Honda Insight -- Introduction

The Honda Insight is the first gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle to besold in the United States. The heart of the hybrid system is Honda'sinnovative Integrated Motor Assist (IMA™), which couples anall-new and compact 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder engine and an ultra-thinelectric motor for outstanding efficiency. The IMA system combinedwith a rigid aluminum body structure and world-class aerodynamicdesign gives the Insight the ability to travel as far as 70 miles ona gallon of gasoline (EPA highway) and still run so cleanly that itmeets California's stringent Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV)standard, making it the world's cleanest, most fuel-efficientgasoline-powered automobile.

The Insight drives just like any other automobile. Its range islimited only by its 10.6-gallon gas tank. No external power supply isneeded for recharging. It is a full-featured automobile, backed bythe Honda reputation for durability, quality and reliability.


  • The Integrated Motor Assist (IIMA) "parallel" hybrid system uses the world's most fuel-efficient 1.0-liter gasoline automobile engine, assisted by a powerful, ultra-thin, permanent-magnet electric motor
  • Advanced power control system efficiently manages the power of the engine, assist motor, charging system and nickel-metal hydride batteries
  • VTEC™-E lean-burn, stratified-charge combustion technology
  • Nitrogen-oxide-adsorptive catalytic converter
  • World's first production engine with an exhaust manifold integrated with the cylinder head
  • All-new compact and efficient 5-speed manual transmission
  • Lightweight aluminum body and reinforced frame, 40 percent lighter than a comparable steel body with superior rigidity
  • Highiy aerodynamic body with one of the lowest coefficients of drag (0.25) of any mass-produced automobile
  • Lightweight aluminum-alloy suspension and chassis components
  • G-Force Control Technology safety engineering
  • Low-rolling-resistance tires
  • New electronic instrument display shows instantaneous, trip and life-time fuel-economy

At the heart of the Insight's sophisticated IMA system is a compact,1.0-liter, 3-cylinder gasoline automo-bile engine. The engine usesadvanced lean-burn VTEC-E technology, low-friction design featuresand lightweight materials such as aluminum, magnesium and specialplastics, in combination with a new lean-bum-compatible NOx catalyst,to achieve a new level of efficiency and low emissions ingasoline-engine technology.

The electric component of the IMA system consists of anultra-thin, 2.3-inch/60-mm-wide permanent-magnet electric motoroperating in parallel with the gasoline engine. Electricity for themotor is stored in a 144-volt nickel-metal hydride battery pack andcontrolled via an advanced electronic Power Control Unit (PCU).Unlike a pure battery-powered electric vehicle, the Insight does notrequire an outside source of electric power. Electricity for thesystem is generated primarily by regenerative braking.

The Insight's IMA system incorporates an idle-stop feature that shutsoff the engine under certain circumstances in order to conserve fueland reduce unwanted exhaust emissions. The system activates when theInsight is stopped, the shift lever is placed in neutral and thedriver removes his or her foot from the clutch pedal. When the driveris ready to drive away, engaging the clutch pedal and putting the carin gear starts the engine again.

With its Acura NSX sports car -- the world's first mass-producedaluminum-bodied vehicle, Honda was a pioneer in the use of aluminumin automobiles. This considerable experience was applied to thedesign of the Insight in order to create a new type of lightweightaluminum body that offers a high level of body rigidity and advancedsafety performance. Stamped aluminum sheets, extrusions anddie-castings are used to form a body that is both light in weight andhighiy rigid. The Insight's aluminum body is 40 percent lighter thana comparably sized steel body.

In addition to being light, the Insight's futuristic-looking aluminumbody is also highly aerodynamic in both its shape and details, andboasts one of the lowest coefficients of drag (0.25) of anymass-produced automobile sold worldwide.

Thanks to its aerodynamic body, the Insight requires approximately30 percent less power to operate at highway speeds than aconventional automobile of similar size, such as the Honda Civic.

Honda engineers designed the Insight to meet the latest U.S.,European and Japanese safety standards. Dual airbags and 3-point seatbelts with pretension-ers and load limiters are standard, and theinterior is designed to meet 2003 safety standards for side-impactand head-injury protection.

Honda G-Force Control technology is used in the Insight's aluminumbody to create a strong, rigid passenger compartment, surrounded byselectively rein-forced front, rear and side aluminum frame membersdesigned to help absorb impact energy.

The Insight interior is designed to function as a comfortable,relaxing personal space for the driver and passenger. A variety offabrics and textures are used, and the overall appearance ishigh-tech, modern and functional. The instruments and controls areeasy to see and operate, and the Insight's sporty high-backed,reclining bucket seats are comfortable and supportive. A three-spokesteering wheel, similar to one used on Honda's S2000 sports car,completes the interior's sporty appearance.

In place of a conventional set of instruments and gauges, the Insight features a unique electronic instrument display. The display is acombination analog and digital readout that is designed to be easilyread and understood.

The display is divided into three sections: The left side showsinformation about the gasoline engine's status, such as engine rpmand coolant temperature, as well as various status and warning lightsfor engine oil pressure, check engine, maintenance required and12-volt system.

The middle of the panel features a digital display of fueleconomy, including a large digital speedometer, odometer and lifetimefuel economy readout, as well as A and B trip odometers and tripfuel-economy indicators. Instantaneous fuel economy is provided by agraduated digital meter. A large select button marked "FCD" for fuelconsumption display (on the left side of the electronic display)allows the driver to choose various display modes.

The right side of the electronic instrument display monitors thestatus of the vehicle's battery and electric motor systems. Acharge/assist indicator shows when the IMA system's electric motor isassisting the engine, and when the system is charging the batteries.Also, a state of charge indicator for the IMA batteries, a gasolinefuel-level indicator, and an economy shift indicator are incorporatedinto the display.

An interesting side effect of the Insight's electronic instrumentdisplay and the information it presents is that it encourages thedriver to take an interest in increasing the system's fuelefficiency, much like a player of a video game will try to improvehis or her score.

The Insight boasts a very comprehensive list of comfort, convenienceand power features, including variable-assist electric power steering(EPS), anti-lock brakes, power windows, mirrors and door locks,optional air conditioning, AM/FM stereo cassette player with clock, adriver's vanity mirror, map lights and a 12-volt accessory outlet.

Security features include an Immobilizer Theft-Deterrent Systemand remote keyless entry for the doors and rear hatch.

In addition to the IMA system's lightweight aluminum body, Hondaengineers designed a new lightweight chassis for the Insight. TheInsight's independent front suspension uses lightweight,forged-aluminum suspension arms and alu-minum front suspensionknuckles. The braking system's front calipers are also aluminumalloy, as are the rear brake drums.

The rear suspension is a highly compact twist-beam design thatsits completely below the Insight's flat cargo floor, along with thelightweight plastic-resin 10.6-gallon fuel tank and gas-pressurizedrear shock absorbers. The rear suspension is also designed to helpabsorb the energy of a rear impact.

Numerous storage areas are conveniently located throughout theinterior, including a large pull-out tray for the driver, twobeverage holders, a 274-cubic-inch glove compartment, a passengerseatback pocket and a handy rear-center net pocket.

The rear cargo has 5.0 cubic feet of cargo space and is easilyaccessible via the rear storage hatch. Valuables can be hidden out ofsight in an additional 1.5-cubic-foot storage bin built into thefloor of the cargo area, under the carpet.

The Insight features specially designed 165/65 R14 78S mud- andsnow-rated low-rolling-resistance tires. These new tires account foras much as a 40-percent reduction in rolling resistance when comparedto conventional tires, while maintaining high levels of comfort andstability

In place of a hydraulically assisted power-steering system, theInsight uses an electrically assisted rack-and-pinion system calledEPS, or electric power steer-ing. The system is similar to the typeused on the Honda S2000 and Acura NSX, and like those systems, hasseveral advantages, including simplicity, compact-ness and greaterefficiency due to the system's lower power consumption. The system isalso smoother and more responsive to driver input.

The Insight's EPS system is a new, more compact design, with thesteering links pivoted at the center of the rack rather than at theends. In addition, the system is mounted high on theengine-compartment bulkhead, so that it will not inter-fere with theInsight's front-impact protection system.


The concept of the Insight and the reasons for its development are asuniquely Honda as the vehicle itself. As a company, Honda hastraditionally believed that automobiles should operate in harmonywith their environment and society. This philosophy has promptedcontinuous research and product development in the field oflow-emission, high-mileage vehicles over the past 25 years. One ofthe earliest results of this work was the 1975 Honda CVCC Civic. Itsspecial Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion allowed it to meet thenew emissions regulations of the time, without the need for acatalytic converter. The 1985 Honda 1.3-liter CRX HF was the first"high-mileage" Honda, followed by the 1992 Honda Civic VX, with itslean-burn, VTEC-E engine. And in 1996 Honda introduced the Civic HXCoupe. The HX Coupe's VTEC-E engine and highly efficient continuouslyvariable transmission (CXJT) made it the first automobile equippedwith an automatic transmission to make it into the EPA's top tenlist.

Research into electric propulsion resulted in the development ofthe Dream series of solar-powered racers in 1990, 1993 and 1996, andthe EV PLUS in 1997. Currently, Honda produces a range ofhigh-mileage and low-emission vehicles for sale, including the LEVCivic, the ULEV Accord and the near-zero-level-emission Civic GX.Even the Honda S2000 sports car, which has the highest poweroutput-per-liter of any normally aspirated engine in the world, meetsCalifornia's strict Low-Emission Vehicle (LEV) standard.

Many people believe that the automobile's impact on society andthe environ-ment in the near future will require that it becomeincreasingly cleaner and more efficient. One possibility that holdspromise for dealing with these challenges is the "hybrid" automobile,which includes various combinations of gasoline-engine- andelectric-motor-powered automobiles. A hybrid takes advantage of thebest traits of each power system -- the clean nature of electricity,and the high-performance, unlimited range and convenientinfrastructure of the inter-nal-combustion engine. Honda conductscontinuous research into numerous alternative automotive propulsionsystems, including hybrid systems, and believes that this technologyis now mature enough to introduce in Honda auto-mobiles. The resultis the Honda Insight -- the first production gasoline-electric hybridautomobile available in the United States.

Having decided on using a hybrid gasoline-electric propulsionsystem for the Insight, the first step in its development was toidentify a set of performance goals for the car. The highest fueleconomy possible was the overall goal. Honda engineers set theirsights on 70-plus miles per gallon and above. Ultra-low emis-sionswere an equally important engineering goal, as well as safety andperfor-mance. Honda engineers wanted the Insight to have a level ofperformance comparable to that of a 1.5-liter engine automobile.Finally, the Insight, like all Hondas, would have to be durable,reliable and built to Honda standards of quality, comfort anddriveability.

The challenge was that, traditionally, several of theseengineering goals, such as fuel economy, low emissions, performanceand safety, were viewed as mutually exclusive. For example, as avehicle is engineered to be safer, it usually becomes heavier, whichcompromises performance and fuel economy. Increased perfor-manceadversely affects fuel economy, etc. Clearly, Honda engineers wouldhave to find new solutions if they were to satisfy all their goals.

Weight-reducing technologies were seen as a key factor in solvingthese challenges. A light vehicle can reach a given level ofperformance with less power than a heavier vehicle. To minimizevehicle weight, Honda engineers specified that the Insight be madefrom aluminum and plastic. Here Honda's experience building the AcuraNSX paid off, because Honda engineers were able to develop new designand construction techniques, such as the use of extrusions andcastings in the body. The extensive use of aluminum and plastic inthe Insight's body results in a weight of 1,856 pounds, giving it theperformance of an automobile with a 1.5-liter engine, but without theattendant fuel-consumption penalties.

Body rigidity and strength have also been enhanced, thanks toHonda's experi-ence designing and building with aluminum. The Insightboasts greater strength than a comparably sized steel vehicle.

The IMA system's compact, 1.0-liter gasoline engine's high fuelefficiency comes from its use of Honda VTEC-E lean-burn combustiontechnology and advanced friction-reduction techniques. Additionalfuel efficiency comes from the IMA system's electric motor, whichassists acceleration (an application for which its low-rpm torquecharacteristics are ideally suited). Since it is not designed to bethe vehicle's primary drive, it too can be made smaller and lighter,and is only 60 mm (2.3 in.) in width. Electric power for the motor ismostly supplied by the recycled energy of regenerative braking, andis stored in another technological feature that Honda firstintroduced in its EV PLUS electric car: nickel-metal hydridebatteries. The battery pack and its electronic controller can also besmaller and lighter, since they are not required to power the entirevehicle by themselves.

At highway speeds, fuel efficiency is further enhanced by the IMAsystem's highly efficient engine, aerodynamic body and speciallow-rolling-resistance tires.

The body and interior packaging for the Insight center aroundcreating a per-sonal car, designed to be primarily used in an urbansetting, much like the class of urban cars appearing in Europe. Theresult is a stylish, sporty coupe that is distinctive, clean andmodern. A smart vehicle -- fun to drive, practical, and efficient,which also seeks to minimize its environmental impact.

The first version of the Insight was the JV-X concept car,introduced at the 1997 Tokyo and Los Angeles auto shows. Furtherrefinement of the concept led to the VV concept car, first shown atthe 1999 North American Auto Show in Detroit. Market researchconducted at the auto shows, and later in focus groups, indicatedthat the demographic profile of potential Insight customers fellmainly into three groups:

The first group are those people who are attracted by theInsight's advanced technology. They are 48 years old on average, andare more likely to be married (75%) and male (70%). Their householdincomes are high, averaging $75,000 and above, they tend to becollege-educated, and are most likely to be an engineer or otherprofessional.

A second group of potential customers for the Insight is differentfrom the first. They are young, single urban drivers averaging around18 to 25 years old, about half of this group is male and half female.Household incomes are lower than the first group, but still high,averaging around $45,000, and roughly 40% are college graduates. Thisgroup consists of college students and people just enter-ing theworkforce. For them, the Insight offers a distinctive, sporty,comfortable vehicle for commuting and travel.

A third group of potential Insight customers are family-fleetbuyers. These are established families who already own one or twoautomobiles. This group is similar to the first group in that themajority of users are male (75%), and about 50% are college educated,with household incomes around $55,000. They too tend to beprofessional, and are also more likely to be retired. For them theInsight's appeal is its high fuel efficiency and simplicity ofoperation.


  • Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system
  • 5-speed manual transmission
  • Idle-stop feature
  • 4-wheel independent suspension with aluminum components
  • Electric power steering system (EPS)
  • Anti-lock braking system (ABS)
  • Aerodynamic body design
  • Lightweight alloy wheels
  • P165/65R14 low-rolling-resistance mud- and snow-rated tires
  • Dual body-colored mirrors
  • Body-colored door handles
  • Rear window wiper/washer
  • Halogen headlights
  • Roof-mounted radio antenna
  • High-mounted brakelight integrated into hatch
  • Power windows with auto-down driver's window
  • Power door locks with remote keyless entry
  • AM/FM stereo cassette player with clock
  • Electronic Instrument Display
  • Fuel-mileage computer
  • Economy shift indicator
  • Available automatic air conditioning with micron air-filtration system
  • Heat-rejecting, green-tinted glass
  • 2-speed/intermittent windshield wipers
  • Rear window defroster
  • 3-spoke sport steering wheel
  • Day/night rearview mirror
  • Beverage holders
  • Reclining high-back bucket seats
  • Driver's storage compartment
  • Lockable glove compartment
  • Passenger seatback pocket
  • Remote fuel-filler door release
  • Driver's footrest
  • Rear-center net pocket
  • Hidden storage compartment
  • Cargo area hooks
  • Cargo area light
  • Driver's vanity mirror
  • Headlights-on reminder
  • Map lights
  • 12-volt accessory outlet
  • Driver's and passenger's airbags (SRS)
  • 3-point seat belts with pretensioners and load limiter