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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

I am seriously considering buying a Honda Insight, mainly because of environmental reasons.

However, one thing really does concern me, the insight uses a large quantity of Ni-MH battteries right? If I recall correctly, these are good for 10,000 charge/discarge cycles. Now because of the way hybrids work, I assume charging and discharging is going to occur frequently?

So what is the expected lifespan of the batteries? I assume the cost of replacing then would be prohibitive, and the environmental cost of manyfacturing and disposing of a large amount of Ni-MH batteries will probably offset the gain from the low fuel consumption.

This is especiially when considering the Insight next to its nearest competitor - the smart car which is also a two seater. Its emmissions are 112g/km vs 80g/km for the Insight, but it uses a turbo charged 700cc engine to propel a car only 2.5 meters long, not to mention it is considerably cheaper and isn't a hybrid.

So I was wondering what people reckon. Clearly the Insight hasn't been around long enough for battery life to be a problem, but I reckon a few people may be in for a rude awakaning?
 

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The car has been around for over 3 years in a broad range of environments, often at very high mileage, since the urge to buy a fuel-efficient car is all the stronger for people who drive a lot. You make some assumptions that likely don't quite hold true.

The 10,000 cycle figure is probably true for batteries that are run full cycle, but the electronics in the Insight do not allow the batteries to be charged higher than 80% capacity, nor discharged to lower than 20% capacity. This is done to protect the lifespan of the batteries.

The batteries are also highly monitored for temperature and protected when the temperature becomes sufficiently excessive to affect battery life. We have come to realize that tropical climates do require some special treatment to protect the batteries. Owners in Florida often write here about the necessity of getting the windows reflectively tinted, and cars in hot climates driven without air conditioning (the batteries are cooled by air pulled from the passenger compartment, so air conditioning cools the batteries, too) suffer shorter battery life.

Still, with all this, battery life of less than the warranty's 80,000 miles is VERY exceptional. I've only read one person here claim that their batteries lasted less than that (and they were from a hot climate). Another person got just over 80,000 miles out of their batteries. Most of us will likely get quite a bit more.

Meanwhile, 80,000 miles consumes a lot of gasoline. I seriously doubt that the pollution from a set of batteries comes anywhere NEAR the pollution from burning 80,000 miles worth of gasoline in the Smart Car vs. the Insight. In this case, I don't think your suspicion of the technology is justified.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Still, with all this, battery life of less than the warranty's 80,000 miles is VERY exceptional. I've only read one person here claim that their batteries lasted less than that (and they were from a hot climate). Another person got just over 80,000 miles out of their batteries. Most of us will likely get quite a bit more.
Even so, 80,000 miles is not a particularly good life expectancy of a car, I would expect a car to last more like 200,000 miles if properly maintained.

The (energy) cost to build a car is also not insignificant, and if Insights reach the end of their working life at or around 80,000 miles that doesn't seem especially environmentally friendly. The economics don't work either as you are unlikely to get pay-back within the liftime, especially when comparing to the smart, the base model costs about a third of the cost of an insight.

Meanwhile, 80,000 miles consumes a lot of gasoline. I seriously doubt that the pollution from a set of batteries comes anywhere NEAR the pollution from burning 80,000 miles worth of gasoline in the Smart Car vs. the Insight. In this case, I don't think your suspicion of the technology is justified.
Well, lets just take that to the test. Remember the Smart is a very economical car too.
Honda Insight: 80g/km
Smart: 112g/km
Typical Car: 200g/km
Typical SUV: 300g/km

So over 80,000 miles, a Honda insight will emit 10 tons of CO2, a smart car will emit 14 tons of CO2.

Now, 4 tons extra of CO2 may sound like a lot, but you would be surprised at how much manufacturing consumes. Bear in mind to make just 1 ton of steel puts 1.5 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, and thats before you have bent it into place (I think it may even be more for Aluminium).

Of course the Smart car is currently unavailable in the USA, which probably means the Insight is the most economical car by some way. But compared to Europe, gasoline is very cheap, I suspect the only reason why people buy an Insight is for environmental reasons, as I cannot see it surviving on economic grounds.

I guess that is why sales are so poor, people just don't care they would rather have their enourmous SUV :(
 

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The CAR will last forever. However the batteries will need to be replaced. I only hope the price of the battery change will become lower.
 

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not to worry

I just read a long post on the yahoo group: the 100,000 mile report of an Insight that is doing well with no major problems. Even the annoying SoC recal problem appears to have stabilized. You might want to read it!

Given that very few of us have reached that mileage, yet, this is clearly not statistically relevant. But it's good to know and I haven't heard many negative experiences, either.
 

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I don't think the cost of a battery replacement is "prohibitive" by any means. What did the person that had them replaced say, about $2K? And that's buying new from the dealer. I would imagine that as hybrid technology becomes more common, you would see standard battery units becoming cheaper, and even cheap rebuilt/repaired units (like refilled printer cartridges), where they just swap out bad cells.

I do think NiMH batteries are recylcable too, and since you have a bunch in a pack, it's more practical than for isolated computer batteries and such.
 

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I doubt many of us flatlanders have discharged our batteries that frequently during the course of a week. Therefore I expect the batteries will probably last more than 100,000 miles.

Just keep in mind that driving for good milage puts less wear-and-tear on any car. This probably applies to the batteries.
 

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Whereas I've been discharging them several times a week - 2 - 4 thousand foot climbs will do that quite handily :)

Also, if for some reason you couldn't replace the battery pack, I believe you could take the battery & IMA out (or just disconnect them) and have a car with acceptable performance, that would still get better mileage than anything but a Prius or Civic Hybrid.

"I suspect the only reason why people buy an Insight is for environmental reasons..."

Not true. I bought mine primarily because I wanted a small, nimble two-seat hatchback - the nearest thing I could get to the Honda CRX I had before. Second factor was the neat new technology. Economic & environmental concerns, while nice fringe benefits, weren't major factors in my decision.

"I guess that is why sales are so poor, people just don't care they would rather have their enourmous SUV..."

Some of that, but also consider that Honda is actually losing quite a bit of money on every one they sell, so they aren't exactly marketing it aggressively :) When it takes three months or so from order to delivery...
 

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There is a group that rates "green" vehicles and the Insight has won for the past four years in a row (2000-2003). The rating includes their best estimates of many kinds of vehicle impacts.

http://www.greenercars.com/

The Insight has also been recognized with an award by the Sierra Club, it's still the most fuel-efficient production car of all time. Plus others... check the news sites on the main page.

Can anyone tell us what the environmental impact of NiMH batteries are, and if they are significant? It's certainly nothing like NiCads and I'll bet both alkaline and lead-acid batteries are worse.

Pretty sure we don't have the data yet on how long we can expect the IMA batteries to last, but when considering the $2k (as reported by some here) replacement cost one should also remember the costs that we don't have to deal with. Such as less brake work (and less brake dust polluting the environment). No need to maintain an alternator. And so on.

Finally, if you can't get a smart car, it's not really a competitor.
 

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My guess is whatever is the enviromentaly sound method to dispose of computers, is the best way to dispose of batteries.
 

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Olikea seems biased against the Insight, making bad generalizations and listening poorly to information given, or intentionally distorting it -- I'm not sure which.

First of all, it seems remarkably short-sighted to claim to be an environmentalist while ignoring more than 99% of the cars on the road that are obviously worse than the Insight, and instead, take pot-shots at one of the few cars with a design actually intended to minimize the pollution created in order to get people around in the way modern civilization typically requires. I have to question your motive.

Yes, cars should last over 200,000 miles, but most don't, unless they are Hondas or Toyotas or maybe Volvos (though Volvos are not exactly known for low pollution or high gas mileage). The only car I've ever owned that made it past 200,000 miles is my 1992 Honda Civic, and it's still in great shape. I'm hoping the Insight lasts as long, since it is built and maintained by the same people. I'm also hoping the Civic makes 300,000 miles. So far, there's no evidence that it won't.

If the batteries only lasted 80,000 miles (and I think most of us will get significantly more than that out of them), then they are easily replaced. Honda got Panasonic, the battery's manufacturer, to commit to a minimum of 10 years of production of the units beyond the manufacture date of the car (as is required by law), so whenever Honda stops making the Insight (and despite annual rumors that they've stopped, they still have brochures for the 2004 model), you should still be able to count on getting batteries for the next 10 years. The death of the battery does not mark the death of the car. The decade of production, plus the life of those replaced batteries beyond the point of replacement will take Insights fairly close to the 20 year mark, at which point the Insight will officially become an antique car. Is that good enough for you?

Measuring the environmental impact of one set of batteries vs. 4 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, I suspect that even by this criteria, the Insight does just fine. I also suspect that the Smart Car is not sold in the US because the manufacturer probably doesn't want to spend the extra money to make it pass polution limiting standards or safety standards required of US cars. These are the most typical reasons many foreign car manufacturers don't export to the US.

I'm not sure about the energy cost of producing the aluminum frame and body. My understanding is that aluminum production requires less heat, but more electricity than steel production. Meanwhile, some of the technology (the cooler molding techniques developed for the Insight) use less energy than more traditional methods. Meanwhile, since the body won't rust, it might last longer than it's steel counterparts. Also, being the lightest production car available in the US, likely it simply uses less material than most cars; certainly less than "normal" cars (read that as "SUVs") in the US.

Go pick on a vehicle that deserves it. If you can't appreciate the Insight, I encourage you to go join a group that is interested in whatever vehicle you prefer.

Environmentalism should be a positive thing. It's that simple. If we cooperated toward positive things instead of bickered among ourselves, we'd get more done.
 

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Will M said:
Yes, cars should last over 200,000 miles, but most don't, unless they are Hondas or Toyotas or maybe Volvos (though Volvos are not exactly known for low pollution or high gas mileage). The only car I've ever owned that made it past 200,000 miles is my 1992 Honda Civic, and it's still in great shape. I'm hoping the Insight lasts as long, since it is built and maintained by the same people. I'm also hoping the Civic makes 300,000 miles. So far, there's no evidence that it won't.

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I had a 1985 Saab 900 had over 150k when sold to my buddy and he put another 100k on it. Though Saab is now GM so they suck. German cars will last forever yet are not as good on MPG. Audi/VW make some great little cars yet they don't import them to the US.
 

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My '84 Toyota pickup just passed 200K. Doesn't get driven much these days (I just bought it for hauling building materials, firewood, and suchlike), so it may be around for another 20 years before it hits 300K. Though I occasionally look at it, and think "Now if I found a wrecked Insight, the electric motor ought to fit inside the clutch housing..."
 

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A good post by Will M as ever, although I disagree that cars are not imported to the US due to not being able to meet high pollution or safety standards. More likely that the 'big three' are protecting their US markets from better made, more efficient models (no lazy straight six's anywhere else).

I do agree that the Insight is simply the best vehicle at 80g/km and arguing the toss about the battery pack is academic; especially after I read an article the other day that stated:- A passenger on a long haul flight (singular) creates more CO2 than the typical person does driving and heating their home for a whole year! :cry:

Someone needs to create a more environmentally friendly plane! Honda to build more efficient jet engines?
 

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Honda got Panasonic, the battery's manufacturer, to commit to a minimum of 10 years of production of the units beyond the manufacture date of the car (as is required by law)
Please state your source.

As far as the latter about being required by law, that is false. I spoke to the regional manager for honda part supply (casual conversation), and stated this was a myth, and is not true. He handles making sure parts departments have what they need, how much they need, and everything is kosher in the Southeast.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Will M said:
Olikea seems biased against the Insight, making bad generalizations and listening poorly to information given, or intentionally distorting it -- I'm not sure which.

First of all, it seems remarkably short-sighted to claim to be an environmentalist while ignoring more than 99% of the cars on the road that are obviously worse than the Insight, and instead, take pot-shots at one of the few cars with a design actually intended to minimize the pollution created in order to get people around in the way modern civilization typically requires. I have to question your motive.
Clearly I have struck a chord here. All I am trying to do is be objective about the environmental credentials of Insight.

There are other cars available which offer very high economy without resorting to hybrid techniques.

Bear in mind that the Insight is shockingly expensive. Just look at my comparison (UK prices sorry).

Honda Insight - 80mpg (Euromix economy), £17,000 (UK on-the-road price) http://www.honda.co.uk
Mercedes Smart Car - 60mpg - from £6565 http://www.thesmart.co.uk
Daihatsu Charade - 58mpg - from £5995 http://www.daihatsu.co.uk

The Daihatsu Charade (Cuore) uses a 1.0 litre dynamic-vavle-timing engine, does 0-60 in 12.2 seconds (very reasonable), and comes with loads of kit. Or you can go to £6995 which has 4 airbags, 5 doors and air conditioning. But most importantly it seats 4, which neither the Smart nor the Honda insight does, so in terms of CO2/passenger mile it is potentially better.

Also Japan has released a new micro car called the Suzuki Twin, which costs the equivalent (in Japan) of £2500 ($4000), which is likely to make it to Europe: http://www.suzuki.co.jp/dom4/lineup/twin/index.html

And that is before we consider a raft of small diesel cars which achieve a Euromix economy of 64mpg. (admittedly diesels pollute more than petrols but they are getting better).

So really the Insight is asking for quite a lot of money, and in my opinion, it isn't the only car which can be considered gree.

Yes, cars should last over 200,000 miles, but most don't, unless they are Hondas or Toyotas or maybe Volvos (though Volvos are not exactly known for low pollution or high gas mileage). The only car I've ever owned that made it past 200,000 miles is my 1992 Honda Civic, and it's still in great shape. I'm hoping the Insight lasts as long, since it is built and maintained by the same people. I'm also hoping the Civic makes 300,000 miles. So far, there's no evidence that it won't.
The cost of manufacturing (and disposing!) a car isn't insignificant in the life-cycle of vehicle emmissions. Something many seem to forget. If the Honda Insight only lasts 100,000 miles or so then that makes it very environmentally questionable. Now even if replacement batteries are "only" $2k, how much will an Insight be worth once it has hit 100,000 miles? In theory all cars could be made to last forever if people rebuilt the engine every 200-300k miles. But no one does as the rebuild would cost more than the value of the car.
Measuring the environmental impact of one set of batteries vs. 4 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, I suspect that even by this criteria, the Insight does just fine. I also suspect that the Smart Car is not sold in the US because the manufacturer probably doesn't want to spend the extra money to make it pass polution limiting standards or safety standards required of US cars. These are the most typical reasons many foreign car manufacturers don't export to the US.
Well, I simply don't know about the batteries. It wouldn't surprise me if it their manuifacture (and disposal) put on the order of tons of CO2 into the air.

The Smart car meets EU4 emmissions standards (2005 requirements). That is probably equivalent to ULEV in the USA. Apparently there are plans to trial the Smart in the USA to judge reaction.

Go pick on a vehicle that deserves it. If you can't appreciate the Insight, I encourage you to go join a group that is interested in whatever vehicle you prefer.
Environmentalism should be a positive thing. It's that simple. If we cooperated toward positive things instead of bickered among ourselves, we'd get more done.[/quote]
I am not "picking" on the Insight. I am scrutinizing it carefully before spending a vast amount of money in the belief that it is the right thing to do!
 

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Discussion Starter #17
The Silver Streaker said:
A passenger on a long haul flight (singular) creates more CO2 than the typical person does driving and heating their home for a whole year! :cry:

Someone needs to create a more environmentally friendly plane! Honda to build more efficient jet engines?
Unforunately Jet planes will always consume vast amounts of fuel. Most of the energy doesn't go into the plane, but into the Jet exhaust stream.

The problem is in Physics. conservation of momentum says that to move foreward you have to push something back. If your pushing against air you have to move a lot of it very fast. But Kinetic power goes like v^2, so of the air is flowing twice as fast as the plane, then 4 times more energy has been put into the air.

This is why turbo-prop engines are more efficient as they sweep out a larger area of air, so have to move it less fast.

However, air travel is going to be the real problem of the 21st century. I heard an estimate that in 25 years, 41% of all CO2 emmissions will come from air travel.

We seriously need to consider alternatives, such as high speed trains, and/or simply more teleworking, because unless we do, all this argument about efficient cars will become very acedemic :(
 

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Not quite

olikea said:
If I recall correctly, these are good for 10,000 charge/discarge cycles.
I know the discussion has gone quite another way by now, but I did want to rebutt this misconception.

In my experience, NiMH systems can, under controlled lab conditions, last 2000 to 3000 cycles for a single cell. When many cells are combined into a battery, the accumulation of differences reduces that number to around 500-1000. In a real-life situation in a car, with many parameters varying widely, practical numbers are closer to 300.

Now, this is all rule-of-thumb stuff and Panasonic may have found a way to do some improvements. But it would be truly dramatic if they could actually get more than 500.


The other question is how many cycles do you run through in the Insight, and how deep are they. Only a recal is a real discharge-charge cycle. Most of the driving is closer to a float situation. If you recal once a week, 300 cycles would still be 6 years.
 

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Even if the batteries only last to 80K ( The warranty) , and cost $1k to replace .. Its still about the same as a regular car and the timing belt replacement ( every 60k -75k) . The last timing belt replacement was about $500 with the timing belt intact , and $1300 on another when it broke .. So I just look at it as maintenance cost .. I bet with the money saved on gas, that the cost per mile for the life of the car is still cheaper than that of a regular gas burner..

Stephen
 

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olikea - So you are in the UK... I agree that £17,000 is alot of money to lay out for a Insight. However, have a look at autotrader.co.uk, for example, and you can get a nearly new one for around £10,000. That will bring the economics much more favourably towards the Insight. As well as the petrol cost savings, if you drive into central London, you can also save yourself £5 a day on the Congestion Charge exemption. Have you driven one yet? Definitely worth a try.
 
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