Cairns-based taxi operator Graham Boundy reckons the Toyota Prius is just about the best thing that ever happened to the taxi service, and with approximately 550,000 kilometres under its belt?achieving half the fuel and maintenance costs of other conventionally-powered cars in the taxi fleet?his is a perfect example.
Some 32 Prius taxis roam the streets of Cairns, with an average of 200,000km per year to each of their names.
Boundy, who received his company's first Prius back in late 2005, says the last three years have been great.
We obviously track our costs very closely and our reports show the Prius consumes half the petrol of other vehicles in our fleet and also half the service costs - it is quite amazing.
The Prius is also very suitable as a taxi in terms of leg and head room for both front and rear passengers, and in terms of boot size.
In three years of driving it, I only had to turn down one fare for a group of four tourists with four very large, hard pieces of luggage."
So impressed was Boundy, that he lobbed down to the local Toyota dealership and bought a Prius for his own private use. And then he bought one for his wife, too. Why not?
Then there's the nickel-metal hybrid (better known to you and I as NiMH) battery: an ongoing point of consternation for many of the Prius' detractors. Black & White Taxis' 550,000km monster Prius has apparently had one of its batteries replaced?at 500,000km. Energiser bunny, look out.
According to Vic Johnston, Toyota's manager of hybrid sales and fleet strategy, these are the only two Prius' in Australia that have even needed a battery replacement at all, since its arrival on our shores in 2001.
"When you consider that the average car in Australia travels approximately 15,000km per year, the 350,000km Prius has crammed over 23 years of average driving into a couple of years,"
"And the 550,000km Prius has fitted 36 years into three years, which is astonishing.
"The average age of the Australian car population is now around 10 years, so the battery is lasting well over double that in distance terms.
"When you consider that the Prius taxis in Cairns are generating half the fuel and service costs of other vehicles in their fleets, the Prius is significantly cheaper in whole-of-life costs.
While the jury is still out?and may never return?on the Prius' styling, it looks as if it's at least a solid option for those looking to tuck a ton of klicks into the log book.