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Gas-electric cars to be displayed Monday

"Toyota Prius owners invited the public to view their cars next Monday. Among those participating will be, from the left, Patricia Jewett, Dave and Karen Anderson, Dorit Zingarelli, and Linda Morris and Dan Babbit.Jim Larsen / staff photoOwners of the new gas-electric hybrid cars invite the public to meet them and their machines Monday, May 14 at the CyberCafe on Highway 525 in downtown Clinton.Most of the happy islanders own a Toyota Prius, the hybrid that came out last summer. To view and get a ride in one of the cars stop by the CyberCafe at 6:30 p.m. At 7:30 the owners will tell about their experiences with their cars. A Toyota representative will also be present to answer questions.The experiences will no doubt be entirely positive. Four Prius owners last week expressed universal satisfaction in their decision to purchase a gas-electric vehicle. A computer automatically switches the power between electric and gas, depending on driving conditions. Mileage is much higher than the average car and pollution is much lower.The South Whidbey Record featured the first island owners, Dave and Karen Anderson, last September. Anderson, a long-time Clinton resident, has made the news many times over the years in his roles as veterinarian, commercial fisherman, golf course creator and State Representative. But he said the Prius story elicited by far the most public comment than any other -- more , even, than the time he brought a stillborn two-headed calf to the high school for the biology class to study.Because interest in the hybrids is so high, owners decided to show them to the public on a formal basis next Monday. Honda makes a two-seat model called the Insight and meeting organizers hope at least one will be on display Monday. But for certain there will be a number of the larger, more popular Toyotas.If there's any doubt that Patricia Jewett is driving a gas-electric car, that doubt is dispelled by a sticker in the Prius' rear window: Eat My Voltage. That would be a pleasure in stop-and-go downtown traffic, because when the Prius stops it runs entirely on electric power -- no noise, and no pollution emissions whatsoever. When the car is being driven, the gas engine charges the battery and it switches on and off to electric power, depending on the conditions.Jewett said she also owns a Cadillac, but since she bought the surprisingly roomy Prius she's lost interest in her big gas burner. I have a Cadillac for sale, she said. She has put only 1,500 miles on her Prius and she averages 45 miles per gallon around the island.Karen Anderson said the Prius shows you don't have to give up anything to have a pretty much pollution-free car.Linda Morris and her husband Dave Babbit also own a Prius, and Babbit said they're all dependable. None of these were lemons, he said. They can't afford to produce a lemon.Although Toyota is silent on the production costs, owners agree that the $20,000 cost is $5,000 to $10,000 below the cost of production.Owners readily exchange stories about their experiences. Anderson said he has run out of gas twice while driving his Prius, but it was no problem -- the batteries kept the car going to the next gas station. You just keep driving, he said. He's had no problems, except for a golf ball dent in the driver's door and a scrape in back he created by backing into a golf course maintenance machine.Dorit Zingarelli has owned her Prius since September. I absolutely love it, she said. I've put 8,000 miles on it with no trouble. "

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