There's more to driving green than just the car you choose. The way you pilot the vehicle makes a huge impact on your fuel mileage, and automakers are now beginning to endow their new wares with technology that teaches you how to drive green. Honda's upcoming Insight is a perfect example, with its new Eco Assist dashboard that keeps tabs on the driver's right foot and relays information back via a color-changing speedometer and and "economy scoring function." Honda aims to make "the hybrid experience more fun and rewarding" with these technologies -- kinda like a video game -- that are activated by a green ECON button on the dash. When pressed, the CVT transmission changes modes and computers adjust the operation of the A/C, stop the engine from idling sooner and increases regenerative braking capabilities.
With this announcement, Honda joins Ford in the eco-dash wars. The Blue Oval recently revealed its LCD gauge cluster called SmartGauge with EcoGuide, which will debut in the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid and Mercury Milan Hybrid. The tech wars are heating up fast and new innovations such as these green gauge clusters may make driving a rewarding experience for a completely new reason. Progress?
Honda Insight to Introduce Ecological Drive Assist System in Spring 2009
Driver feedback system designed for fun and economy
American Honda Motor Co., Inc., today announced that a new interactive, driver-focused fuel economy enhancement technology named the Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist™) will debut on the new Honda Insight in spring 2009.
The Honda Insight Concept, making its North American debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, provides a strong indication of the design and styling of the all-new gasoline-electric hybrid model from Honda.
Eco Assist combines multiple functions: the driver-activated ECON mode that optimizes control of the continuously variable transmission, engine and related powertrain components to conserve fuel; and a feedback function that uses speedometer background color to provide real-time guidance on environmentally responsible driving. An economy scoring function further provides feedback about current driving techniques, as well as feedback on cumulative, long-term driving style.
"Hybrid drivers enjoy trying to get the most fuel economy from their vehicles," said Dan Bonawitz, vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "The visual nature of Eco Assist is intended to help drivers improve their efficient driving skills by making the hybrid experience more fun and rewarding."
Honda developed the powertrain control, driver guidance and driver feedback functions of Eco Assist to help enhance real-world fuel economy. In particular, the scoring function provides cumulative, long-term feedback through graphic 'leaves,' which grow over time as drivers learn and implement driving practices that increase fuel economy.
Activated by a green "ECON" button on the instrument panel, ECON mode optimizes control of the transmission, engine and other powertrain elements to conserve fuel. ECON mode also adjusts air conditioner operation, increases the potential for engaging the idle stop feature sooner and increase battery charging during regenerative braking.
The guidance function uses the speedometer background's color-changing, three-dimensional appearance to indicate fuel efficiency in real time. Fuel-saving activities like smooth acceleration and braking make the meter glow green. Somewhat less efficient driving makes the meter glow blue-green. Aggressive starts and stops that consume extra fuel make the meter glow blue. By observing the speedometer background's response to driving practices and seeking to achieve a consistently green color, drivers can receive assistance in developing driving habits that typically enhance fuel economy.
The scoring function provides feedback about current driving practices, as well as cumulative, long-term feedback tracking progress. Located in the center of the instrument panel of the all-new Insight, the Multi-Information Display offers drivers a selection of informational displays, including the scoring function, in which the number of 'leaves' displayed indicates the level of environmentally responsible driving performance. When the ignition switch is on, the display scores driving practices in real time. When the ignition switch is turned off, the 'leaves' in the top line of the display score driving in the just completed cycle (startup to shutdown), while a horizontal bar in the lower part of the display scores cumulative lifetime performance.
The Multi-Information Display also allows drivers to view fuel economy figures for the past three trips, as well as instantaneous and average fuel economy statistics. The scoring function encourages drivers to take an interest in developing fuel efficient driving habits over the long term.
Going on sale in North America next spring, the all-new, purpose-built Insight will come to market at a price significantly below that of hybrids available today. From this unique position in the marketplace, the Insight will advance the affordability and accessibility of hybrid technology to a new generation of buyers.
With its affordable price, the new hybrid vehicle will represent the best value in its segment. Along with the Civic Hybrid, the new vehicle will be produced at an expanded hybrid vehicle production line at the Suzuka factory in Japan.
The Insight is expected to have annual global sales of 200,000 units per year -approximately 100,000 in North America. Following the launch of the new Insight, Honda also plans to introduce another unique sporty hybrid vehicle based on the CR-Z, a concept car first shown at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show.
The original Honda Insight was introduced in December 1999 as North America's first gas-electric hybrid car. The original Insight was designed from the ground up to demonstrate the ultimate potential for fuel-economy in a two-seater subcompact automobile.
A leader in the development of cleaner, more fuel-efficient mobility products, Honda was the first to market low-emission gasoline vehicles, a gasoline-electric hybrid car in North America, and the world's first EPA-certified hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX. In 2007, Honda was named "greenest automaker" by the Union of Concerned Scientists for the fourth straight time.
For more information and downloadable high-resolution images of the Insight Concept and other Honda vehicles, please visit www.hondanews.com. Consumer information is available at www.honda.com.