• Jan 30th 2010 at 6:39PM
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2010 Honda Insight – Click above for high-res image gallery

Honda Executive Vice President Koichi Kondo doesn't seem to think that the automaker will hit its worldwide sales goal of 200,000 Insight hybrids in its first year on the market. Why? In an interview with Bloomberg, Kondo is quoted as saying "I think we compromised too much on size in pursuing fuel efficiency" for the U.S. market, he said.

In total, Honda sold 130,445 units of its Insight worldwide in 2009. The car was first introduced in Japan in February and then in the U.S. in March. In the States, the car's second-largest market, Honda sold just 20,572 units in 2009 – a far cry from the 90,000 it hoped to sell here in the first year.

Further, in reference to the long-expected Honda Fit Hybrid, Kondo said:
There are plenty of people who think that the current Fit meets their needs already [when it comes to fuel efficiency]... a hybrid version might seem expensive. Our engineers are really struggling.
It remains to be seen whether the upcoming CR-Z can bolster Honda's sketchy hybrid positioning.

[Source: Bloomberg]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      I don't think it's the MPG (unless you look at the EPA test results). If you look at fueleconomy.gov then you see real-world fuel economy numbers of Insight compared to Prius 2010 to be very close. Also Edmunds and other found the difference to be small.

      Since the Insight is less complex it's also easier to produce then most likely arguably less lifetime CO2 if you include production/recycling. So potentially greener.

      That said I think it's rather size, image and price last in the US. In Europe/Japan the Insight does well (price difference in Europe is more).
        • 8 Months Ago
        I don't own either the Prius or Insight. Here are more resources if you don't believe real-world mileage of Insight is not that far off from Prius III:

        1. Checkout Edmunds comparison test between Insight and Prius (< 5% diff)
        2. Edmunds real-world long-term tests: also within 10%
        3. Big European site: http://www.spritmonitor.de. If you check their numbers you'll also get same results: about 5% last time I checked

        This is more real-world than CR tests. Note that CR also claimed that Prius III was less fuel efficient than Prius II on highway (which might be correct but doesn't match EPA).
        • 8 Months Ago
        There is nothing real about the user section of EPA. There are only about a dozen entries for the Insight and for all I know they could have all been entered by you. You just need to register and leave any number you feel like. Completely useless.

        Here is an a highly accurate test result from CR. They cut the fuel line, insert accurate fuel meters and then drive the cars in three different tests. They do the same test for every car. This IMO is better than the EPA where they stick the cars on a dyno and measure tailpipe exhaust. That is if they even do the test at all. Sometimes they just take the manufacturers own testing as good enough.

        So what does CR measure:

        ------------- 65mph --------StopnGo---------150 mile trip
        Prius: 55 mpg 32mpg 53mpg
        Insight: 45 mpg 29mpg 46mpg

        So a little different than EPA, but not that different. Prius is much better on the highway, still better in the city, but not by a huge margin.

        But it isn't only about MPG. It is also about the insight being a fair bit crappier as a car. Most reviews point that out.
      • 8 Months Ago
      The Honda Insight and other parallel hybrid and "mild" hybrid designs are little more than greenwashing. The added expense versus the improved MPG just doesn't add up. In other words, the payback on the extra investment just isn't there. The Prius and it's complicated Synergy Drive system has pushed parallel hybrid to its upper limit of efficiency and even that fails when compared with series hybrid.

      Series hybrid, where the vehicle is propelled 100% of the time by the electric motor and the ICE is only used to recharge the battery, is the most efficient and effective type of hybrid. As soon as battery costs go down series hybrid (E-REV, REEV, etc., like the Chevy Volt or Fisker Karma) will be the norm for hybrids.
        • 8 Months Ago
        In order to be "5 times as efficient" (your statement) - given that efficiency can not be more than 100% - that implies that you are saying the ICE is not more than 20% efficient.

        For a *typical* engine, which is oversized for the application and driving through a conventional torque converter automatic transmission, 15% is not far from the truth. But we are not interested in "typical" any more, we are interested in "good".

        Here is a link to a thread that contains a BSFC map for a 1999 - 2003 VW TDI diesel engine along with a fair amount of discussion about it


        I will leave it as an exercise for you to convert g/kWh to thermal efficiency (hint: look up the heating value of diesel fuel and convert everything to joules)

        If you have a gear-to-gear transmission (manual or VW DSG) the transmission will be not far from 92% - 94% efficient.

        Remember, we are talking steady-state highway driving here.

        Keep in mind that electricity has to come from somewhere. Sure, an electric motor on its own can be mid-nineties percent efficient ... but you have to consider the efficiency of wherever that electricity is coming from. In a series hybrid ... it's coming from a combustion engine and a generator through first a rectifier and then an inverter.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I agree with "TheTom"'s analysis here,
        but, remember, too the Insight doesn't handle like previous Honda's.

        I'm wondering if Honda sucked up last years talk of Hyper-Inflation, and cut too much content out of the car, rear-suspension, sound isolation. They may have decided at the time that a better more-expensive hybrid system would not be sellable if the Dollar Collapsed.

        Honda, there are two types of "Economists" in the US.
        The ones for SALE, and the one's you can TRUST.
        Had you listened to Krugman or Shiller or Rotholtz, you would not have bought the Bull about Hyper-Inflation or the current attempt to run up the price of Gold.

        In other words you don't make Business Decisions by listening to Kudlow [ on Krack ]. US Business News is All About GENERATING Fake Market Volatility. But, you're supposed to be an insider, and Know when the BS will Flow.

        Anyway, fix the rear suspension and the noise problem on the Insight, and maybe the car will sell based on Handling and Looks.

        • 8 Months Ago
        TomTom, I am not comparing all-electric to combustion-engine. I am comparing series-hybrid to series/parallel with all energy coming from the combustion engine. Obviously plug-in capability changes all this (and then you have to consider the generating and transmission losses!) but that's not the point at hand.

        During constant-load highway operation, a completely series hybrid will use MORE fuel than a vehicle with an appropriately-designed drivetrain that is capable of transferring power mechanically from the engine to the wheels, because of the inherent energy conversion losses.

        We will find out in the not too distant future if the Chevrolet Volt proves this out.

        By the way, a *good* internal combustion engine these days is a lot more than 20% efficient at or near its best-efficiency point. Prius engine is mid-thirties, VW TDI diesel is low forties and it is within a reasonable percentage of that over a fairly wide operating range.
        • 8 Months Ago
        So ICE vehicles are more efficient than electric vehicles on a straightaway? Needless to say you are wrong.

        An electric vehicle uses 20% of the energy an ICE does. It doesn't matter if you're on a curvy road or a perfectly straight one. The electric motor benefits from a straight road just as an ICE would but it is already 5 times as efficient as an ICE. But good luck in your oil shillery.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Sorry, but a series hybrid is not the answer to everything and is NOT necessarily any more efficient. It depends on the driving patterns in question.

        If you are doing a lot of straight motorway driving, a series hybrid will be LESS efficient than a system that allows most/all of the engine power to be transmitted mechanically.

        If mechanical drive to the wheels is possible then the mechanical power that the engine produces goes through a gear-to-gear transmission to the wheels. In a series hybrid, this is not possible, so you have to go engine -> mechanical -> AC electricity -> DC electricity -> possible side branch in and out of the battery, but in constant speed driving maybe not (see more comments below) -> AC power through an inverter -> drive motor -> gear-to-gear fixed reduction -> wheels.

        A little bit of conversion efficiency is lost at each conversion from mechanical to electrical power, then rectified and inverted to the proper frequency for the drive motor (generator on the engine and drive motor are not running at the same speeds), then converted back to mechanical power, and you STILL generally have a gear-to-gear reduction between the motor and drive wheels.

        The series hybrids argue that the engine can be operated at its best efficiency point. Fair enough. If the power demand from the road load precisely matches the power output at the best efficiency point then that's fine, but that will occur only at one road speed! If you insist on operating at that single operating point then there will necessarily be electricity going in and out of the battery (another loss of efficiency) and the engine will have to be stopped and started intermittently. The Chevrolet Volt designers have found it necessary to operate the engine at a range of speeds. TRUE, this range can be narrower than with a traditional powertrain, but against that you still have the energy conversion losses. After the Volt reaches production and real end users, we'll see how it does when not plugged in ... that will tell the tale. Next thing you know, all the series hybrid promoters will be complaining about how GM didn't do it right because it's not efficient enough in gas-engine-only mode. Mark my words.

        The designers of the Prius powertrain - and Ford's concurrently-developed similar solution - must be given credit. At highway speed it operates in (mostly) mechanical drive mode. Only a small portion of the power goes the electrical route, only enough to implement the CVT function. Yet it is still capable of operating in all-electric mode. It can be operated as a plug-in vehicle if desired.

        But it would be a mistake to say that this is the only way to do it. A geared multi-speed transmission with an electric motor/generator on the input and a clutch between the engine and that, can do almost as well IF it is done correctly. The clutch between engine and motor/generator allows the engine to be shut down. The motor/generator can operate the car in all-electric mode if it has enough power. If the multi-speed transmission has enough range between the shortest and tallest gear and has enough speed choices (6 is probably enough) it can regulate engine speed close enough to the line of best BSFC that what's left won't matter much. This solution obviously relies on a multi-speed geared transmission (but that's known technology) but on the other hand, it only needs a single motor/generator (and variable-speed AC inverter/rectifier) rather than Toyota/Ford's two.

        So why don't Honda's hybrid systems get the job done?

        The earlier ones don't allow the engine to be completely disconnected. (I'm not sure but I think the Insight's system does.)

        The motor/generator and inverter and battery package is too small to effectively operate in EV-only mode. (Mind you, so were the Prius systems before the current one. I can't drive those cars without having the engine start up - too slow.)

        They are using a belt-type CVT system which has higher frictional losses than a geared transmission similar to VW (actually Borg-Warner) DSG systems.

        The engine doesn't use the Atkinson cycle. This is a BIG DEAL. It's likely that the small displacement is hurting them. A larger-displacement engine, but which uses the Atkinson cycle, is likely to be more efficient than Honda's small-displacement conventional engine. Note that the current Prius gained engine size but also gained extra fuel economy. Atkinson changes the whole picture.

        The engine has a two-valve hemi head with an offset spark plug. Toyota and Ford hybrids all use four-valve pentroof heads with a central spark plug. Why is this important -> the central spark plug location is normally regarded as being better for combustion efficiency and when properly designed, is better for knock control i.e. you can use a higher compression ratio. You CA
        • 8 Months Ago
        This forum doesn't allow editing. I found the Prius engine BSFC map (unfortunately it's not labeled, you'll have to believe it) - this is a spark ignition Atkinson cycle engine.


        You will note that the "basic operating line" goes through the regime of best BSFC; the "CVT" function of the Prius drivetrain allows this to be done.

        Also, later on in the thread that I linked to above, there is a discussion about the efficiency losses in series/electric powertrains. The member of that forum in question who discusses this, has worked for a number of prominent powertrain development companies - including doing computer simulations of hybrid-powertrain operating strategies - and really knows what he is talking about.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Where are you getting your statistics? An internal combustion engine that is tasked with pushing a 3000 or 4000 pound vehicle down the road will never be as efficient as an internal combustion engine that is running in its efficiency "sweet spot" at all times and doing nothing but spinning an electrical generator.

        You are going to have to provide a link that shows what you are saying is anything but fantasy.

        Second, I never said an ICE is 20% efficient. I said an electric motor is 5 times as efficient as any ICE, Prius included. Reading comprehension is an important skill.

        According to the gov ICE is 15% efficient: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/FEG/atv.shtml
      • 8 Months Ago
      The thing is plain and simple crap. Looks like crap, drives like crap, as slow as crap, and not priced like crap. While looks and speed can be subjective drive this thing over a few bumps and Voila, Crap! Who cares what's under the hood as long as it works. The Insight doesn't work. Drive one if you dare and you will understand.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So is Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive simply unbeatable as a parallel hybrid architecture? I can't fully understand how the two motor-generators act as a Power Split Transmission/CVT, but it seems to work better than anyone else's system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_%28mechanics%29#Electric_variable says other parallel hybrids are also variable transmission, so why can't other manufacturers use theirs to make a 50 mpg mid-size car??!!?

      It'll be interesting to see if the Volt does well, and in response everybody leapfrogs the Prius by making a series hybrid / RE-EV. People were suggesting this in the "Report: Honda will develop a hybrid that bests Prius' mpg rating" comments; meanwhile Honda should put a start-stop system on the Fit for a slight increase in fuel efficiency.
        • 8 Months Ago

        Ford has a good hybrid system but isn't it based (or wasn't it) on the Toyota hybrid system?

        Without a doubt, Toyota's is the one to beat. However, there's no reason why Ford can't hybridize the new Focus coming up and the Fiesta.

        These are missed opportunities IMO. There's no reason why Ford or Toyota shouldn't hybridize their smaller vehicles and only concentrate on their oversized sedans and SUVs. I find that stupid.

        I would have already bought a hybrid if Honda had put one in their Fit or if Toyota didn't dick around so much with their Camry and Prius hybrids and bring over a nice Auris hybrid. If Ford comes out with a hybrid Focus in 2011 with the new body style, I'll not hesitate to buy one.
        • 8 Months Ago

        > So is Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive simply unbeatable as a parallel hybrid
        > architecture?

        Please see my first comment for the explanation.

        > I can't fully understand how the two motor-generators act as a Power
        > Split Transmission/CVT, but it seems to work better than anyone else's system.

        Power split device has two inputs: ICE engine + electric motor and one output to the wheels.

        By adding electric torque output (2) to the ICE engine torque output (1) or by subtracting (2) from (1), so (1) - (2), you emulate an ordinary gearbox, which job is nothing else than multiplying torque output from the engine before it gets to the wheels to propel the car.

        Please note that both (1) and (2) can equal 0.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Except neptronix, in the real world the hybrid Fusion and hybrid Camry get near-identical economy. Even on the highway where the Fusion should do 20% better, it does the same.

        They're both good cars, but I can't hand any extra credit to Ford for doing the same thing and just putting different mpg ratings on it.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Ford does not get their hybrid system from Toyota, but mechanically it works the same. There is patent sharing between Toyota and Ford.

        This is clearly the best mechanical arrangement for a hybrid, you can take power from either motor/engine or any combination when it is most advantageous.

        But that isn't the whole story. Honda also seems to be falling behind on engine technology. Both Ford and Toyota are also using Atkinson cycle in their engines. Honda doesn't seem to be and everyone seems to be coming out with Direct injection as well, where Honda is silent on this front as well.

        • 8 Months Ago
        No way, look at this comparison of Ford's hybrid system to everyone else's:


        Compare Ford's 2.4L setup to Toyota's 2.4 setup in the Camry.

        ... yeah, i was shocked too.
        I guess if Ford had a small hybrid car, it would be a be a better comparison, but..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Honda is simply stating buy the fit because the hybrid does not make sense.
        • 8 Months Ago
        Honda made a huge mistake of not hybridizing the Fit instead. They misread the market and now they a realize what they did.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dear Koichi Kondo,

      To paraphrase and American bit of common wisdom:

      "It's the MPG, Stupid!!"

      You want to knock Toyota off the top, you gotta hit them where hurts. Right in the MPG's.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What are they struggling with?????

      If they hadn't wasted time bringing out this crap Insight, they could have hybridized the Fit by now and made a real hit.

      They are wasting our time.
      • 5 Years Ago
      >> How are they compromising?

      Insight is an ASSIST hybrid, offering only a single very small electric motor which cannot operate independently of the engine.

      Prius is a FULL hybrid, offering one very large motor and one small motor which both have the ability to operate entirely on their own.

      Those fundamental design & component differences in Prius provide significant advantage... which the higher MPG and the ability for EV clearly demonstrate.

        • 8 Months Ago
        Hi john1701a, nice to see you here. Your website is well know among those who are in hybrids and you're a bit of a legend too.

        Well, at least that's my perspective, LOL.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't know why Honda thinks they have to make things so difficult. Just give us a stripped down Fit without all of the accessories. 1.3 liter engine without the hybrid system. Roll up windows. 6 speed overdrive. low rolling resistance tires. Stop/start technology if its not too expensive. That ought to be 15 to 20% more efficient than the current Honda Fit, and all without costing any more. Just like the old CRX HF. It can't be that hard! Why can't they do this? What am I missing?
        • 8 Months Ago
        1. Pushing weight down does not improve fuel economy as much as you think it does. You need to have a truly featherweight car to make significant difference.

        2. It makes it very hard to meet safety regulations and keep noise, vibration and harshness down.

        3. In order to make engine work in its area of higher efficiency in an ordinary car without hybrid add-up, you have to make this engine weak (so that you use as much percentage of maximum power and as much open throttle in everyday conditions as possible) and gearing tall. Immediate result is crappy performance.

        4. You'll still be far behind hybrids in terms of MPG.

        They key success factor of the Prius is that it posts stellar MPG with very little compromise. It does 0-60 in good 10 seconds.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Neat test at R&T I just saw. Sorry no Honda, but one representative of current gas savers (Hybrid/Diesel/small 4 cyl):

      Prius, Jetta TDI and Fiesta in a bunch of different situation and the MPG they returned.

      Prius won every situation of course. Lowest MPG was their Canyon Carving run: 40mpg.

      • 8 Months Ago
      Wow honda just woke up to the fact that their ima system was a dead end? It should've happened in 2003. No evolution of the platform has EVER taken place. The electrics have not been improved, nor has the battery pack. the insight II is using the same IMA components form the insight I!

      Honda is ready for another fall with the upcoming CR-Z.

      as some side notes:

      I thought that the Insight II is based on the fit? why hybridize the exact same platform... it's not going to yield better results.

      I love anecdotal evidence comparing fuel economy. I get 55 mpg in my prius and I've read of people getting way more. get over it. The insight II failed worse than the insight I (i respect the Insight I for pushing the envelope in '99) and the CR-Z is going to fail worse than both.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Nixon is so right! Honda expected the new Insight to take away Prius sales by offering a lower price. A lower price with equal gas mileage would have done the trick. Had Honda used the more efficient 4-valve Civic Hybrid engine, it might have matched the Prius in real-world gas mileage, but then it would have had to cost as much as a Prius. My wife loves her 2010 Insight; its a good car. I'm still enjoying my 2nd gen-1 Insight, which remains unsurpassed in gas mileage despite the fact that it was designed in 1998.
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