its mileage is only good on a relative basis. And yes, it is not large enough to hold seven people, only 5. What makes the vehicle we drove get poor mileage is mainly that it is large and heavy. The main point of all this is that many of the people we talk to, people whom we generally think are progressive, aware, intelligent and make good buying choices in so many other ways still stick to their guns when it comes to the car. I have heard more excuses about why a Prius or any hybrid is not a good choice for prospective car buyers. It is true that it does not cost-justified on fuel alone (at today’s prices). But that’s why gas prices need to go up.
The fourth of my three realizations on the way to the beach was that all 7 of us were traveling in great comfort. Indeed, our comfort was greater than the business class or first class seats of most airlines. We had music, personal cooling and heating, music, and I think the van was fitted for a video player — even an in-flight movie! We all had ample leg-room, arm-room and head-room. Why is it that we are willing to fly coach in horrible, cramped, uncomfortable seats for hours on end, but we need luxury (at the expense of fuel, etc.) in our cars? Sure, it’s nice, but it’s far from necessary.
And a bonus realization was that our parents, who had 4 children and 5 children respectively, sure deserve a lot of credit. Just feeding 5 kids is quite a challenge! But it really helps when they are great kids, and K & P’s kids are wonderful. Now if they could just get their parents to buy a more reasonable vehicle, snark, snark :-)