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Discussion Starter #1
Folks, accept my apologies for asking a question that's been asked before, but the old answers left me somewhat less confident than I'd like to be.

Last month my '98 Integra GS-R was stolen. Plausible replacements given how I live, after my insurance company settles, are a new Civic EX or a used Honda certified Insight. How do I live? My daily commute is 130 miles round trip. Since I started this grind I've had an '84 Civic 1500S (bought new, traded at 278k miles), a '91 Integra GS (bought new, traded at 415k miles), and a '98 Integra GS-R (bought used at 58k miles, stolen at 180k miles). In a typical year I drive about 45k miles.

A used Insight is attractive because of low running costs but frightens me because of potentially crushing battery replacement costs. Last week I spoke with a person at Honda customer support who repeated the party line that the battery module is warranted for 80k miles. Today I spoke with the service manager of Burns Honda, in Marlton, NJ who told me that (a) there is no MSRP for the battery module (b) one's coming real soon now and (c) when it comes it will be around $2,900.

Now, I know the warranty has to run out somewhere in the miles-to-failure distribution's left tail; most battery modules will last more than 80k miles. How many miles one can reasonably expect a battery module to last is hard to find out. As I calculate it, with $1.50 gasoline, 60 mpg from the Insight, 35 mpg from the Civic, and a $2,900 new battery module every 80k miles an Insight will be a financial catastrophe for me. It won't begin to make sense until fuel costs $3/gallon.

Will those of you with substantial experience with Insights please advise whether I did my sums badly? I appreciate that my situation is somewhat extreme and that for many people an Insight would make good sense. I'm very concerned that in my situation one would be a bad mistake.

Thanks,

Dan
 

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dan fromm said:
How do I live? My daily commute is 130 miles round trip..... Since I started this grind.... In a typical year I drive about 45k miles.
Sorry, I am not going to comment on the economics of Insight owning - I am way too biased. :)

However I will say...move nearer to your work! Surely you have got better things to do with your time and money than to spend it commuting?!? Consider your Work / Life balance - could you work from home? Just my two pennies...
 

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battery replacement cost

Dan,

you're pinpointing the crux of the matter pretty well. I always assumed that the 80k miles warranty meant you would get a free replacement (no way that battery can last that long). But recent experience shows that Honda is playing hardball as far as acknowledging battery failures. Since it's not like a lightbulb that either works or doesn't, it is up to debate wether a battery is good or bad or somewhere in-between! Honda seems to apply a vastly different scale than most of us.

But even if the battery goes south and continues to do so, you will still get far better gas mileage in the Insight than any other car. Especially if you are mostly driving on the highway, you will hardly notice if the battery is still there or not. (at least mpg-wise).

So my thinking has always been: If I can't get Honda to replace it under warranty, I'll keep the original battery, even if it recalibrates every ten yards. Performance was great while it lasted, but will still be sufficient (for me).

My only concern there is this: There are some battery-related trouble codes that can cause the computer to shut-down the IMA system entirely. This would include the DC-DC converter (the "alternator" function of the car). In that case, you must get the problem repaired to keep the car running, and may be forced into buying a new battery for whatever price Honda dictates. There are too few cases of this happening to estimate the real risk of this. (And so far, all I know of where covered under warranty.)
 

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dan fromm said:
<snip>

Today I spoke with the service manager of Burns Honda, in Marlton, NJ who told me that (a) there is no MSRP for the battery module (b) one's coming real soon now and (c) when it comes it will be around $2,900.

Now, I know the warranty has to run out somewhere in the miles-to-failure distribution's left tail; most battery modules will last more than 80k miles. How many miles one can reasonably expect a battery module to last is hard to find out. As I calculate it, with $1.50 gasoline, 60 mpg from the Insight, 35 mpg from the Civic, and a $2,900 new battery module every 80k miles an Insight will be a financial catastrophe for me. It won't begin to make sense until fuel costs $3/gallon.

Will those of you with substantial experience with Insights please advise whether I did my sums badly? I appreciate that my situation is somewhat extreme and that for many people an Insight would make good sense. I'm very concerned that in my situation one would be a bad mistake.

Thanks,

Dan
When I checked over a year ago the price was around $2,000. And if you use the same calculations in regard to any vehicle's warranty your cost of ownership will skyrocket. There are several Insights out there well in excess of the 80K IMA pack warranty still running fine. The possibility exists of DIY replacing the battery sub assembly at a cost of only $700-800. It has been reported in some Insight groups that the design life of the IMA batteries is 150K. But as in all things automotive YMMV.

And your MPG is pessimistically low. With some "behavior modification" and tweaking of the loose nut behind the wheel you should be able to attain high 70 Mpg's or better.

As Christian pointed out the pure economics of moving closer makes the most sense (cents <g>).

HTH! :)
 

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Re: battery replacement cost

Armin said:
. .....Since it's not like a lightbulb that either works or doesn't, it is up to debate wether a battery is good or bad or somewhere in-between! .......
Aye, there's the rub...

How long will you tolerate degrading performance, and just how bad does it have to get?????
 

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I hate to say this, but I think it may be a necessary evil. I know of 3 Insight's locally that needed engines, all right around 80K to 90K miles. Granted I was told that one of them produced jiffy lube reciepts when asked to produce record of proper matenience, but still that was enought to scare me in to buying an extended warranty.

Either way though, civic or Insight it'll be a good choice. You might crunch the numbers and see what the price difference over time might be. You can get a used Insight pretty cheap. Again, the down side is parts are expensive.
 

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If you are doing mostly highway cruising the battery should last forever as it will almost never get used. In a car review of the Insight they tested accelleration with and without battery assist and found it made a difference of just over 2 seconds. Highway mileage would be just slightly better without the IMA battery as the car would be lighter and there would be no need for a trickle charge on it. If you are worried about the engine wearing out use 0W30 synthetic oil. (Check the ESM, it's one of the suggested oils.) It seems to get the same mileage as 0W20 refined oil.

Choosing an Insight is also about emotions, otherwise exotic cars wouldn't exist. Like many others I really love this car. There are so few of them it is a shame if someone who owns one doesn't. You are going to be spending so much time in it I would hope you would too.
 

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b1shmu63 said:
<snip>

Highway mileage would be just slightly better without the IMA battery as the car would be lighter and there would be no need for a trickle charge on it.
A degraded IMA battery pack should still allow the Insight to reasonably function. However, don't forget the "alternator" function of the IMA system. Without it there is no electricity generated for spark, lights, etc. And the car would not be driveable. I have not seen it confirmed that a dead IMA pack still allows this IMA function. :(

I wrote:

"With some "behavior modification" and tweaking of the loose nut behind the wheel you should be able to attain high 70 Mpg's or better."

James replied:

"That depends. If you generally see a good traffic flow, yes. If there's a lot of stop & go, probably not."

Correct. However, I was reading between the lines and with the clarity of his post and the detrimental effects of a 130 mile commute in lower Insight MPG conditions I doubted that is the situation. <g>
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks very much for the replies, even though they point in several directions.

Moving house is not, unfortunately, an option.

I'm not sure what mpg to expect with an Insight, but based on reports here 60 mpg seems possible. I'm not sure how easy doing better will be. Morning commute is pre-rush hour, with little stop-and-go. Afternoon trip home is usually on the NJ Turnpike, with very variable conditions. FWIW, the Integra GS usually returned around 30-31 mpg, the GS-R 31-33, and my wife's '99 Civic EX is giving 33-35. All manual transmission cars. Cruising speed northbound in the AM is ~ 73 mph on the interstate, ~ 51 mph on back roads. Southbound varies from ~ 20 mph to ~ 80 mph depending on conditions. Speeds measured with a GPS that went missing with the GS-R.

I take the points that an Insight might and might not be usable with a dead battery pack.

The news of engine failures under 100k miles is astonishing. In my experience, Honda motors can go > 300k miles before needing rings and valve guide seals and the bearings don't seem to wear at all. This with oil changes every 7.5 k miles, NOT every 3-4k.

I've bought somewhat risky cars (would you believe TWO Reliant Scimitar coupes?) but shouldn't now. I can't commit myself until my insurance company decides what to do, but I think I'd better wimp out and get a Civic.

Thanks again to all who responded. More news would be welcome.

Dan
 

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I can't help you with the Insight, but I spend a lot of time on the Prius forums. The 2001 Prius used (I think) the same principal NiMH batteries as the Insight. Obviously, it's a totally different car, and the batteries are employed in a different way, but battery failures are practically unheard of in the Prius. In fact, a taxi driver in Vancouver used a 2001 Prius for over 322,000km (a little over 200,000 miles), with no problems. Toyota bought the car back off him and stripped the battery down for research purposes - there was barely any degradation.

If the Honda battery pack is more prone to wearing out however, I'd consider switching the batteries myself - $2,900 is a little steep. They were originally a series connection of 120 NiMH cells each with 1.2 V providing a total output of 144 V and 6.5 amp-hours, and were provided by Panasonic EV.

http://www.peve.panasonic.co.jp/e_catalog1.html



I suspect what you'd need as a DIYer are basically 20 of these assemblies:

http://www.peve.panasonic.co.jp/catalog/e_maru.html

(Sorry, don't know how much they are).

Also if I recall correctly, the individual cells are of a standard size, meaning another (not OEM, as this one is) company may be able to offer them much cheaper than Panasonic EV or Honda. I think the cheapest NiMH is now down to approximately $600 per kWhr, so you might be looking at about $550 if you had to change every cell yourself, less labour costs of course?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Clett, thanks for the Panasonic link. I've asked them about price and availability of "cylindrical modules" and if they reply I'll share their news.

Regards,

Dan
 

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Dan,

I don't know that I will be of help with your decision with an insight, especially since I just got mine only a few months ago, but for what it is worth, here is how I arrived at my decision....

I have a 1989 honda accord with 325000 miles on it and it has had some troubles over it's lifetime but I think I got my money's worth. It is in good running condition, still gets 36 to the gallon and only needs a paint job. I also have a 1993 del sol. I squeeze 40mpg out of it but it prefers to go faster and get about 36 too. HONDA MAKES GOOD CARS!

I have a commute of 100 miles a day and investigated the insight at length, thought about the batterypack life and the cost and thought and thought and thought. Well, the 2000 is supposed to be the highest MPG car and is rated at 71mpg and they fall off from there. In my area gas is at $1.64 and I doubt that it will fall below $1.50. SOOOOOOOO, hmmmm, What can I say, I took the plunge. I looked for low mileage and thought that I had 4 years to put this baby to good use and crank up the miles. I bought a 2000 with 15000 miles on it. I am very pleased so far. I am one of those people who can get the best out of a car so I hope this little car is like my other hondas and lasts me past it's normal limit. I average 75mpg on my communte. It saves me money. My accord has turned into my pick-up truck. (I use it for hauling) It is a hatchback. My poor little del sol sits under cover, waiting to take me out on those nice days. I have thought about selling the del sol, but I really like it, bought it used, oh well.

This forum has helped me know my car and do the right things for it. It is too bad that the MPG keeps going down for the later insights. I used this site to help make my decision, too http://www.fueleconomy.gov/

I will be hard to live with when the first problem comes up with the car. I expect a lot out of a Honda.
 
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counselorkv said:
Well, the 2000 is supposed to be the highest MPG car and is rated at 71mpg and they fall off from there.
The 2000 has a higher EPA rating because Honda submitted an Insight without air contidioning to the EPA for testing. But because the majority of 2000 Insights were sold WITH AC, the EPA used one with AC for testing the following years. The 2000 through 2003 models are IDENTICAL.

The 2004 model is rated slightly lower, though I don't know why. There is speculation that Honda fiddled with the emmisions control systems a bit.
 

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The battery has an 8yr, 80K miles warranty. So why does everyone seem to think that the battery will need to be replaced just after 80K miles? The gas engine has a 3yr/36K miles warranty and no one expects that they will need to replace it just after 36K miles!

Scan the net and you can find several people who have had problems with their batteries. Most have less than 80K miles. And no one has any evidence that this is anything other than defective batteries and/or defective electronics/sensors.

The life of the battery depends on how it is stressed. Avoid high heat and deep cycling and it will probably last long enough that you should think of it in the same way as replacing the engine when it fails. (i.e. maybe never)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks for the additional discussion.

Flunkysama made the good point that it probably makes little sense to assume the battery pack will have to be replaced as soon as the warranty expires. Chances are that it will last longer -- the sensible manufacturer will set the warranty period so that few failures happen in it -- but maybe not.

I remember our '67 Sunbeam Alpine V, a Chrysler product, that came with a 5 year/50k mile warranty on nearly everything. In the two years we had the car Chrysler paid our dealer more for warranty work than we'd paid him for the car. Yes, I know, Honda does everything better than Chrysler UK did.

But still and all, with a $2,900 battery pack, a couple of hundred dollars/year insurance savings relative to the alternative (new Civic EX, 2 doors, 5 speed), and $1.50 gasoline, the Insight makes economic sense for me only if the battery pack will last more than around 140K miles. With $1.75 gasoline, breakeven is around 120k miles, with $2.00 110k miles.

No word from Panasonic yet. There don't seem to be enough high mileage Insights yet for good data on battery pack miles to replacement. AAARGH! Faith is required ...

Thanks again to everyone for the discussion,

Dan
 

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El Vacho,

Where did you hear about what insight honda submitted for the rating? And that in later years the one with AC was submitted?

Interesting....
 
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Hi Dan:

___It appears that you are considering the purchase of a low mileage used Insight, correct? I have only purchased a used vehicle one other time and it was a bit of a nightmare but in this case, $20,000 + didn’t make sense. $10,000 w/ 28,000 miles, a Honda certification including a 7 yr/100K mile power train (this will not cover IMA system :() warranty, brand new RE92 tires, all fluids changed, and a clean car fax did. Rick M. (New York - Rick M.) knows of a Honda dealer on the East Coast that he picked up a brand new 03 5-speed up for just $14,300 a few months ago if that helps you decide.

___What kind of pricing are you looking at on a used Insight in NJ anyway? This is where many here can really help you out in terms of what to look for. Rick (Arizona - Rick) helped me out tremendously in this regard just a few short months ago.

___As for the pack longevity, Rick posted that he saw an Insight hit the auction block on the East Coast and it had 163,000 miles on it! I don’t know if the pack was replaced or the vehicles history but with my short 3,000 + miles behind the wheel of my own, I just don’t use the battery all that much. With that, I hope it will last far past 200,000 miles but as with anything electronic, we shall see. I almost wish the Insight’s IMA wasn’t there for all the use I get out of it. Regen, Autostop, Assist, Alternator, Starter, and Crankshaft balancer are extremely useful and worthwhile additions but it’s a $3,000 - $5,000 nice I almost wish I could do without when something goes wrong sometime a few tens to hundred(s) of thousands of miles down the road if fit makes it that far …

___Finally, my round trip commute is almost 185 miles if that helps you decide. It most certainly did for me.

___Good Luck

___Wayne R. Gerdes
___Hunt Club Farms Landscaping Ltd.
___[email:9n6fl4cp][email protected][/email:9n6fl4cp]
 
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