It gets great gas mileage - up to 60 miles per gallon. It's environmentally friendly, emitting far fewer greenhouse gases than a car powered solely by gasoline. And they love its roomy hatchback style (four golf players and their clubs fit in it; so can two people and two standard poodles).
But several members said they realized after driving their Priuses for a while that the experience also had a therapeutic effect.
Karen Youngberg of Ames is one of those Prius owners, though perhaps an unlikely one - she's long been a fan of high-powered classic muscle cars, and in those, getting good gas mileage is a goal often left on the curb in a cloud of dust.
But she said she's found herself driving differently in her Prius.
"It can be a de-stresser," she said. "I'm always trying to get better gas mileage."
The difference, members said, is the little monitor on the Prius' dashboard. It can show all sorts of features of the car, including what source of energy is powering the car (the gasoline engine, the electric motor or the battery). But what these Prius drivers are really keeping an eye on is a gauge of their real-time gas mileage.
"I rarely drive more than 45 miles per hour because I like seeing 99.9 miles per gallon," said Lisa Kuehl, a Prius owner from rural Madrid, adding that having the mileage at that level basically means the car isn't using any gasoline and instead is being powered by the electric motor.
Kuehl said she's changed the way she plans her trips; now she plans in enough time to get to her destination so she can drive more slowly on the way.
Bob Fitz, of Ames, said driving a Prius is different than driving any other car, but not to worry about that because "The Prius trains the driver."
And that training on how to drive most efficiently does carry over to other vehicles. Norm Barway said he's noticed that since he and his wife, Sue, got their Prius, the mileage on his pickup truck has improved. The only difference he can imagine is that he's become a better driver.
Joe Lynch, an organic farmer of Onion Creek Farms in rural Ames, recently purchased a used Global Electric Motorcar delivery vehicle. He says his regular trips into Ames to deliver vegetables are more pleasant in the tiny truck, which has a top speed of 25 mph. It's licensed as a low-speed vehicle, meaning it's legal on any street with a speed limit of 35 mph or below.
The vehicle slows him down just enough to make the journey more pleasant, Lynch said - he can enjoy his surroundings more.
On the other hand, he's not going enough slower that he feels like he's not making good time getting where he's going. On most of the streets in Ames he couldn't legally go more than 30 mph anyway, Lynch said.
"It's just not that much different," he said.
And Lynch also can take pleasure in looking at the prices as he drives by gas stations, knowing that he isn't using any gas at all to power his vehicle.
He plugs it into a standard 110-volt outlet overnight; on a full charge, it can go 30 miles, though the three big hills near his house reduce that somewhat.
Currently, his vehicle is powered from the standard grid.
"But the plan is to figure out a way to power it from wind generation," Lynch said, which would mean that he would generate no carbon dioxiode as he transports his vegetables.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 63 percent of Americans' vehicular trips are of five miles or less, meaning many outings could feasibly be taken via electric car. If battery technology improves and comes down in price, many more trips could be taken in electric cars; lithium batteries, which are available in some electric cars today but are very expensive, allow cars to travel up to 150 miles on a charge.
Lynch predicts this will happen in the next five years as major automotive manufacturers turn their attention to battery technology.
Lynch has had no problems with his open-sided truck - well, except one thing.
"The only trouble that I've had with it is the wind blowing my hat off," he said.
Heidi Marttila-Losure can
be reached at 232-2161, Ext. 352,
Ames Area Prius Club
* What: A group for Prius owners to gather, eat, drink and share tips and stories about their cars.
* When: The group was founded in 2005.
* Why: When they started their group, there weren't that many Prius owners in the area, and at a customer appreciation dinner at Wilson Cadillac Toyota Scion, some of them joked that they felt like they were in an exclusive club. So they started one.
* How many: About 15 Prius owners.
* Quirky fact: Many of the members have named their Priuses; names include "Snowball" and "Bullet."