Prius runs the 'Ring on 84ml of fuelComment on this story
Nurburg, Germany - Three-digit records are nothing new at the Nurburgring, the arena of choice for carmakers with a point to prove, but until now these numbers have always been about kilometres per hour, not kilometres per litre.
Then Toyota took a Prius Plug-in hybrid to the 'Ring, to show not how fast the car could go, but just how little fuel it could use on a single lap of the notorious Nordschliefe - with no help from any clever technical tweaks or trick bodywork.
Instead, the car ran in traffic during a public session, complying with all the circuit rules - including the 60km/h minimum average speed.
On paper, both the speed requirement and the circuit length (20.81km) seemed within the battery range of the Prius; in theory, the distance could be covered without a drop of petrol being used.
ON THE ROAD, HOWEVER...
Motoring journalist Joe Clifford was tasked with driving duties, using a mechanically standard Prius Plug-in that he'd recently zhoozhed-up with some TRD aftermarket styling parts - which improved the car's appearance rather than making it more fuel-efficient.
In dry, breezy conditions, he completed his lap in 20 minutes and 59 seconds at an average of 59.5km/h (OK Joe, we're not going to shoot you for running 0.5km/h slow; we're sure you were held up in the tight corners by palookas in point-and-squirt muscle-cars!) while using only 84ml - that's less than five tablespoons - of petrol.
That's an average fuel consumption of 0.4 litres per 100km, which is, to put it politely, unrealistic.
What made it possible was the Plug-in Hybrid's energy-dense lithium-ion battery, allowing the car to travel farther and faster on pure electric power than the standard Prius.
Clifford said: "We used no special tricks for this test. We simply fitted low rolling-resistance tyres, charged the battery and drove the lap among all the other public drivers taking the opportunity to experience the challenge of the Nurburgring.
"The 20.81km distance is similar to a typical commuter trip.”
“The difference here is a rise and fall in elevation of about 300 metres, but the petrol engine only cut in once, on one long climb, and then only for a short while.
"Without that, we think we might have even achieved the ultimate 0.00 read-out!"
Toyota has actually set battery-powered lap records at the ‘Ring with its EV P001 and EV P002 racing cars; ironically, the battery cells from the P002 were used to power up the Prius Plug-in for this lap, via Toyota Motorsports' charging truck.
But, says Clifford, this '84ml' lap relates directly to what Prius Plug-in drivers might experience in day-to-day commuting journeys.
COMMENT FROM IOL’S DAVE ABRAHAMS
While it's a neat piece of driving, I don't feel that Mr Clifford has proved anything, other than that a Prius Plug-in can run for more than 20 minutes at 60km/h on battery power alone.
He did not lap the 'Ring on 84ml of petrol; he did so using an undisclosed amount of electrical energy, assisted by a petrol engine that cut in for an undisclosed but admittedly very short period.
Conversely, I challenge Toyota (or anybody else for that matter) to take a petrol-powered four-seater production car off the showroom floor, put four adults with a combined weight of at least 300kg in it, and take it round the Nordschleife in less than 20 minutes.
If you can do that using less than a litre of unleaded, then you've proved something.