The Future is Insight

The title of this blog works on many levels- it plays off of my belief in hybrids being a critical step towards our future, the fact that introspection and mindful planning are critical to our future, and that the future is literally in sight for those that are willing to see it. Here I chronicle my attempt to Be the Change I wish to see in the world-and to help make that Future a Reality.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I guess old habits die hard. I have posted before about my 'tinkerer' tendencies. The fact that I take perfectly fine things and modify them in ways that may or may not actually improve the item. I have applied this to every car I have ever owned from my 77 Chevy Blazer to my 2003 Evo 8. No one who knows me really thought that I wouldn't modify my Insight. But where to start? Though people have done it before- I have zero interest in adding a turbo-the Insight is not about fast. I had planned on attacking friction with a passion-swapping every fluid down to the axle grease with super slippery synthetics-race car tricks applied to increase mpg not mph. I had even started dreaming about dropping in the IMA (integrated motor assist) drivetrain from the '06 Civic into the Insight when it dies as it is about 2-3x more powerful and should be able to push my tiny Insight into the 80mpg range no sweat. I fully understand-actually I have very little idea!- that this would be difficult in the extreme.

Then I read an article about California Cars and their fantastic prototype that drastically increases the battery storage of the Prius-giving it the ability to run on pure electric for dozens of miles. And also the ability for it to be plugged in at night to charge. Basically the beauty of the EV1 with unlimited range thanks to keeping the gas motor. They are seeing 130+ miles per 'gallon'. Granted this isn't factoring in the KWH's that they put in from the grid, but any coal plant produces electricity far cleaner than any car-even a near zero emission Prius. I applaud there efforts-especially as when I get to our Someday house we will have 'green' power from solar and wind. But the Insight's efficiencies are from its light weight and aerodynamics allowing it to run a very small gas motor (1000cc, 3 cylinder) and the system nevers runs on pure electric-and can't so the Cal Cars option is Prius only. Plus at $10-15k it is way out of my price range.

Then I stumbled onto numerous references to M-IMA on some of the hybrid sights. Some rsch led me to 99mpg and a brilliant little device that solves a problem with the Insight and allows you to get 100+mpg consistently. No I am not kidding! The current IMA will only kick in the electric motor when the gas motor is struggling-like when you are climbing a hill or accelerating. The kicker is that you can be cruising along getting say 100mpg on the ral time mileage meter, and hit a slight incline. On the stock car you apply more gas like a normal car and you gain speed-but your mileage drops to a (GASP!) 45mpg until you back off the throttle. Often the electric motor never kicks in at all. The mIMA allows you to manually engage the electric motor and using it to push you up that hill instead-keeping you at 100+ mpg the hole time. Brilliant!!

The mIMA is a total custom job with less than 50 in use right now, but the price is right (about $675) and it doesn't mess with any major system so it should be very reliable. To say I am stoked is putting it mildly. The founder of 99mpg will be in Madison in July-will he be installing a mIMA in the Pod? Is getting 850 miles on 9 gallons worth it to me? Only time will tell!

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