Honda Unveils Hybrid EV in US - the Insight

July 07, 1999 by Jeff Shepard

American Honda Motor Co. Inc. (Torrance, CA) announced it will be marketing its VV two-seater hybrid electric vehicle in the US as the "Insight". The automaker stated that the hybrid vehicle will be able to achieve close to 80mpg on the highway. Honda will offer the Insight in December 1999, with rival Toyota expected to bring its electric hybrid, the Prius, to market here in the year 2000. Based on Honda's Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) hybrid system, the Insight will use a 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine that includes such features as lean-burn technology, low friction design and aluminum and magnesium in the casting. The electric component of the IMA system consists of an ultra-thin (60mm) dc-brushless motor, a 144V nickel metal-hydride battery pack and an advanced electronic Power Control Unit (PCU). According to Honda, the electric motor draws power from the batteries to boost engine performance to the level of a 1.5-liter gasoline engine and acts as a generator during braking to recharge the vehicle's batteries.Honda's IMA differs from the approach of the Toyota Prius, which shifts between the gasoline engine and the electric motor as a primary power source, by only using the electric motor to boost the engine's power during hard acceleration. Honda's approach allows for the battery to be half the size of that in the Prius, according to the automaker. The Insight is largely crafted of aluminum and plastic and is claimed to be 40 percent lighter than a conventional car. Honda reportedly expects to sell 5,000 Insights in the US per year. The price tag for each will be below $20,000.