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Archive for October, 2011


Batteries Not Included: Prius + Trick

It’s been about four and a half years since we brought home our new 2007 Toyota “bouncing baby” Prius. We named her “Nuffy 2,” after our beloved house cat (insert your own tragic kitty stories here).

Friends and family called me “stupid” for buying a Prius. They said, “It is a piece of junk with two engines to fail.” I heard it every day, “Why not just buy a cheaper car with 30 miles per gallon? Isn’t that good enough?”

They sound like reasonable questions. So why did I buy a Prius instead of, say, the less expensive Honda Civic? After all, both cars are known for their fuel economy and the Civic is $7000.00 cheaper.

At the time, my wife drove a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which broke down every other month, leaving us a $500 [minimum] repair bill with every trip to the mechanic, and I drove my 1995 Jeep Wrangler that hardly ever needed maintenance.

It was time to trade in the Cherokee for something more reliable and fuel friendly. To clarify, there is absolutely no way we were trading in my Jeep Wrangler. Number one, it is a reliable vehicle. Number two, I LOVE JEEPS! Specifically that Jeep (my baby).

As you can tell by the Jeep comment, I am not an environmentalist by nature. Everything “green” about the Prius is a black stain on the Jeep. But then again, no other car on the planet looks like a Jeep or, in my opinion, oozes as much “rugged cool factor.”

When my wife and I set down to discuss our pending car purchase, the conversation was short and sweet. She said, “I really like the Toyota Prius. It’s cute.”

Introduced to the U.S. market in 2001, the Prius was still relatively new to me at the time, and like most people, I had some preconceived ideas about it. I jumped on the Internet, and right away thought this little car was a rip off. How can you justify a seven thousand dollar premium for this thing, when I could buy a similar vehicle just as nice and probably a better drive?

Well, it came down to the fact we needed a new car, something with good gas mileage, and my wife really thought that Prius was “cute.” In no time, we were Prius owners – our little Nuffy resurrected in Hybrid technology – batteries included!

What in the world is a Prius anyway? The word “prius” is latin for “before.” Toyota chose prius as the name for their new car because it “was launched before environmental awareness became a mainstream social issue.” In a public campaign, Toyota asked what the proper plural form of their Prius should be: Prien, Prii, Prium, Prius, or Priuses. Prii was the most popular choice and is what the company uses in all its advertising when referring to more than one Prius.

For our family, buying a Prius was a wise investment and instant adventure. Driving this car is an exhilarating experience, even rivaling that of my Jeep Wrangler (sorry baby). Simply approaching the Prius unlocks the doors. When I sit down in its ergonomic seats, the car starts with the push of a button – though you barely notice because it purrs like its kitty namesake.

Now, four and a half years after we drove her off the lot, we have put approximately 60,000 miles on Nuffy – a lot of miles for cat, but just getting started for a Prius – and she still drives like a dream!

What this amazing car has revealed to me, is still a mystery to friends and family. I get all kinds of questions, “What sort of mileage does it get? What sort of gas does it take? Do you plug it in?” 50-60 mpg. Regular unleaded. No.

Others are not sure what questions to ask. They have no idea how the car works. But that’s okay, I love driving around friends, showing off all the cool gadgets and explaining the hybrid operation. They are usually surprised to see the car recharge itself as we drive, switching from gas to battery as needed. Maybe they are surprised even more by the car’s get-up-and-go; it has significant power for such a small vehicle.

Both of my Grandmothers think my Prius is an electric car. I try to correct them, but I don’t think they will ever quite get it – though they are impressed it gets more than 50 miles per gallon. I drove from Los Angeles to Lake Havasu and back on one tank of gas!

So what about that $7000 dollar premium? Totally worth it!

60,000 miles ÷ 45 mpg x $3.50 per gallon = $4,666

Since 2007, we have purchased about 1333 gallons of gas for our Prius, with an average cost per gallon of $3.50. We spent $4,666 on gasoline total, maximum. Let’s look at the average 30 mpg non-hybrid:

60,000 miles ÷ 30 mpg = 2,000 gallons x $3.50 per gallon = $7,000

We saved $2,334 so far on gas mileage alone! We drive slightly less miles per year than the average family in our age demographic, so if we had driven more, we would have saved even more money in the same period.

Speaking of averages, in reality, cars that average 30 mpg may only get 26 in the city. Our Prius shows the gas mileage as we drive, and I have seen it well over 80 miles per gallon. In fact, I have driven to the store without the engine ever cycling from the electric motor, meaning I didn’t use a single drop of gas!

When we purchased our Prius, you could get a government incentive up to $3500 for buying a “green car.” We received $800 cash back! That premium just keeps getting smaller and smaller.

In today’s economy, you have to factor in resale value too. The Prius is the hottest selling used car on the market and commands the highest resale prices – a sound investment!

2007 Honda Civic, Si Sedan 4D*

 Sticker / Trade-in / Selling

$25,000 / $12,950 / $17,000

 * According to the Kelley Blue Book website, out of 104 used 2007 Honda Civics available, 81 of them are selling below the book values listed above.

 2007 Toyota Prius*

Sticker / Trade-in / Selling

$31,000 / $14,000 / $18,000

* According to the Kelley Blue Book website, out of 70 used 2007 Toyota Prii, only 11 are selling below the book Values Listed above.

In terms of resale, I am up about $2,000 – $3,000 on the competition. That makes up the difference I paid in up-front premium, today, without driving another mile. Not only are there less used Prii on the market in my area, but the owners are getting Blue Book value or higher when they make the sale.

I look at my Jeep Wrangler the same way. Yes, I paid more for it than a ’95 pickup, but show me a ’95 pickup with 120,000 miles worth more than my ’95 Wrangler. Not going to happen. Actually, Magic City owns a ’95 pickup with only 30,000 miles on it, and it is worth about $3,000 less than my Wrangler!

When you buy a car, you have to look at more than just the sticker price. Today’s electric cars may cost more than their competition, but you make up the difference quickly on gas mileage. Which makes resale value, government incentive, environmental “greenage,” and a comfortable ride all bonuses.

Electric cars were some of the first automobiles: as early as 1896, the Hartford Electric Light Company offered an exchangeable battery service for electric trucks and on April 29, 1899, Camille Jenatzy broke the 62 mph speed barrier in his rocket-shaped vehicle, the “Jamais Contente,” reaching a top speed of 65.79 mph!

When our Jeep Grand Cherokee finally went caput, had my wife not said the Prius was her first choice, we probably would have bought another SUV or Crossover. For us, the true gas savings is huge! We would have paid more than $7000 had history taken a different course.

Over the life of our Prius, we will have saved tens of thousands of dollars on gas. Money we didn’t send overseas. Money we spent right here in America. If being green means being patriotic too, then maybe I am an environmentalist. Baring any unforeseen accidents, a Prius will last for about 300,000 miles – many of them powered by electricity generated right here in the United States!


I stumbled upon this trick by accident and it quickly became one of those “gems” you find yourself performing at every opportunity. It is contagious. Whenever I teach a fellow magician “Batteries Not Included,” they end up performing it just as often.

When I perform the trick, it is usually because there happen to be two batteries lying around; a friend is changing out the batteries in a remote for instance. Double A and Triple A are best, but you can sometimes do the trick with D’s and C’s too.

“Did you know those batteries are magnetic?” Pick them up and lay one next to the other lengthwise. Nothing happens. “Oh wait, you have to rub them together to get a static charge.” Now, hold one battery and the other is magically – supposedly magnetically – stuck to it. When your friend tries it, there is no such magnetism.

Here’s how it’s done: first, not all battery brands work for this trick, but once you know the secret, you can do a little test before you start the trick (roll them together in your hand clockwise and/or counterclockwise to see if they stick). Batteries are shrink-wrapped, leaving a little edge where the tube comes together. When you lay two batteries next to each other side by side, lengthwise, usually in opposite directions, and roll them slightly, they will stop on the shrink-wrapping seam and stick together. The bottom one will even swing back and forth!