With the ever growing phenomenon of global warming and its backlash upon the world as we know it, there have been major concerted efforts to reduce green house gas emissions, notably in the automotive world.
Japanese auto maker Honda introduced the electric hybrid Insight to address automobile owners’ ever growing concerns of environmentally harmful emissions and the ever rising fuel costs.
Powered by a reduced capacity petrol combustion engine working alongside an intelligent electric motor (powered by a lithium ion battery), the integrated and hybrid driver mechanism offers fuel efficiency as well as reduced green house gas emissions.
The vehicle design itself was clean and with aerodynamic lines for function and aesthetics. The interior was visually appealing and the layout for the controls was designed logically, albeit a little confusing to the uninitiated driver.
For starters, the speedometer was a digital display with a band that changed colours to indicate the ‘greenness’ of the vehicle’s real time energy consumption. Green stood for efficient fuel driving, blue-green for moderately fuel efficient and blue for uneconomical driving.
The main display for the bulk of the fuel savings or ‘green’ functions of the car was located within in the tachometer dial. This was a multi-function unit as it displayed many aspects of the drive, including the power flow directions of the combustion engine and the electric motor, called the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA). There was an analogue display indicating the status of the heart of the IMA.
Blue indicated that the IMA was assisting the combustion motor (energy draw). Green indicated that the IMA battery was being charged (energy input), usually when energy from the brakes were routed to facilitate this function.
The large green button marked ‘ECON’ on the right of the vehicle engaged the ‘green’ and efficient fuel economy features of the car; this reduced the performance of the combustion engine as well as the air-conditioner.
Furthermore, when the vehicle was at full stop and the foot brake engaged, the combustion engine was shut off completely until I took my foot off the brake pedal. Engine restart was instantaneous, thus putting to rest any doubts about a delay moving the vehicle from a stationary position. Starting up the car was a breeze; the noise levels inside were quite low as they were outside. In ‘green’ mode with the engine off at a complete stop, it was practically silent and stealthy.
Considering the combustion engine had a capacity of 1.3 litres, the car performed quite admirably. When driving in a ‘blue’ fashion, the efficient i-VTEC and the IMA worked in marvelous synchronicity to give the power output comparable with an equivalent 1.6 litre engine.
When driving ‘green’, the performance was reduced but it did not come across as being sluggish or reserved in my opinion. The car was economical when it was required to be but the power band was there on demand, accommodating economical or performance-oriented driving styles instantaneously.
The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) did a splendid job of ensuring smooth and practically seamless gear shifts during the drive, leading me to place my assertion on record that all automatic transmissions ought to be this smooth.
With high international safety ratings, the Insight came with a range of safety features including dual SRS bags, the comprehensive electronic stability control system, called Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA), and slip-preventive Creep Aid.
The Insight allowed a great deal of luggage space to be allocated when needed, made possible in part by the reduced size of the IMA which was placed under the boot floor.
The fuel economy of the vehicle was listed as 4.4 litres per 100 kilometres, thus offering low fuel consumption and overall reduced ownership costs for those who might be discouraged by its six figure price tag.
Coupled with a three-year 100,000km warranty for the vehicle and a five-year, 140,000km warranty for the IMA to allay concerns of unlikely defects, the vehicle would be low maintenance and essentially worry-free. Arrayed with low emissions, low fuel consumption, good engine and transmission performance, comprehensive safety measures and overall economical appeal, the Insight made a first rate introduction to the concept of the ‘green’ car.