Oh snap: CR disses Chrysler, meh on Prius

The February 2009 issue of Consumer Reports arrived in my mailbox the other day, with two features of interest: First, they gave out report cards to the Big Three. Two of them did well enough. One of them might have to repeat the school year.

Who gets the Dunce of Detroit hat? To quote from the magazine: “Many Chrysler vehicles rank at the bottom of our Ratings in their categories, and none currently meet our requirements for being recommended.”

Ouch.

The other interesting feature concerned a Toyota Prius they converted into a PHEV with a Hymotion L5 kit from A123 Systems (cost: $10,875) in order to see what kind of fuel efficiency they could achieve and whether the conversion was a money saver. Some results:

- A123 claimed the kit would give them 100 mpg, but at best they saw 87 mpg.
- They could drive an average of 35 miles on the battery alone, and managed 67 mpg overall during that time.
- Once the battery was dead, the car returned to being a normal Prius, except the conversion battery added enough weight to cut their mpg from 42 to 40 overall.
- There was no realistic hope for the consumer to save the $11,000 in fuel costs necessary to break even, but they still found the technology "encouraging."

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