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Thread: Prius in Snow
06-21-2010 04:39 AM #11
Anyone who says that the
Anyone who says that the Prius is anything less than dangerous in slush and snow just hasn't driven it in the conditions that cause every Prius - even with great snow tires - to come to a complete halt and unable to move. I have a 2004 Prius and have driven it through 6 New England winters. The simple fact is that if you find yourself in any situation that causes the wheels to spin in slush or snow the traction control will apply braking to the wheels. If you are on a flat or only slightly inclined surface the intermittent braking will allow the wheels to regain some traction after briefly braking them when wheel spin is sensed. this will allow the car to move haltingly forward. However, if you find yourself going up a steep incline or in snow 4-5 inches deep, the traction control will keep applying/releasing the brakes every couple of seconds,thereby slowing the momentum you need to power up the hill or through the deeper snow even with some wheel spin - as every other car will allow you to do. So, when the system finally brings you to a complete halt on an icy hill, and you try to accelerate, of course the tires are going to need to spin a bit to pull you from a dead stop to a forward motion on a slippery surface. In a normal car, not a big deal. But in a Prius - forget it. The second the wheels spin the brakes are applied and so you go nowhere! One result is that you block every car behind you making it so that they too lose momentum and must try to pass you from a dead stop up a snow hill - which on a road with a single lane in each direction means they must somehow cross in to opposing traffic and pass you from a dead stop on an icy steep hill. This doesn't make you very popular.
In addition, may people don't know that the Prius can only move in reverse in electric mode - the CVT transmission is not capable of applying engine power in reverse. This means that in situations where the car is parked on ice or snow and must reverse to get out, the electric motor does not have the power to back you up - especially if parked on an incline. On top of that, if the electric motor engages the wheels and they spin, the brake is automatically applied, leaving you pushing on a wet noodle of an accelerator pedal.
The situation I have described is not just a description of my unique experience, it is an engineering fact and limitation of all Prius' that goes way beyond snow tires. Sure, good snow tires will help the wheels spin less and thereby not engage the traction control as frequently, but no snow tires can eliminate all wheel slippage. So, I have to conclude that those who rave about Prius in snow have not yet found themselves a steep icy hill with traffic behind them.
I know much has been made of the electronic braking anomaly in the 2010 Prius and Toyota then recalled them - after first denying the problem existed. But I believe that the traction control problem in snow is an extremely dangerous flaw and should also require a recall.