Electric Vehicle Reality Check

Lexus RX-400H Hybrid SUV

Lexus 400H Introduction: A Luxury Hybrid Electric SUV

the Lexus 400h is a good example of an advanced electric vehicle

We have been designing hardware and software for home automation systems (RollerTrol.com) that control electric motors for blinds, shades and window openers for quite a few years.

With this in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to buy an electric vehicle with electric motors to continue our automation research.

We needed a vehicle with a specific set of features:

  • a safe vehicle with a high collision survival rating
  • an environmentally friendly SULEV rated vehicle that reduces emissions
  • an electrically assisted vehicle that saves on fuel costs
  • an elevated driving platform for good visibility
  • an AWD vehicle because we live on a hill that gets snow in winter
  • a dependable vehicle that doesn't require a lot of maintenance
  • a quiet, comfortable vehicle that is easy to drive

Castle Mountain on Bow Valley Parkway between Banff and Lake Louise After several months of research, we decided the Lexus RX400H was one of the few vehicles that met all the criteria.

So we left our home on Vancouver Island, hopped onto the Westjet shuttle from Comox to Calgary, and bought 'Lexi', a fully loaded 2007 Lexus RX-400H SUV in near perfect condition from Bonnybrook Auto.

From there, we had a pleasant summer holiday as we drove it home through the Canadian Rocky Mountains on a Hot Springs tour to Vancouver Island.

The vehicle itself is a dream to drive - smooth, quiet, powerful, and extremely comfortable, with a dizzying array of electronic features. But it's not complicated as the entire vehicle 'system' is highly automated and behaves quite transparently. This is a 'point and shoot' vehicle, with a minimal learning curve for executing your first driving session, and the 2nd generation Lexus 'Synergy' system that commands all the electronics is very aptly named.

Update: With very careful driving, I am averaging 47 mpg (imperial) on a daily drive (6 L/100 km) to and from Parksville, a round-trip distance of 27 km, with a nominal speed of 65 kmh (40 mph), and not all of it flat road. With normal driving pratices that mileage will fall to 40 or 30 mpg, especially if freeway driving is involved.

the very comfortable Lexus 400h cockpit - bird's eye maple wood trim, navigation & system info screen Lexi is completely 'drive by wire', there's no power steering pump with fluid, for instance. The steering, gas pedal, gearshift (and many other controls) are just analog and digital inputs to a computer (the Lexus Synergy system), which in turn controls electronic actuators for vehicle functions.

She has an integrated touch screen display that provides excellent instrumentation and gives you control access to just about all aspects of the vehicle system.

There are 4 'engines', three of which are electric motor/generators (MG1, MG2, MG3), with one conventional infernal combustion engine (ICE); these combine to provide a substantial amount of torque from a standing start, with a time to 100 kmh of around 7 seconds (without any gear shifting).

As one observer put it, it's more like pulling out of Waterloo station in the Eurostar to cross the Chunnel than driving a regular car.

Yet she is as docile as a deer if you don't have a lead foot, and can attain mileage figures in excess of 40 mpg, highway and city (imperial gallons). One of the selectable screens on the large LCD screen in the center of the dash displays animated graphics showing how the power is being distributed by the system, to and from the wheels (through the regenerative braking system, and also when you shift down into B mode).

She has no geared transmission, just an electronic constant velocity transmission (eCVT) drive that adjusts continuously to driving conditions. It is dead quiet when you drive through the streets of a town on battery power alone, and you seriously have to watch for pedestrians that don't hear you coming.

Banff hot springs public pool, Banff National ParkAs the second largest country in the world, Canada has a vast array of natural lanscapes, not the least of which are the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

This story tracks our route as we take a leisurely tour through the mountains and valleys of Alberta and British Columbia, hopping from hot spring to hot spring, testing Lexi's performance under a variety of conditions.

This website is dedicated to recording our experience with this vehicle, with a view to helping others understand how electric vehicles can be a viable alternative to conventional gas and diesel powered vehicles.

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