4-15-06 Re: Hybridize-yourself?

Hello to All,

Peter VanDerWal wrote:

Doesn’t the CVT version get lower gas mileage than the standard?

If so, why would you want to use something that lowers your fuel efficiency?

Peter, I’m disappointed, as it appears you must have hit the ‘delete’ key and not read my many posts about this topic over the past couple of years :-(   The CVT has nothing to do with the drop in mileage of the Insight equipped with it.

To recap….At the time Honda and Toyota were introducing the hybrids to the US market, they were in very stiff competition with each other over the new idea of mass marketed hybrids:

(1) Honda caught Toyota with their pants down, big time (even Toyota admits this) when they brought the Insight to the US market a full year ahead of the Prius (even though Prius was marketed elsewhere at the time). Only available as a 5 speed manual at first, the Insight achieved a ULEV status while also getting a staggering 70 mpg EPA rating! The 5 speed Insight uses lots of tricks to achieve super high, previously un-heard of mpg levels including its all aluminum body, super aero shape, its lowered stance, and of course, the whole hybrid-electric assist thing, but it also employs a special lean burn ultra light weight (124 lbs.) 3 banger engine that helps it achieve this mpg (my personal 5 speed Insight logs 90+ mpg easily at 62 mph constant speed and gets in the 80 mpg range without any special effort). Using lean burn though, makes it hard to control NOx emissions, thus the ULEV instead of SULEV rating.

(2) To trump Honda, when Toyota finally got around to introducing the US to the Prius, though its mileage was nowhere close to the two seater all aluminum Insight, it did seat four and was still able to get in the 55-60 mpg range while boasting a cleaner SULEV rating. Though actually transmission-less, the Prius’ automatic nature of its drive train (no shifting required) made it unpopular to those who prefer to shift, but very popular for those who prefer automatic trannys.

(3) To fight back, Honda introduced the CVT option for the Insight (and the Hybrid Civic). To match the Prius’ automatic nature, Honda also had it now with the CVT, and to match the SULEV rating, Honda dropped the lean burn capability on only the CVT model Insight. They ended up with the SULEV rating they wanted, but the car’s stellar 70 mpg EPA rating fell to 56 mpg. Many who don’t know this stuff, explain away the drop in mileage as being the fault of the CVT. In reality, the CVT Honda uses is as efficient (perhaps even more efficient) as the 5 speed…it’s the lack of lean burn mode that made the mileage plummet to the level of the Prius.

There are things one can do to keep their 5 speed Insight to keep it from shifting into its lean burn mode while driving, and when you do so, the 5 speed Insight gets pretty much identical mileage to its brother the CVT Insight. In terms of acceleration power, the CVT Insight is a dead match to the 5 speed Insight, so kudos to the efficiency thing for the CVT….it doesn’t rob the car of acceleration power at all.

For a time, I owned two Insights at the same time, my silver 2000 5 speed and a red 2001 CVT:

(1)  In my 5 speed, as you get up to cruising speed and slightly let off the gas to level your speed off, there’s a cool feeling you get as you watch the informative dash display and see the instantaneous mpg readout flutter at around 65-70 mpg, then suddenly it pops up to 90-110 mpg as you also feel a bit of a floating-like push of the car as its high tech 3 banger makes the hyper mileage jump into lean burn…very cool, very entertaining, and something all of us talk about that are fortunate enough to own one of these amazing machines. Then as road terrain goes up and down slightly, instead of the mpg going up and down, you see the dash indicator for the electric motor assist coming and going as it fills in the voids where, because of the lean burn’s lack of torque, the engine needs a little help…again, very cool and fun.

(2) In my CVT Insight, as you got up to cruising speed and slightly let off the gas to level your speed off, that cool feeling I get with my lean burn car is gone, and the instantaneous mpg readout just continues to flutter at around 65-70 mpg, never popping up to 90-110 mpg level, and that cool floating-like push of the car at the hyper mileage jump into lean burn never happens :-(   As road terrain goes up and down slightly, you still see the dash indicator for the electric motor assist coming and going to help out, but not nearly as often because the 3 banger is in a more normal fuel-air ratio so torque is improved slightly, and, the CVT does an excellent job of keeping the ICE in its sweet spot. As a side bar, I was never, ever able to even get close to the same gas mileage as my 5 speed Insight, but I was able to hit 72 mpg on one 200 mile trip. On that same trip where my wife was following me in the 5 speed car, she got 86 mpg.

See Ya……John Wayland

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