Blizzard Diary: 2011 Lexus RX450h, Part III

To parade their green virtue, many hybrid crossovers and SUVs plaster their outer panels with the HYBRID word. The Lexus RX450h is not only a quiet drive; it’s understated. Subtler declarations of its dual power sources quietly flank its passenger doors, only once: HYBRID.

So you can imagine my surprise when, during our skiing trip in northern Vermont, for three miles the hybrid technology stopped working and the engine growled — quite audibly — about using gasoline at low speed.

Let’s back-up one day: It had been lower than –15 degrees for over 80 hours and my kid had left the overhead light on for 24 of those. Miraculously, this hadn’t completely drained the battery and the car started with no complaints. But my theory is it held a grudge.

Back to the next morning: as we headed for the ski hill, the RX450 left the h out, starting directly onto the not-so-green power. All the way to the ski hill, a 5-minute drive, we didn’t exceed 30kph and should have been running on electric but weren’t. And this normally silent machine growled its disapproval.

I decided to think about it later and spent the day playing hide and seek in hundreds of acres of glades.

Later that day: The more complicated machinery becomes, the more it develops a personality. On a low battery in the ugly cold, it bypassed the electric power. As with any frozen, computerized machine, though, you turn it off for a while, let it reboot, and presto: At the end of that day the Lexus RX450 quietly had its ‘h’ again. Which we milked.

After several days of passing other cars in ditches, we’d learned to take Vermont’s frozen roads carefully, rarely using the gasoline at all: a silent electric ride through the pristine, snowy Vermont countryside.

Image courtesy of MJ Sawyer.

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