The New Honda Insight Will Come with Eco Assist ~ Hybrid Car Review
Hybrid Car Review: The New Honda Insight Will Come with Eco Assist

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The New Honda Insight Will Come with Eco Assist

The new Honda Insight will be equipped with a fuel economy enhancement system named Ecological Drive Assist System (Eco Assist(TM)). The new system is designed to give the driver real time feedback on how well they're driving, fuel economy-wise.

The system entails several different functions. A driver-activated ECON mode that optimizes control of the continuously variable transmission, engine and related powertrain components to conserve fuel. Then there's the feedback function on the speedometer, which changes the background to provide real-time guidance. And a 'scoring function' which gives feedback on current and 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. in a statement. "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."

The ECON button pushes the transmission, engine and others into a conservation mode. But it also adjusts the air conditioning, makes it more likely to engage the start/stop function and increases the battery charging during regenerative braking.

The speedometer will change colors to indicate how you are driving right now. A green color (surprising that it's green, right?) indicates you have a smooth acceleration and braking. Less smooth driving will push you into a blue-green glow, while aggressive driving will push you into a blue background (I would have gone for red!).

The scoring function has a nice graphical feature. Like Ford's new system, the better you drive, the more 'leaves' you get in your graphical interface. The better you drive (more economically), the bigger your tree. This interface is part of the Multi-Information Display, located in the center console.

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 display can also be switched to show you the fuel economy figures for the last three trips (want to check out what your partner just did to your fuel economy?). It can also give you instantaneous readouts on your fuel economy statistics, as well as you overall performance.

The new Insight is not like the old one. With room for five (not two), the Insight is still a dedicated hybrid platform. It's supposed to sell at 'significantly less' than other hybrids, which may push it below $20K.

Honda was able to cut costs on its IMA system, which lets it push the price down on the new Insight.

The new Insight will be available in the Spring, and people are already putting their name in to buy one.

Honda is targeting sales of 200,000 units per year, half of which should come in North America.

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