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Skaneateles: Couple finds joy in using electric Prius

Whether a mid-life crisis or an economic experiment, Dick and Jane Wiley of Skaneateles seem to be at the forefront of something that simply works well.

The couple purchased their little red Prius in February 2006 as a Valentine's Day gift from Dick to Jane. As a hybrid vehicle, the car was bound to get better mileage than many of those on the road, but it's surpassed some expectations as well.

The car is even more different than some in that it can be plugged into a wall outlet and recharged, just like batteries for a camera or the battery in a cell phone.

"I'm an [electrical] engineer and have been following people trying to make electric cars," Dick said.

The vehicle came equipped with 12-volt battery system already installed. But, while the company says the battery life can last for about 40 miles, the Wileys have found that traveling over the hilly terrain of the Finger Lakes and surrounding regions the battery gets about 20 miles before losing its charge.

"The Prius is not made to run entirely on electricity," Dick said. "It's pretty good on electricity at 35 mph."

If a driver is planning to just do some running around town and stays in the 30 to 35 mph speed zones, the gas engine may never kick on.

According to Jane, when sitting at a red light, the gas engine will turn off, if it was in use. The vehicle is so quiet, it sounds as though the car has stalled when it's actually just running off the electrical charge.

"It's not much different than any other car," Dick said. "[But] at low speeds the engine is off. It depends on the load. If you're sitting at a red light and want to floor it, the engine comes on right away."

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