For all its wondrous qualities, the Prius has features that become flaws and vice versa.

One fine feature is that when you’re down to a small amount of gasoline, a melodious chime sounds and the last bar on the gasoline gauge begins blinking discreetly. The flaw in this feature is that the warning occurs when you can still go well over a hundred miles, so it does not instill a sense of imminent peril. In fact, you get downright cavalier about it and begin thinking of it as merely a suggestion that you need to go through the hassle and expense of tanking up sometime during the next couple of weeks or so when you happen to be passing by a station and are not rushing someplace.

We know where this is leading, don’t we?

Which introduces another feature: when you run out of gas in a Prius, you are not completely out of luck because while you are out of gas, you are not out of electricity. And so even though after those sickening little coughs the engine dies and the instrument panel lights up in an impressive display of warnings, the car still moves forward quite nicely with the motor alone when you press the accelerator although it doesn’t seem to want to go more than 30 MPH or so.

And since being out of gas in a car is so disquieting that it inspires a compulsion to head for the nearest gas station, I can’t tell you how far you can go on electricity alone. Yet. And won’t push it because Toyota gets just hysterical at the idea of your doing this.

Today I ran out of gas at 21st and Valencia and being somewhat emboldened by having gone a good deal farther the previous time I ran out of gas, I elected not to go to that expensive station on Valencia at 23rd but rather to head straight on down across Mission to South Van Ness and then right four of blocks to a cheapo station on Army Street where I found regular for only $2.13 a gallon. And then relaxed.

As with beauty, an abundance of excitement is out there, waiting to be let into your life.

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