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Second generation Insight Hybrid

Third generation Toyota Prius
Honda readies its Prius-fighter

Honda has dabbled in hybrids before with the first generation Insight, the Accord Hybrid, and most recently with the second generation Civic Hybrid. However, neither model has been a runaway sales success like the overachieving Prius from Toyota -- both the original Insight and Accord Hybrid were eventually discontinued.

Now that the Detroit Auto Show is roughly a month away, Honda has officially pulled the wraps off its new Insight Hybrid which will go toe-to-toe with Toyota's wildly popular Prius. As we stated in our original article on the Insight Concept, the production model is little changed stylistically. The production Insight is wearing a smaller, less ornate wheel/tire package and the LED lighting from the concept appears to be gone.

According to Honda, the Insight will use a 1.3-liter gasoline engine and the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system. Honda also says that the Insight will feature fuel economy identical to the current Civic Hybrid which is rated at 40 MPG city and 45 MPG highway. The identical fuel economy numbers may be disappointing to some, but remember that the Insight is expected to retail for less than $19,000 while the Civic Hybrid starts at a loftier $23,550.

Honda expects to sell 200,000 Insights globally each year.

When the Insight finally does arrive in showrooms next spring, it will do battle with the third generation Toyota Prius. Photos of the Prius leaked to the internet in mid-October. Toyota later confirmed that the leaked pictures were indeed of the new Prius.



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By Solandri on 12/4/2008 6:17:01 AM , Rating: 2
Gasoline engines typical for something the size of a car operate most efficiently at around 3500 rpm. That's been the big conundrum with car engines all this time. People wanted power for accelerating and passing, but that meant the engine was tremendously overpowered during cruise (which only requires about 25-30 hp). So you have cars with ICEs which are most efficient at 3500 rpm, but which are most often run at around 2000 rpm.

Hybrids solve that problem. You can put in a relative small ICE, just enough to power the car at cruise speed at 3500 rpm. The acceleration people want is provided by the electric motor. As a result, on most hybrids, the ICE is either off, or running at 3500 rpm. Nearly all the variation in power is supplied by the batteries and electric motor. The ICE is always running at its most efficient RPM when it is on.

As for aerodynamics, yes it's true that it doesn't matter as much in city driving. However, the way cars are sold, there are typically two big fuel efficiency numbers plastered on their window. One is estimated city mileage, the other is the highway mileage. A car being touted as fuel efficient needs to have a high highway mileage or it won't sell. It's necessary for marketability.

The U.S. also lists fuel efficiency backwards - in miles per gallon - creating an illusionary exaggerating effect at higher mpg. Say you drive 60 miles a day. In a 15 mpg SUV, you're burning 4 gal/day. If you switch to a 30 mpg sedan you're burning 2 gal/day - a net savings of 2 gal/day. If you switch from the 30 mpg sedan to the 60 mpg hybrid, you're burning 1 gal/day - a net savings of just 1 gal/day. So going from 30 -> 60 mpg actually represents half the fuel savings of going from 15 -> 30 mpg. But because the U.S. lists fuel economy in mpg, people think 15 -> 30 is "only" a 15 mpg improvement, while 30 -> 60 is a "wow! 30 mpg!" improvement. Because mpg is inverted, an X mpg improvement at 15 mpg is not equal to an X mpg improvement at 30 mpg.

So this also adds marketing pressure to raise the high end of mileage: An engine change that saves 10% in fuel at 25 mpg will "only" add 2.5 mpg (to 27.5 mpg). But the exact same change on a 50 mpg vehicle will add 5 mpg, even though it's actually saving you less fuel per trip.

Most other countries list mileage the other way to avoid this deceptiveness - in liters per 100 km. If your car uses 10 liters per 100km, a 10% more efficient engine would drop it to 9 - a 1 liter savings. The hybrid that uses 5 liters per 100 km drops to 4.5 with the same engine improvement - a 0.5 liter savings. So measured in liters per 100 km, it's obvious that the hybrid benefits less (in terms of $ saved on fuel) from the same improvement in fuel efficiency.


By Headfoot on 12/5/2008 9:28:08 PM , Rating: 2
Well liters per day wouldn't help American consumers very much would it? :)


By Headfoot on 12/5/2008 9:28:30 PM , Rating: 2
per 100km*


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