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Fabio 03-18-2009 11:57 AM

Project: Rebuilding an '01 Honda Insight as a nonhybrid
4 Attachment(s)
(if you want to read more about my new project scroll to the bottom of the post; I highlight its purpose first in the body of the post below)

Okay guys; I've decided to start an ambitious project to take a scrapped Honda Insight and restore it back to life. The project car does have a working battery pack, but it does not have a front clip, engine or transmission. It is also missing a good deal of glass and has some of the other minimal effects of damage that you would expect to see from rolling a rigid, lightweight aluminum car. It therefore will need a new engine for starters. The plan is to rebuild it using a nonhybrid drive train; in other words, I want to install in the car a straight up, cheap, gasoline engine that will maximize mileage.

However the project has a higher purpose and it is directed towards those of us that are Americans. If you're Canadian, this may pertain to you as well because your overall market standards for fuel economy are only second to ours in terms of disappointment and corruption. If you're not living in either of these two countries, then chances are you live in a place where you don't have to break a large array of laws and sell your left nut to obtain a fuel efficient vehicle off the lot of the local car dealer. We Americans are thus envious of you, and at least one, me, has decided to start a project to prove that we are entitled to fuel efficient cars as well.

Sadly though, it seems that some of us Americans, even those that are fuel economy enthusiasts, don't seem to be satisfyingly frustrated with the fact that the most fuel efficient car we can buy is a 22k 40-some mpg hybrid. And you know what? We should be pissed off as hell; and the fact that we're not clearly means we don't quite understand the situation. Therefore I decided to make a project to prove the general point that we simply are not living up to the standards that need to be met.

So here's the purpose of the project:
I can say for sure that the auto companies are trying to brain wash the domestic market into believing that there is a legit reason for why we don't have a single fuel efficient car on the road today. I proved this to myself pretty solidly by interviewing reps from each of the major car companies at this year's Detroit Auto Show. Each company rep had a different reason for their company's inability to satisfy their consumer's demands and each lie was told passionately and thoroughly. One Smart For Two Rep even tried to convince me, and the rather large crowd my antics had attracted, that the nine 50 + mpg Geo Metros I’ve owned over the past year all actually got under 35 MPG.


I am going to have to declare that listening to EPA, the auto industry, and who knows what other corporate entities responsible for wreaking havoc on our lives is not right!! We need to let our opinions be known—this insanity that’s been spewed as of late—has got to be recognized and stopped. We all really want fuel economy from our cars, and we all know it can be done. So why are we sitting here and listening to the people that take our money that there’s some excuse for why this can’t be done?

Well anyways here’s just some of the little details that have been plaguing our situation that really need to be brought to our attention—as they most certainly have been in the past. Yet, it seem like you guys aren’t getting as infuriated over them as I am. I mean don’t you guys remember all this insane bull**** that has presented itself over the past 15 years? Well I’m going to remind you of all these problems:

First problem—paid media attention by XXX companies and XXX sponsored agencies have been telling us nonstop that somehow the cars that we had in the past are now somehow no longer good enough for us. That now, somehow a car without air conditioning, 30+ airbags, some weird traction control ****, and 50 crumble zones are features that we absolutely need to allow us to drive to the local gas station so we can fuel our gas guzzling hogs…. I mean maybe my brain isn’t developed enough to sense fear of death or whatever they say about military age boys that makes them unsuitable matches for alcohol yet excellent soldiers, but I have to say these safety standards have gotten insane. I mean unless I’m missing something big and every guy named Joe actually has a secret hobby of utilizing their past time to drive over subcompacts with his 10 cylinder gasoline powered Ford Excursion. I honestly would like the freedom to legally buy a mass produced car that weighs less than 3000 lbs. I mean 99% of the time it would only be utilized to transport my 170 body around anyways… so why is everyone trying to convince us that we NEED to 3000 pounds to transport ourselves from A to B. Who’s coming up with this insane logic?

Second problem—We know how fuel efficient our cars were in the past. Or at least we used to. XXX sources now are telling us those cars largely didn’t exist. They have gone as far as to modify the fuel economy rankings to down adjust all past car ratings by %15. That sure makes the hybrids of today that cost 20+k minimum and get 40 mpg sound good doesn’t it? But wait; my Geo Metro XFi really does get 50+ mpg even if I beat the hell out of it; yet the new ratings for the Prius say that you should get 48 highway under similar conditions. Having driven a Prius I can say that getting 48 mpg out of a Prius seems no more realistic than getting the initial rating (58 mpg highway)from my Geo Metro XFi. I mean I do typically get 60+ mpg out of my Metro XFi anyways. And let’s not even mention the MSRP on that thing was $6999… And let’s not even begin to bring up the point with the base Metro that achieved 49 mpg hwy and weren’t even designed for fuel economy. In the past not one of my cars failed to live up reasonably to the ’86 to ’07 ratings, yet the new cars introduced prior to ’08 seem model their ratings similarly as cars did in the past. It seems like the only cars that didn’t get their ratings prior to ’08 were three hybrids—and only one in particular seemed far off. So what did they do? Some idiot sat down in a chair and said, oh… we haven’t been making any progress in fuel economy, yet we can make people think we did by modifying the old fuel economy ratings to make old cars seem less fuel efficient, and by default new cars more appealing!!
WE CAN’T LET STUFF LIKE THIS HAPPEN PEOPLE!!! I mean ever heard of the book 1984? Erasing the past is BAD. You can’t gauge PROGRESS if you don’t have a reference point, and you most certainly can’t make PROGRESS if you don’t know what that point is.

Third problem—Look outside of the USA and Canada. We have the lowest industry fuel economy by far. Ford, Toyota, Honda, GM, etc, all make great cars overseas that get 50+ mpg, yet the ones here barely break 30 mpg. In fact some of the cars that get 50+ mpg overseas are sold here as well, yet mysteriously they get substantially less mpg here… They just can’t bring over their underpowered 90 hp engines powering their Aveo’s and Yaris’ here to give us our 50+ mpg; apparently they say their isn’t a market for that…

Fourth problem—Ah the diesel scam.. Hi, I’m BIG OIL, let’s conspire to keep the USA from reintroducing diesel to its consumers; we all know diesel is a more practical economical fuel, yet if it gets big in our favorite market their fuel consumption will drop like a rock since they would suddenly be getting 30% more miles outta each gallon of fuel we sell them. Hmmm…. How to do that?? (okay this is an oversimplification, this never was the sole fault of oil companies, but I’ll continue like it was because they suck for other reasons ^^) So BIG OIL says, I know! We’ll lower production of crude oil as refined to diesel fuel (who cares if drive all shipping companies out of business?) and that way the price of diesel will be artificially high, discourging both consumers and auto companies from taking advantage of diesel fuel because then they won’t be able to afford it. Let’s face it, we make the most money by selling them the fuel that they car get the least possible energy from. So let’s make sure that happens, at least as long as we have control over the market. (Notice how once that control was lost the price of diesel readjusted itself?)

Fifth problem—More on the diesel scam. So today I can go out and buy a diesel Hummer (or maybe some other diesel tank… I can’t recall if they even bother to still sell this, I know they still make diesel trucks that weigh in under 8500 lbs, but the EPA’s website seems to deny their existence, I’ll look into and revise this later; but for now, I like the sound of Hummer—everyone seems to associate them with ridiculous waste anyways..). Well anyways this diesel Hummer gets 8 mpg, yet I can go plate it in California, New York, that other unnamed state, and obviously the rest of the states. Yet can I buy a small diesel car? No! Why? The EPA says somehow small diesel cars pollute too much.... but then how do the large gas guzzling diesel SUV’s and what not get by? Simple; the EPA just says we’ll measure emissions by emissions per gallon. So that way a small diesel that gets 50 mpg will now only be allowed to put out 20% of the emission per mile as one that got 10 mpg. I wonder which vehicle causes more harm to the environment, some 50 mpg diesel that puts out twice the emissions per gallon as your average car, or some tank that gets 10 mpg, yet meets standards? This is one hell of a loophole, let me tell you whoever is responsible for this deserves an award, because it just gave all the guys at the Detroit Auto show the number one excuse for why we should be proud that our new cars can give us 30 mpg.

Sixth problem—Okay, America says we have higher standards for pollution than other countries, so why do we still have more polluted cities, when our roads are actually less filled with traffic? It couldn’t have something to do with the fact that the auto market in these other countries actually lets consumers buy a car they can afford to fuel up, could it?

Seventh problem—Okay there’s a long, long list other reasons why this insanity concerning domestic fuel economy must stop, but let’s hit one other point: Hybrids. Who the freaking hell came up with the idea that two engines powering a car will somehow use less fuel? I mean you have to power two engines off the same gas… How stupid is this? Well it’s not that stupid, but the way it’s been applied it’s absolutely insanity. The majority of the hybrids sold here, damnit, or not only not light weight vehicles, I mean most are SUV’s, but all of them only offer marginal (+3 mpg sound good to you?) improvements in mileage for maybe 5k extra. Is this what we want people? Take the Honda Civic Hx (’96 – ’03 I think?) for example, real world economy was in the low 40’s. They replace it with the Honda Civic hybrid that gets also, about 40 mpg, yet it costs about 10k more. What in the hell was the point of that? And let’s not forget the car that came before the Civic Hx. The Civic VX, now that was a car… 50+ mpg highway was as easy as it ever came in this country… ah that was one good car, only like 12k new too.

So now we sit and wait for the release of the new mass produced hybrid—the Gen II Honda Insight—this will get us low 40’s. But what does Honda have to do before they sell it? They have to discredit the car’s previous generation of course! I mean they can’t let people know that their previous Honda Insight actually got 70 mpg highway, but 2006 wasn’t too long ago, so the best thing they can do is say that the car was impractical, unreliable, unsophisticated, and a poor seller, while the new thing will be none of these, but all of practicality thus making it a reasonable achievement for Honda to give us Americans another lame-o-mobile that gets 10 extra mpg for an extra 10 grand…

Anyways I really hope you guys got something out of what I had to say. But I mean let’s face it… This is the way things are now at this forum:

Some damn N00b will show up, kinda like me, just more normal, and be all like:

"Am I supposed to be excited about a car that get's 40 mpg? I mean my XXXX ecobox from the 70's/80's/90's got that and then some; plus it cost like 7k sticker. Since technology is advancing, why aren't our cars getting more fuel efficient?"

And then some dip**** will come out of the corner and say: "Well Jimmy, well have made progress." You see the car's that you had in the 70's/80's/90's, and maybe even that one 100+mpg car with wooden floorboards that your Great-Great-Grandpa drove for 78 years had better fuel economy, but I mean let's face it…. It had wooden floor boards. Who wants those? And those 90's Geo's? **** they had sticky EGR valves and rusted out unibodies. They only had something in the neighborhood of 50 hp and were so slow that you couldn't even merge into traffic w/ them. Plus anyways they were Geo's, who wants a Geo? I mean doesn't Geo = ****? That and the EPA says that they only got 32 MPG combined (Citing the automatic w/ revised EPA standards). But now look, we have beautiful cars made of plastic and steel that have the weight and luxury to safely transport you from A to B; they all can go 0 - 60 in under 10 seconds and you will never be without automatic windows again. ^^ This is why $10,000 cars are a thing of the past and why we can no longer have them. They kill our nations youth.

And anyways, Honda Civic VX, Chevrolet Sprint, man those POS's didn't even have a passenger side mirror. I mean WTFOMGIAMGOINGTODIEW/OMYPASSENGERSIDEMIRRORONO!!

Dude guys, stop that crap. We are ECOMODDERS! We, if anyone else, should be able to smell out the bull**** and be able to let the media know about the crimes being committed to us. We have a responsibility to do this. When are we going to take hold? When the basic entry level car costs $40K and comes mandated with electronic collision controls that magically avoid all collisions before they happen (yet unsurprising don’t live up to their claims)?
Really; I mean you guys live and breathe fuel economy yet somehow you have failed to show the emotion, the passion, the demand, and the anger over the state of current domestic market.

In fact, I haven't even been seeing too many bad ass projects lately. So I’ve decided to start my own. Maybe I’ll be able to use it to motivate up the passion in places like this forum to start the revolution that needs to be started.

So here’s the Project:

Not long ago I randomly stumbled upon a 2001 Honda Insight on eBay that had less than 2 minutes 'til the end of auction. It was priced at around ~$400 so I decided I'd make a bid for the car. I then idled my 90 seconds away until I could claim victory for my new Honda Insight. I paid $500.

Okay, so now I'm the proud owner of a $500 Honda insight.

I've been waiting like three years for the opportunity for a Honda Insight shell (it came with a working battery pack as well) and now I have one. I also happen to have the opportunity to buy a second Honda insight for only $1800 that has 240,000 miles and likely has a limited lifespan on its original battery pack. So my plan is to buy that and simultaneously build up both cars on a very limited, restricted, and documented budget and prove that one car, my $500 car, gets better mileage. The $500 Honda Insight will be powered with an all gas engine that puts out at least 70 HP at the crank. I have not yet determined what that engine will be, but remember, it has to be cheap.

So the first step of the project for now is to get this $500 Honda Insight back on the road with a simplistic, cheap drive train and make it more fuel efficient and at least as powerful than it was when it rolled of the lot back in 2001.

My first thought was the Honda Civic VX engine. If it made 50+ mpg on the highway w/ a car half as aerodynamic and 400 pounds heavier than what my insight will be, then I’m guess it would be a good staring point for the project.

Anyone have any suggestions? We need to get this thing rolling. I should inform you guys that emissions and inspections will never be an issue for this car as in my backwater area, we still have no mandated inspections of any type, ever. Plus this car has a clear title so there are no legal issues to be presented with that either.

Also I’m thinking about donating it to a state university so I can have a team of people working on it, to actually make a car that makes a statement to the media. If anyone knows how I can convince my university to assist in this sort of project, let me know. I would definitely keep you guys up to date if I managed to secure a link between my University and this project.

Oh and if anyone has serious passion for fuel economy and wants the change that I want, then I’ll have no problem giving them the battery pack that I just obtained if I decide not to use it for this second Honda Insight that I was thinking about getting.

Pictures are attached.

tasdrouille 03-18-2009 12:27 PM

Hi Fabio,

Welcome to EM!

Could you please clean up your post so it focuses on your project?

Thank you

jamesqf 03-18-2009 01:26 PM

You seriously got one Insight for $500, and another for $1800? And these were driveable cars, not wrecks? Where?

Fabio 03-18-2009 02:07 PM

Hey guys. I will work on clearing up my post. I just absolutely wanted to get the reason for my project out there so people understood why I wanted to start this project. The actual idea behind the project--that is proving that the Honda Insight is more fuel efficient with past technology than with the hybrid drive train and what not, it what is most important to me. In other words I want to temporarily bring back the perspective that using two engines to make a car more fuel efficient is not the most practical idea in the world. Sure it's a good idea--but it shouldn't be our only option here in America for fuel efficient cars. Then again the hybrids we have today aren't fuel efficient anyways, and sadly the future does not look much brighter.

And remember guys; my $500 insight is a rolling, moving chassis. It has no drive train as of now, and like I said I want a nonhybrid drivetrain. And that's where you guys come in. Give me some ideas.

The $1800 Honda Insight is another one I am thinking about buying, but I likely will not be able to get the money to get it before someone else does. I mean it does run and drive and while it has front end damage, it basically amounts to only cosmetics with the addition of a bumper and some headlights.

budomove 03-18-2009 02:23 PM

If you are looking to use a different engine/transmission, then be prepared for fabrication of all mounts, since the insight's mounts are totally different. I would love to see the d15z1 in the insight, but the fabrications needed may be a bit much. It will also be a tight squeeze to fit just about any 1.5l 4 banger in the bay of an insight.

Tony Raine 03-18-2009 02:26 PM

wow, that was a long read, but i get what you are saying. when my '84 bronco 2 was fairly stock, it got a little over 30 mpg. and thats a carbureted, 4x4, 4000 lb steel truck with the aerodynamics of a refrigerator. my newer, 2wd, 2001 ford explorer sport (which is basically the grandson of the bronco 2) bounces around 20. what the hell, right?

welcome, and good luck with your project!

MetroMPG 03-18-2009 02:34 PM

Fabio: I second the request to clean up your original post. Tone it down and just focus on the project, please!

We're less concerned about "why" than "what" and "how".


dcb 03-18-2009 03:17 PM


Originally Posted by Fabio (Post 93144)

LOL, I hear ya man :)

jamesqf 03-18-2009 04:26 PM

If you want some ideas for efficient drivetrains, look here: Kinetic Vehicles

That said, I don't think you will find a much more efficient drivetrain than what's in the Insight now. Mine does get a real-world 70 mpg, and that's driving up & down the mountains, and heading out on the occasional Nevada dirt road...

And I'd still be interested in that $1800 Insight, just for spare parts, or as a donor for a Locost...

MazdaMatt 03-18-2009 04:52 PM

well it took a half hour, but i'm at the bottom of the thread... I'd say that I'm just as concerned with WHY. Sure, the dude's offensive in tone, but he's just showing his passion for what he's doing. Good on ya...

As for the "lack of mods lately"... have look at the fossil fuel free zone... This community is putting together an open source EV controll and an open source EV charger. These are a big deal!

Why not try to import one of those little deisel engines?
What is your estimated finished built weight? From memory, the insight is 1800lbs WITH a battery pack, electric motor and heavy cabling. Could you get it down to 1500 with an aluminum engine?

hummingbird 03-18-2009 09:56 PM

Fabio could do well even with a 1 L engine considering how light the insight shell is - will allow engine to exert in its BSFC sweet spot, netting him better FE. Wotsay?

jamesqf 03-19-2009 12:21 AM


Originally Posted by MazdaMatt (Post 93177)
From memory, the insight is 1800lbs WITH a battery pack, electric motor and heavy cabling. Could you get it down to 1500 with an aluminum engine?

No, 'cause it's already GOT an aluminium engine - well, mostly. The oil pan's magnesium alloy (even lighter), other parts are carbon fiber - and it's 1000 cc.

The battery pack isn't all that heavy, maybe 50-60 lbs for the pack, maybe another 40 for the power converter electronics. The electric motor replaces the flywheel of a normal engine, so not much weight added there. There just isn't a whole lot of room to take weight off the frame & powertrain. About all I can think of is a radical body redesign, much lower & a bit narrower, like for instance the old Lotus Europa...

Daox 03-19-2009 09:59 AM

I'm going to have to agree with James. It is going to be nearly impossible to beat the 1.0L lean burn engine that is currently in the Insight. To top it off, the Insight has just about every easy ecomod that you can do engine wise (and otherwise for that matter). Just to name a few, the gearing is already tall, it has lean burn, the engine is small, and its got regenerative braking. You basically want to throw that all away and start from scratch?

Guys that are hypermiling these cars heavily are already getting 110+mpg in the summer in nearly stock form. I think one of the best ways to get a little more mileage out of these cars is to start manipulating the hybrid system, basically what mima can do for you. Also, use a warm air intake on it to extend lean burn capability. I really don't think replacing the engine is the way to go. Other mods can certainly bump up the mileage, but Honda has already done a great job at optimizing the whole hybrid drivetrain.

MetroMPG 03-19-2009 10:36 AM

Based partly on the opening salvo, and partly on the fact that I agree with Daox & James about the Insight already being a fairly extreme example of an ecomodded car, I don't have high hopes for this going anywhere useful, in terms of improving the car's efficiency.

But I'm prepared - and hope! - to be proven wrong. Maybe the OP has as much energy for modding as he does for ranting.

MazdaMatt 03-19-2009 12:20 PM

I suppose that it comes down to this simple question - Does the hybrid drive train make up for its own weight in efficiency?

MetroMPG 03-19-2009 12:32 PM

Somewhat academic, since he can't just take out the hybrid components and leave the existing ICE.

And the answer probably depends on the driving scenario: City type driving? Likely. Flat highways? Arguably not (but the weight penalty is pretty insignificant there).

tasdrouille 03-19-2009 12:53 PM

Is it just me or that shell would be the perfect candidate for an EV?

budomove 03-19-2009 01:22 PM

The insight 3 banger really doesn't shake much with IMA disabled, and the only mod required would be to fabricate an alternator mounting bracket and figure out a place to put it so that you are able to keep your 12v system up and running without the dc/dc converter from the IMA system. Go with the stock motor.

jime57 03-19-2009 01:44 PM

I kinda enjoyed the post. I too am frustrated by many of the same shortcomings in the automotive market. I too am looking to engineer a better way.

I think you would be well advised to look first at whether you are going to face inspection problems with what ever you build. You didn't mention your state, but some states have rather strong antipolution regs which you could easily run afoul of. What good is it to produce a great car if you can't get a license. You think auto manufacturers are hard to change, just try changing regulatory bureaucrats ;-)

That said, it might be worth considering the use of the original Insight engine, without the electric portion. There is probably a way to "lock" it into gas mode. Then you could lighten the car a bit by removing the batteries. I'm just guessing on most of that, but it is worth at least cursory consideration. Perhaps someone will know what the basic gas only MPG is.

randerson0248 03-19-2009 01:58 PM

I didn't read all of the first post. I don't think he has the original motor/drivetrain, and is looking for something other than original to replace it with.

But, I agree with everyone, the original Insight 1.0 engine is probably the most fuel efficient option. Second best, might be VX, if it can be made to fit.

Also, if someone wanted to use the ICE without electric assist, getting the computer to control the engine properly might be a challenge.

mtgeekman 03-19-2009 02:00 PM

charging the 12V battery with no IMA - Insight Central: Honda Insight Forum

I remember seeing a post of a guy who managed to get the DC-DC converter to charge the 12 volt with out a battery pack also. Can't seem to locate it at the moment.

Ryland 03-19-2009 06:17 PM

How about a metro xfi engine? the insight engine is over 70hp just for the gas engine part of it if I remember correctly, granted part of that is due to the variable valve timing and it being able to rev up, but even the standard metro engine that revs higher then the metro xfi engine is pretty tame and it should have no problem pulling the insight down the highway.

from what I hear the Honda Fit has the same engine mounts and spacing, you might be able to find a 1L honda fit engine, or the 1.2L and have it bolt right in.

order99 03-19-2009 11:56 PM


Before you do anything at all to the Insight-how is it running now? I hear they're pretty efficient as is...

Also, what does your local DMV say about switching out engines? Some states are very picky about that and won't allow it, other states don't care at all, and still others will wave it through at first but then catch you during the emissions testings. And of course you may get through all that only to find the car 'uninsurable' due to the engine mods.

I'm not saying this will happen mind you-just do all your homework before making those first cuts. If the Insight is running well, a few tweaks to Cd-and Hypermiling-might get you better FE than a conversion.

I have to admit that i'm unfamiliar with the Insight design-is it a Dual-Drive hybrid with both ICE and Electric on the drivetrain, or does the ICE just keep the batteries charged while the E-motor does all the heavy lifting?

Clev 03-20-2009 03:17 AM


Originally Posted by MetroMPG (Post 93265)
Somewhat academic, since he can't just take out the hybrid components and leave the existing ICE.

And the answer probably depends on the driving scenario: City type driving? Likely. Flat highways? Arguably not (but the weight penalty is pretty insignificant there).

I bet the IMA even helps on the freeway. Not in steady driving perhaps, but it probably works great with Pulse and Glide for helping to accelerate during the pulse while allowing the motor to stay in lean-burn.

budomove 03-20-2009 09:41 AM


Originally Posted by Clev (Post 93387)
I bet the IMA even helps on the freeway. Not in steady driving perhaps, but it probably works great with Pulse and Glide for helping to accelerate during the pulse while allowing the motor to stay in lean-burn.

when assist kicks in, lean burn is out. IMA on the highway is only for passing and uphill. Without it the car would be almost as efficient.

PaleMelanesian 03-20-2009 10:32 AM

Those who get the most mileage out of their Insights have a mod that disables the IMA functions. Search for Calpod to find details. Basically, it shuts off the assist and regen with a switch. I've personally pegged the mileage gauge at 150 in one so modified. This was under test conditions, not real world. However, the owner of said Insight has seen mileage in the 140s on his commute.

This is with the battery and and everything along for the ride. I'm sure that removing the weight would help even more.

Fabio 03-20-2009 12:47 PM

Okay, guys if you haven't noticed we've had some very differing opinions regarding the mileage of the Insight once the heavy hybrid components are removed. Some have stated that beating 70 mpg with a light foot would be difficult using a different drive train then the one supplied, others see it as I do, not so difficult.

The post I find most intriguing was made by PaleMelanesian. Dude, if I understand what you're saying, then you must, must, for the fate of fuel efficiency in the United States, let this information be known to everyone. Well if you could elaborate a little more in this thread at least then you'd be a great help too.

Anyways I've always felt that electronic assist can only have the power to assist your vehicle when it actually is assisting it; likewise when the IMA isn't in use, it's not going to be of much help, thus it's weight can only hurt mileage at high speeds. That's why I think I have so much potential with exceeding the Insight's fuel economy, at least at highway speeds, by a large margin.

Also, I updated my post and mentioned that the car will never need to be inspected to be street legal in any of the addresses I currently intend to register the car at; so in that regard it's anything goes! Though I'm going to be ethical with emissions... keep that in mind.

jamesqf 03-20-2009 12:48 PM

Yes and no: The mod's known as MIMA, and you can read about it here: Is it too late? - MIMA Honda Insight Modified Integrated Motor Assist Tour De Sol It does more than just shutting off the assist & regen: it allows you to control them manually. Otherwise you have to go with whatever Honda's engineers programmed into the computer, which doesn't cope well with mountains, for instance. When I first got my Insight, it would drain the battery in the first couple of thousand feet of climbing, then put extra load on the engine to try to recharge while climbing the rest of the mountain. With MIMA I can shut off that unwanted load.

jamesqf 03-20-2009 12:59 PM


Originally Posted by Fabio (Post 93427)
Anyways I've always felt that electronic assist can only have the power to assist your vehicle when it actually is assisting it; likewise when the IMA isn't in use, it's not going to be of much help, thus it's weight can only hurt mileage at high speeds.

You're not thinking it through. What you need to appreciate is that it doesn't take a lot of power to move a car at steady speed on level ground. The power's needed to accelerate (or to climb hills). This is basic to (non plug-in) hybrid design: the battery pack provides extra power for acceleration, so that the car's IC engine can be smaller and run closer to the best spot on its BSFC map.

Also, as I said before, the Insight's battery pack & power electronics just don't weigh that much - maybe a hundred pounds or so - while its engine is very light. I doubt whether you will find another engine, especially a larger one, that doesn't cancel out most of the weight that'd be saved by removing the IMA system.

Fabio 03-20-2009 01:01 PM

Jamesqf, thank you for the insight.

I did not realize he was referring to MIMA; this indeed is not a surefire answer to our question concerning the benefits of the IMA. However it still says something about hybrids in general.

Anyways, it really is shocking that the hybrid components are that light; my first task with this car is removing the battery back, so I'll definitely be putting you to the test with the next two or three days. That having been said I believe you, you know what you're talking about--I'm just surprised.

And you could be right about the relative difficulty of beating the car's original mileage. Maybe I'll have to look into diesel fuel and radical eco mods rather than a 'simple' civic vx engine approach. But having put +25k miles on a POS Geo Metro XFi in the last year alone, and found 60 mpg easy to obtain on a regular basis without hypermilling, I remain cocky.

PaleMelanesian 03-20-2009 01:07 PM

For the manual-trans Insights, the Calpod mod is just a switch on the clutch pedal. Nothing anywhere close to the MIMA. It makes IMA think the clutch is pressed in. Honda programmed to not assist or regen when the clutch is in. Unfortunately, this only works on the manual-trans insights, and not even on the manual civic hybrids.

For the average Joe, IMA or Toyota's HSD are a good thing. They improve mileage significantly. For those who really work for the best mileage, we can do better than the "good enough" built-in systems. In those cases they just get in the way.

To put it another way - For efficiency, Honda made the insight with a tiny engine. To satisfy those who would say, "It's too slow!", they added the hybrid system for more oomph. If we don't care about that, then it's just extra stuff slowing us down.

CleanMPG member Right Lane Cruiser is the one with the Calpod-modded insight. Most of what I would say is on that site as well. (disclosure: I am a moderator at CleanMPG. I am not trying to take traffic away from here, just trying to help folks.)

PaleMelanesian 03-20-2009 01:17 PM

The challenge here is, you're going to need a powertrain that's more efficient than the Insight's original. That puts you in VX and XFI territory. You're reaching the limits of what's easy to do.

I like it.

MetroMPG 03-20-2009 01:22 PM


Originally Posted by Fabio (Post 93436)
And you could be right about the relative difficulty of beating the car's original mileage.

You may want to plug the Insight's specs into this tool: Aerodynamic & rolling resistance, power & MPG calculator -

It'll give you an indication of, for example, the impact of weight on power required at different speeds (you can change variables and re-calculate as much as you like). I think you'll find that you might be overestimating the savings to be gained in highway driving through weight reduction.

Run the numbers of sticking a small diesel (eg. from the 1st gen smart fortwo) into the Insight. That, I think, is your only route to beating the car's "stock" highway fuel economy (and I may be wrong there - I don't know how close Honda gets to diesel efficiency with the lean burn 1 L engine).

EDIT: Of course, then you'll have a 40 hp Insight that takes ~20 seconds to get to 60 mph, flat out. But you're used to driving an XFi, so maybe that doesn't matter! (Not being facetious: 20 seconds to 60 mph is acceptable in my books.)

basjoos 03-20-2009 02:09 PM

Another possible engine/tranny swap would be to use the 50 hp/74 ft-lbs unit from the diesel version of the Smart fourtwo. That's what's being used in the current version of the Avion, an automotive X-prize contender that's getting well over 100 mpg.

aerohead 03-20-2009 02:45 PM

random engine/mpg figures-HONDA Re.Insight
Fabio,sounds like a juicy project,here's some miscellaneous data :

The original 1984 CRX had frontal area 1.718 meter square,and Cd 0.35,for a drag factor of 0.601 meter square.This car,with the 60 Bhp 1.3-liter engine achieved 52 mpg at a steady 55-mph.When I streamlined mine down to Cd 0.23,that pushed the drag factor ( CdA ) down to 0.395 meter square,and mpg improved to 60.6 mpg at the same 55 mph.On it's best day she got 74.8 mpg at the same speed.

When the Insight came out in 2000,it had Frontal area 1.9 meter square,Cd 0.25,for CdA 0.475 meter square and 27-Bhp engine,and at around 55 mph,could be expected to return 60 mpg,with the M-5 transmission.

Without the electric motor assist,the Insight has as much power as a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle,with it's engine sawed in half.While operating at close to WOT on the highway,the Insight achieves very high BSFC,but without the electric motor to get it up to speed,it would be dangerous to operate on the highway.

The Honda VX powertrain would provide all the power you'd need.Those cars could do mid-fifties mpg stock,so with the better Cd of the Insight she should be able to return mpg in the neighborhood of the original Insight,but only on the open road.In city traffic,without the hybrid drive,she'd be no better than the VX was.Perhaps 40 mpg.

jamesqf 03-20-2009 03:45 PM


Originally Posted by aerohead (Post 93463)
The original 1984 CRX... achieved 52 mpg at a steady 55-mph.

Now that's what I call willpower. My CRX only ever saw 55 mph as an instantaneous value on the way up or down. But it'd get 40-45 mpg, even the way I drove it :-)

Fabio 03-23-2009 10:13 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Hey you guys. There has been much speculation that fitting a four banger into my Insight may provide some difficultly. You guys are probably right, and the only way that I will likely be able to come even close to succeeding with such a goal would be if I managed to secure a spot in my university's garage and had the help of a number of motivated engineers...
Getting my university's help is still a goal on hold due to spring break. Instead I've been spending this time by parting out the parts of the car I don't need--so if there is anyone here that would like an '01 IMA w/ 110k miles on it that was once suited to an automatic trans Honda Insight, then please let me know. Also if anyone needs a pair of sideview mirrors--cause you know how I feel about those--let me know as well.

Well my point is I found this image (attached below) of an Insight. It appears the owner managed to get two full liters v-tec in there. I'm sure some others have had some success as well with larger engines. I mean don't you guys remember the famous 9 second Insight.

Plus, guys don't forget that I don't even have the front clip for my Insight, so I may end up making a custom one to begin with. This could give me a little more room to play with.

I just wanted to give you guys some ideas to play with if you were thinking a bigger engine might be the way to go for this project.

The Atomic Ass 04-23-2009 12:24 AM

Brammo Motorsports at one time imported a british V8, with a displacement of only 2.0L. I can imagine with a very gentle tune and some TB work, it could be made to get great fuel economy down low.

And you'd have the advantage of 400hp at the same time. :)

Also, on the topic of your rant, from Ohio to Maine and back, at 65mph on cruise, my mother's 2000 Cadillac Eldorado got 30mpg as recorded by receipts, with a 4.6L V8. In a nearly 5,000lb car. So I know how you feel about the car companies today.

theunchosen 04-23-2009 11:10 AM

His point is not to make the insight as FE as possible.

The people that mentioned he needed to clean up his post and get to the project would understand his project had they carefully read it.

His point is you don't need a hybrid to get good gas mileage. (as is proven by geos, but for the sake of argument geos are old and no one would drive one as representatives claim safety features and creature comforts in new cars make it impossible).

Fabio, your best bet is just to pull the components you don't want(hybrid) and leave everything else mostly stock. Maybe get some taller gears, but other than that its not going to be easier than that or cheaper for that matter.

Dropping in a new engine with diesel also won't prove his point. The insight's engine will be the easiest fit to the bay and there is already a drive train that fits it. Crank out the extra weight from the battery pack(if it only weighs 60 pounds the pack is pretty worthless as far as KWhr) and other hybrid components.

If you're going all out take the body panels off replace with carbon fiber, swap your seats for carbon fiber buckets with minimal padding and if it doesn't support weight on the interior rip it out. Dash, door panels, rear panels whatever has weight can go.

Drive it light and you can probably get better FE.

The other thing you will want to do is mount the radiator along the back of the car with a much larger area. It won't cool as well mounted flush against the back of the car but the increased area will allow for effective cooling. The heat being dumped into your wake slightly relieves the low pressure vacuum dragging behind your car by increasing the temperature so the fluid does not decelerate as much. Also dumping the heat at the very front increases the drag pressure on the nose of the car, all around not a good way of doing it if you can mount a larger radiator in a low pressure area.

basjoos 04-23-2009 11:29 AM


Originally Posted by theunchosen (Post 99925)
His point is you don't need a hybrid to get good gas mileage. (as is proven by geos, but for the sake of argument geos are old and no one would drive one as representatives claim safety features and creature comforts in new cars make it impossible).

Also proven by my car, which beats the highway mileage of any production 4-seat hybrid by a good margin and matches or exceeds that of the 2-seat Insight at any speed where it is unable to maintain lean burn. With a lean burn engine installed, my car would likely beat the highway mileage of the 2-seat Insight at most speeds.

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