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2010 Honda Insight

Honda CR-Z

2010 Toyota Prius
Honda still can't find the magic recipe to beat the Prius

When it comes to hybrid vehicles, it appears that Honda just can't catch a break. Its first generation Insight hybrid was the first such vehicle to hit American soil a decade ago, however, the vehicle was a sales failure. Honda went on to develop a Civic Hybrid which hasn't exactly been a Prius competitor in terms of sales and the company's Accord Hybrid, like the Insight before it, failed in the marketplace.

Honda looked to go after Toyota's Prius again with a larger, second generation Insight. However, Honda again ran into a brick wall. Honda managed to undercut the Prius by a few thousand dollars, but also did so with a much smaller vehicle that was not as fast, not as tech-laden, and not nearly as fuel efficient as the third-generation Prius. When it comes to actual vehicle sales, the numbers don't lie. Honda sold roughly 20,500 Insights during 2009 in the U.S. -- Toyota, on the other hand, sold nearly 140,000 Prius hybrids.

"Are we happy with how sales are going? No, we're not happy," said American Honda executive VP John Mendel.

Faced with the prospect of another dud in the hybrid marketplace, Honda chief Takanobu Ito is calling on his engineers to develop a vehicle that will "Out Prius" the Prius according to Automotive News. Ito wants a hybrid that will be able to exceed the stellar fuel economy ratings of Toyota's crown jewel. Toyota's Prius is rated at 50 mpg (city/highway combined) while the smaller Insight is rated at just 41 mpg (city/highway combined).

"We want to develop and expand our hybrids," said Ito earlier this month in Detroit. "We made some major sacrifices to shift people and resources to do that."

While Honda looks like it will have its hands full developing a vehicle to topple the Prius, it has also just launched a new "sporty" hybrid aimed at enthusiasts. The CR-Z can be had with a manual transmission, but fuel economy junkies should be warned -- choosing to the manual will result in a serious hit to city fuel economy. A CR-Z equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) will be rated at 36/38 mpg (city/highway). Opting for the six-speed manual transmission, however, will cut those numbers to 31/37 mpg.

For comparison, a Mini Cooper (six-speed manual) gets 28/37 mpg without the need for hybrid components.

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Someone needs to get a clue
By dgingeri on 1/25/2010 10:04:42 AM , Rating: 1
The current generation hybrids are failing for many reasons:

1. batteries use up extra energy. Get rid of the batteries and you'd improve the efficiency. Use an operational Amplifier instead.

2. use regenerative braking and idle stops to charge capacitors for better take off.

3. stop using piston engines. A Tesla Turbine engine would be much lighter, and thus, more efficient. They are weak on torque, but better on overall horsepower per pound. This combined with #1 would produce a much better hybrid car.

with this, we could have a Corvette with 50mpg and 0-60 in 3.4 seconds, or a Civic with 80mpg and 0-60 in 7 seconds.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By dgingeri on 1/25/2010 10:22:59 AM , Rating: 1
Oh, I forgot to mention one more thing:

instead of a single electric motor driving a classic drive train, move to 4 smaller motors on all 4 wheels, preferably inside the wheel hub with the brakes, and you get a cheap, electronic controlled AWD system that also avoids the mechanical inefficiency of the classic drive train and differentials.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By HercDriver on 1/25/2010 11:00:38 AM , Rating: 2
You mean like the Michelin Active Wheel System? To be used on the upcoming Venturi Volage, recently demonstrated at the North American International Auto Show. I think you'll see more of this idea coming to fruition in the future, for the reasons you mention.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By GruntboyX on 1/25/2010 12:10:30 PM , Rating: 5

1. I have no idea what you think an Op Amp does, but a Battery is a storage device and a Op amp is an integrated circuit. Getting rid of batteries and replacing them with OP-Amps will do nothing to make the Hybrid drive train work. I think you need to clarify that statement. Its like saying Get rid of batteries and add broccoli to improve efficiency.

2. Capacitors don't have the Energy Density to sustain the lengthy power requirements that the Motors need at start-up. The few laboratory examples that do are prohibitively expensive and non manufacturerable.

3. Although a Turbine would be more efficient in the delivery of Horsepower. You are ignoring how important low end torque is. The acceleration lag would be tremendous. So your idea that a Corvette would do 0-60 in 3.4 seconds is ridiculous. Furthermore, A Tesla Turbine has not been used in propulsion Machines. Theoretically possible; however, the materials to sustain the temperatures are not cheep and affordable. Also, the device requires the use of high temperature steam.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By Sahrin on 1/25/2010 12:34:37 PM , Rating: 3
To be fair, Broccoli would increase efficiency at least 17%.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By dgingeri on 1/25/2010 2:03:32 PM , Rating: 1
1. batteries lose power through heat generated from internal resistance, both charging and discharging. only about 70% of power put into Li-ion batteries actually gets back out. Operational amplifiers would allow for adjustable voltage, giving better torque under high stress conditions and better efficiency during cruising conditions. Yes, this means the gas engine would be running all the time, and nothing off batteries, but that is actually a good thing. The "Hybrid" part of the name is that it is a gas/electric hybrid, not a gas/battery hybrid. batteries = loss of energy = bad.

2. capacitors wouldn't need it. it wouldn't need as much capacity, and capacitors would discharge faster, giving just a boost to off the line power, but also reclaiming some of the energy lost to braking. Capacitors could also take on almost any form, so they could be integrated into the body panels, frame, or anywhere else they could be fit.

3. the operational amplifiers and capacitors would both offset this. it would not be directly driving the car, only supplying the power to a generator to drive the car. The acceleration lag would not even be seen with the right set up. In addition, the power generated by the Tesla turbine would be non-synchronous with the speed of the car. it would spin down a bit while cruising, then spin up faster to charge the capacitors for the next take off while sitting at a stoplight.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By Sureshot324 on 1/25/2010 7:07:30 PM , Rating: 2
Turbine engines are would be very fuel inefficient for a car. They are efficient at their optimal rpm, but efficiency drops off very quickly after that, and they have horrible idle efficiency. They are also very expensive to manufacture, since they are more complex than piston engines and need to be made of more heat resistant materials since they run at higher rpms and thus hotter.

They have a great power to weight ratio, but this has a negligible effect on the weight of the entire car. The Mazda RX8 has horrible fuel efficiency despite it's very light rotary engine.

Capacitors have far lower energy densities than batteries. The main advantage of capacitors is very fast discharge, but cars with battery powered electric motors already have plenty of off the line torque, so this is a non issue.

Not sure where you're going with the op-amp thing. Amps amplify an electrical signal (such as an audio or data signal) but require energy to do so. They are not a source of power, so I don't see how you think they are a replacement for batteries.

RE: Someone needs to get a clue
By dgingeri on 1/25/2010 8:15:33 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not talking a regular turbine or a rotary engine, I'm talking a Tesla Turbine:

it's totally different.

the capacitors would be used for regenerative braking to enhance startup and regain some of the energy lost to braking. It's as simple as that. It's not totally a replacement for batteries (which would not be in my design) but just a temporary storage for the energy from regenerative braking.

The op amp can be used to turn a normal AC power into a "spikey" DC power for better motor use.

(Basically, run through an op amp in a slightly different way than just a signal, AC power at 12 volts turns into DC power with spikes from 24 volts to 240 volts, with current semiconductor technology, depending on the value of a certain resistor, which would be adjustable by the accelerator pedal. Then it is run through a transformer, yes DC power can be used this way as long as it in not constant DC, and turned in to 24,000 volts, which would be better utilized by the special electric motors.)

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