Please Pass the Prius

December 18, 2012
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Prius Family – Three generations of the Miller family have a field day with their three generations of Prius. Ellen and Art Miller (right) lean on their 2012 Prius. Photos by Paul S. Howell
The first time Ellen Miller drove a Prius, it died.
 
“I came to the first stoplight, and the darn car shut down,” she says. “I thought I was stranded.”
 
She wasn’t. The gasoline engine was supposed to shut down when she came to a stop; she just didn’t know it. After all, Miller was taking a solo test drive in a 2002 Prius when the first-generation hybrid was still a rarity in Fort Wayne, Ind.
 
Little did she know that when she tapped the accelerator to resume her test drive she also tapped into a passion for Prius that would span three generations of the car – and three generations of her family.
 
Miller’s son, who lives in Los Angeles, originally suggested she try a Prius. Lured by the car’s mpg and environmental sensitivity, the widowed grandmother wasn’t daunted by the new technology.
 
“I’m adventurous,” she says. “I absolutely thought it was the coolest thing.”
 
So did other drivers. “Everyone rolled down their windows at stoplights and asked me how it worked,” she says.
 
She quickly personalized the car, embellishing the Aqua Ice Opalescent exterior with charcoal gray pinstripes. “I like to make a car mine,” she explains. “I don’t want it to look like anyone else’s.”
 
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Keyed Up – Competing for the key to their mom’s 2002 Prius are (from left) Anna, Abbey (front) and Amy Hosey. They’re the third generation to drive their family’s first-generation Prius.
When her Prius reached 100,000 miles, she did what her family always does when their vehicles hit that milestone: “We all watched it turn over, and the kids all hollered.”
 
But Miller had recently married a bachelor of 63 years, and he never kept a car beyond 100,000 miles. So in 2007, Miller sold her first-generation Prius to her sister and bought a second-generation Prius.
 
“As soon as we got it, we took off on Route 66 to the Grand Canyon,” she says. “We really liked the GPS. We didn’t book any hotels in advance. At the end of each day, we’d pull off the road and call up a list of hotels on the GPS. Then we’d visit a hotel, and if we liked it, we’d stay.”
 
The car was Silver Pine Mica; the pinstripes, gray.
 
“When I bought the second-generation Prius, my sister said, ‘I’ve got dibs on that,’” Miller says.
 
Sure enough, when that Prius passed 100,000 miles, Miller’s husband wanted a new one, and sis bought No. 2. The first-generation Prius then went to Miller’s daughter, whose children take turns driving it. “The one who needs it the most gets it,” Miller says.
  
Miller now drives a third-generation 2012 Prius she bought last spring. It’s Sea Glass Pearl with black and beige pinstripes.
 
“I just love it,” she says. “It’s my favorite. It has a really smooth ride. We get over 50 miles per gallon on the interstate. I can’t switch to any other car because I like that mileage, and no one beats it. The car is really made well; it requires very little maintenance.”
 
Not that she’ll get to keep it. “I’m pretty sure my husband will want to get rid of it when it hits 100,000 miles,” she says with a sigh.
 
But like its predecessors, Prius No. 3 will remain in the family. “Now my sister wants this car when we’re finished with it,” Miller says.
 
With one caveat. “She told me not to put so many miles on it.”
 
Editor’s Note: Shortly after this article was written, Miller’s third Prius was totaled when a driver darted out from a parking lot and hit the passenger side of the car. Thankfully, Miller and her husband weren’t seriously injured. “The car did everything it was supposed to do in an accident,” she said. And off she went to buy Prius No. 4.

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