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2009 Camry Hybrid

Ok, I got a chance to play with a Camry Hybrid recently. I should disclose my bias, I am not a fan of hybrids. It’s a lot of technology to get fuel economy that can easily be matched by say an efficient diesel engine. And far less parts that wear out like batteries and electric motors. There’s lots to go wrong in the future. That put up front we move on …

The car is quite different at first. There is no key just a fob that gets detected as your close. You depress the brake and push a start button on the dash and if needed that starts up the gas engine.

I have no idea how many changes were made to the Prius system when they built the Camry, little I suspect. Why they did not choose diesel is beyond me. That would have attained impressive fuel economy. VW are looking into that and estimating 75 MPG conservatively.

On the dash is a much simpler display (when compared to the Prius). The gauge can be programmed to show a variety of different data. Everything from trip odometer, fuel economy to the state of the hybrid system. On the left gauge is an instantaneous fuel economy read out.

The hybrid read out shows you how much charge is in the battery, if the gas engine is on, and if the electric motor is being used to drive the wheels, generate power or is doing nothing. The basic states the system can be in are:
– gas engine on only (most common in highway cruising)
– gas and electric assist on (most common during any form or acceleration)
– electric only mode (very rare condition)
– charging the battery (regenerative braking or the car is coasting)

All in all the system transitioned relatively smoothly between the modes. On initial start from a stop the system is relying only on the electric motor while it waits for the gas engine to kick in. This electric motor is not very powerful so your not about to rocket from the start with this car. The gas engine kicks in and then you are really away to the races. Not hat this car could by any means be considered a lively car to drive. Camry’s are very neutral (read uninspiring for me) cars to drive that cater to a smooth reliable car to get from point A to B and the Hybrid is even more relaxed.

The engine is a 2.5l engine mated to what seemed like a CVT transmission but I am not a 100% sure.

The electric motor is good for 105 KW vs 60KW in the Prius. On start up it was almost impossible to keep this car in EV mode. I can see why Toyota don’t think there is much benefit to a plug in version of this car. At least without a rework of the electronics and bumping the motor size. About the only time I saw pure EV mode was backing up or keeping my foot 100% off the gas. And believe me I tried.

When the car is coasting (no acceleration requested by the driver) the system slips into generation mode recharging the battery. The car seemed quite aggressive in entering this mode always keeping the battery VERY charged. I rarely saw it come down much at all.

On the highway at 120 KM/h the gas engine was doing all the work with the electric assist coming in when acceleration was requested.

For a large car, once the battery has taken up it’s space there is very little room in the trunk. When compared to my Taurus it is VERY small. Still lots of room for suit cases, groceries and the like, and maybe a golf bag.

On a 300KM straight highway run I managed a respectable 6.9 l/100km or about 40 MPG. My Taurus which is about the same size would be lucky to achieve 30 MPG but then again it has a V6 and I drive it reasonably hard. So the increase is pretty decent.

Overall this is a well made, solid car with a nice feel (for grandparents). The Hybrid system is a total waste in my opinion and I would put my $$s straight onto a Jetta Diesel instead. The nice thing is unlike the Prius where the car is making a statement in it’s unique styling, this car just looked like a Camry (love it or hate it).

Are we there yet?

EV Mode

Battery Charge

Gas and electric assist

Engine only mode

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February 28, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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