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Toyota Prius and Honda Hybrid: Will anyone buy Hybrids??



  • ajvdhajvdh Posts: 223
    VW currently sells a minicar named "Lupo" in Europe. The most economical version gets 95 mpg on the European driving cycle. It's 4 seater, that meets Euro crash standards, and comes with airbags and anti-lock brakes. It's also supposedly very "clean" from an emissions standpoint.
  • Hydrids do offer better fuel economy. But they also cost more. The question is, are they worth it?

    Consider the Honda and Toyota entries. They offer great mileage, but they cost more than conventional cars. Also consider -

    1. The prices are heavily subsidized, these are being sold at losses of ~20k/vehicle, they are sold in limitted quantities. So the price performance equation is worse than it looks.

    2. These cars use a lot of very advanced weight saving materials, and have their design heavily compromised towards fuel economy - they sacrifice handling, room, etc. If you put an IC engine in them you could also get great mileage. Not as good as the hybrid, but it would close the gap farther.

    3. These cars are very clean, I think they both meat california ulev standards. But a number of conventional ic cars do also.

    Which brings me back to the Cadillac V8-6-4, and engine that would actually cut out cylinders when it did not need them. Back in the 80's we thought this was cool, it provided better efficiency and better power. But there were other ways (fuel injection, multivalve) that provided even better performance for less money. The motto of this story is that "cool" technology does not always succeed - especially when it is more expensive and complicated.
  • I have been toying with the idea of selling my 91 Acura Legend that has been the most stable vehicle and getting one of the new hybrids. I have driven the Prius in Japan (a pretty nice car with some cool electronics internally) and seen both of the cars in Los Angeles (it helps to go to the Toyota headquarters in Torrance if you want to see the new cars).

    I drive over to Goudy Honda in Alhambra on Sunday
    morning hoping to maybe test drive one of the Insights. There must have been at least 20 salespeople milling about and about 5 customers shopping. None of the salespeople had heard that Honda is making a hybrid let alone that it was supposed to be at dealer lots by now. I finally find someone who says that they do not have any in, they may get some next month and that I can leave a deposit for one today if I would like! Then he walks away because I am probably not going to buy anything TODAY.


    Why would I, site unseen, shell out a few thousand for a deposit on a car that they do not know when it will arrive? This seems to be the typical response at all of the local dealers (pasadena, goudy, santa monica, etc.). None of them know anything about it and always refer me to the honda web site for help. I ran into similar problems when the EV was available. One dealer (downtown LA) told me that Honda did not make an EV and I had seen one on the lot! I eventually found out that I had to go to a dealer in Van Nuys (about twenty miles away) for info. Hopefully Honda has extended their sales information to all of the dealers so that people like me, who honestly want an eco friendly car, can get the info we need and maybe buy one of these things.

    And while their at it, why doesn't Toyota run the ECO commercials her in the states? They were a big hit with all of my friends in Japan. I have seen them on the web:

    But I am sure that they would be a hit in LA with all the teeny boppers.

    Enough ranting for now.

  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    I think is not in the hybrid technology.

    Hybrids are inherently more expensive (you got 2 engines instead of 1), complex and still uses gas. You can rise the gas milage by using lowering body weight, stop the engine when idling, ect, but that's really just a stop gap measure and won't allow you to give good performance and gas milage over 100 mpg.

    I think the ture future for automotive will be with the fuel cell system. Some how they must find a way to store hydrogen and oxgen safely first though.
  • VW has two highly efficient offerings in Europe: the first is the Lupo previously discussed,which can be equipped with a 1.7 E SDI 60 bhp engine (47.9 mpg city, 78.5 mpg highway), and the Polo, positioned in between the Lupo and the Golf, which achieves 68.9 mpg highway with the 1.9 CL SDI 64 bhp engine. I wish these cars were available in the US. I'd like the Polo Station Wagon: utility, cuteness, high efficiency, low cost, and probably very fun to drive.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    It's true that fantasitc gas milage could be achieved by lowering the engine displacement, but at some point that's just not an viable option any more.

    For example, making only 60 hp is just not enough to be useful as a mainstream car. The insight make a tiny amount of power, which even with the ultra light body and 2 seater interior, gives a lousy 0-60 time of 12 seconds with a fully charged battery and a MANUAL transmission. Imagine the horror if you had to drive an automatic (which I don't think is available). Toyota Prius is the same thing, while making more power, it has a normal car size and weight, which means the 0-60 time is also 12 seconds with a fully charge battery (but with automatic transmission this time).

    I'm sorry, but 12 second 0-60 time is just not acceptable. The performance only suffers more when the battery is not fully charged. Imagine a 0-60 of 14 seconds or more when you try to get on the highway. That's going to be a death ride.

    Saving fuel by lowering engine size can only go so far. Both Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius are already at the minimal performance level. What we need is a hybrid that can offer acceptable performance for everyday driving. Engines that make 60 or so hp is just not going to do it.
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    Have you seen our feature article on hybrid vehicles? Please, take a look and then return here to share your views on the future of these very special cars.

  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    I disagree in the aspect that I don't see the near horizon belong to hybrid vehicles.

    Both Honda and Toyota are losing tons of money making the hybrid cars. It cost twice as much to make than the price listed on the sticker.

    $20,000 for a 2 seater(Honda Insight), and $22,000 for a 4 seater (Toyota Prius) is already unacceptably pricey for these subcompact/compact cars (not to mention their almost unacceptable performance). To sell it at a profit (instead of at 1/2 of the cost), these tiny cars would cost more than many of the luxury cars.

    Hybrid will always be much more expensive than a conventional car (since it's really 2 cars under the hood). That's why the price will always prevent it from entering the mainstream.

    The future is a pure alternative fuel vehicle, not a hybrid. I think it's the fuel cell technology. Hydrogen fuel is extremely cheap to make, simply by the electrolysis of water.
  • I'm getting cold feet about the Prius and Insight. Does anyone know if I could somehow get a ULEV or SULEV vehicle delivered to me in Georgia? The dealerships I call here don't even know what ULEV means so they are of little help. Thanks.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    Insight and Prius may or may not be practical today, but they are the benchmark automobiles for the new era. Honda showcased the first fuel cell powered car (Honda FCX sedan), and promised to put one in market as early as 2003 (Tokyo Motor Show). Now at NAIAS, Detroit, Honda made a statement about next generation Honda engines, ultra clean, 10-20% more power (and low end torque as well), and 20-25% less fuel consumption in their mass produced cars (starting with 2003 Accord and all Hondas will have these engines by 2005). The concept is a combination of VTEC, IMA (the electric engine used in Insight) and fuel cell technology! And Honda is going to produce more Insights!! (Does that mean they are selling well?).
    Insight was tested doing 0-60 mph (fully charged batteries) at 10.2 seconds, and 12 seconds with drained batteries (which C&D mentioned is tough to do on Insight since it uses gasoline engine for normal driving and electric booster during acceleration unlike Prius that uses electric engine for driving, and gasoline booster for acceleration). Prius achieved 0-60 of about 14 seconds. But these cars are not about pure acceleration (although Insight accelerates faster than a four cylinder Camry with auto transmission!), they are about benchmarking a concept. At $18K, Insight would be a terrific deal for the environment conscious (and I'll need two more seats though, my do isn't small).
    The only SULEV vehicle being sold in the USA is the Accord EX being sold only in California.
  • Would you happen to know if I could get an Accord EX it in Georgia as an SULEV?
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    hey, how's it going? Long time no see. :)

    As for the numbers. I was quoting Honda's official number for the Insight, even with a 5-spd transmission 0-60 takes 12 seconds. I usually don't use automotive magazine numbers since you get a different number from each magazine and they tend to push the test car beyond design specifications and sacrifice long term reliability which normal drivers wouldn't do, just a personal preference.

    Anyway, here is the website where I got it from.

    I haven't found official number from Toyota for U.S version of the Prius yet. The number I used is from a Motor Trend article (about 12 seconds). They tested a Prius that is a Japanese version of the car using 1.0 L engine, I think the U.S version is coming with 1.5L vvt-i engine.

    The point I'm trying to get accross is that they are just not very practical at this point. The fuel they save does not justify their higher price. A Insight is $20,495 with A/C (but the A/C could only make the subpar performance even worse by further draining power). The Prius have got more useful seating like a Corolla, but at an estimated price of $22K, the little extra fuel you save isn't going you refil the wallet as quickly as the car loan payments drains it. And you could get both the Civic EX and Corolla anytrime for thousands less and get 0-60 time of 8.5 and 8.4 seconds respectively. Simplier design, which probably translate into greater reliability and parts availability. Not to mention seating for 4-5 people.

    All this and Honda and Toyota are lossing $20k for EACH CAR SOLD! So unless Honda and Toyota can figure out how to fix all these short comings, Insight and Prius are really not very practical. Who knows how long will the 2 companies hang onto the money losing business. In my opinion, hybrid technology will never be cheaper than conventional engines, since it will always cost more to put 2 engines and link them all together under the hood than using just one.

    My attitude? It's one of wait and see. Besides, it's better to hold off on the first year product, especially one that's so much more complex than a normal car.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    Unfortunately SULEV Accord EX is available (in limited number) in California only. Perhaps you can try to order one.

    Yes, trying to catch up after the vacation. Made a short trip to UK in December.
    In fact, Insight uses a "practical" technology in the sense that it would be easier to transfer it to mass production cars in the near future and looks like Honda already has plans to do that. They are also increasing production of Insights. What is practical about is the way it works. The battery provides extra torque whenever needed, the rest of the driving is on gasoline engine which would be the same as any other car, thus less drain of battery, and whatever it is, gets charged almost immediately. Honda used the same technology to showcase the Honda Spocket (Tokyo and LA auto show) which uses both, a gasoline engine (front wheels) and the battery (rear wheels). It is quite possible that we will see Spocket into production early (Honda seems to be interested in it or else they would not showcase it at two auto shows without the purpose), and we may also see Civic getting low end torque boost from something similar to the battery in the Insight. But as usual, I don't expect Honda to put anything, that is not time tested, in Civic or Accord, so perhaps in a couple of years, just like they did with VTEC. Insight could predict the future of next generation Hondas. This will also make it easier to make all engines SULEV (Honda has been making statements about a 2.0/I-4 SULEV engine for a Honda in 2001… the next Integra?).
    Prius' technique is based on exactly the opposite of Insight. (Ford/GM etc. have also come up with concepts that follow Prius' path). It uses the 1.5 liter engine during acceleration/pull, and batter for normal driving. That means, battery would drain based on driving habits. Aggressive driving would drain it more and force the driver to apply "recharging" techniques earlier. This technology however has an advantage over Hondas in terms of better gas mileage (since gasoline engine is used to a minimum), but Prius suffers with curb weight, perhaps as much as 1.5 times that of Insights (hence poorer acceleration is expected). Insight uses a/c which is tiny as well (only 28 lb!!) obviously not designed for larger than Insight car. Also, Insight's engine (1.0 liter 3-cylinder lean burn VTEC-E… much like Civic HX'x 1.6/I4 VTEC-E) weighs at only 125 lb.! (that is way lighter per liter than any other Honda engine). While Insight may look impractical to most of us, it is not for the future.
  • mznmzn Posts: 727
    To continue talking about the Insight, please join us in the Hatchbacks conference, Honda Insight Hatchback Wins MSV Award.

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    But Honda made two statements (from CNNfn site)…
    - Increase in Insight production
    - Using hybrid technology in a mainstream car for 2001 model (likely to be the Civic… perhaps something like Civic HX that was introduced as 1997 model to provide the first CVT car to us, and is still the middle model in the Civic coupe lineup, and then Civic GX)
    Honda has promised launch of a car based on its concept FCX sedan (fuel cell) by 2003. Y'day I noticed in an environmentalist magazine that a version of the FCX concept is already out (wearing Honda EV costume), reassuring that FC tech will be out soon.
    Insight would sell very well in Europe and Asia, as is Prius doing. It is the low volume that is hurting profits(?) so if they can put the concept into a mass production car, it will be much cheaper.
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    I think it's the fuel cell is much more reasonable way to go. One car one engine will always cost less than the same car with 2 engines.

    I don't think it's the small production scale that's hurting the profit. Just look at the S2000 roadster. I don't think Honda lost any money on that one even though only 5000 is built. Of course the amount of loss per car would be lowered if the production scaled up. But I think the biggest cost here is the components in the car. The amount of high tech engine, electrical engine, costly batteries, complex transmission, etc that Honda and Toyota puts into these babies are just too costly to be covered by $20 sticker. So if the production is scaled up, you might only lose $10k per car, but the greater number produced would cost just as much, if not more.

    Honda is saying "it's going to increase the Insight production". Considering how few Insights have been built, it would have to be true in any case. But at the loss of $20K per car, you can expect neither cars would ever approach the production number of the Civic or Corolla.

    I think it's entirely possible for Honda to put out a Civic HX with hybrid engine. It wouldn't be hard since the technology is there. And another good thing, HX trim has never been too popular, so the loss could be kept in control. But once there is the Civic HX hybrid, who would buy the 2 seater Insight? If this happens, I think the Insight would then be discontinued.

    I think both the Prius and Insight are mostly public relations act, and a feasability test. After few years, it will be discontinued, or scaled back to a symbolic level (like Honda EV). After all, no corporation on earth is here for money losing business. Maximizing profit and keep the share holder rich is their goal.

    I for one am waiting for the fuel cell technology. It's less complex (at least mechanically), cleaner (use no gasoline at all), more efficient (we don't have to live with 60 hp hybrid engine any more), and also be cheaper. GM, Ford, Toyota and Honda all massive programs on it. Ford said fuel cell cars will count as 20% of the cars sold worldwide by 2010. And I believe him.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    First, I wouldnot believe an automaker losing $20K on each car. (I've not heard this from Honda, although they have quoted it that the car is not profitable). Secondly, I could see Insight as a concept, not a mainstream car. To be able to put a successful mainstream (mass production car) like Civics or Corollas, the technology has to be competent with the rest of the world. As I said earlier, Insight will make way for near future cars, and then, Honda has already promised FCX into production by 2003! What I mean is, if Honda would combine 1.6 liter VTEC (say the CVT version that puts out 115 HP) with boost at low rpms (electric engine develops all its torque at low engine speeds), it will be a great combination. Mileage will not be the best of hybrid vehicles, but perhaps 20-30% improvement over gasoline engines, and much cleaner. It is the stop and go traffic that consumes gas and pollutes the most, and this is where the electric engine will help. Regarding cost, I don't think Honda is losing any or much money over each Insight. Not sure about Toyota though but I don't always believe the statements made by their spokesperson (perhaps I don't like the tone... same goes for Nissan).
    Civic HX is a completely different case. I see plenty of HXs on the road, and one of my colleagues wanted one, but it is not available most of the time. It is a nice value at $13-14K (power everything, auto, a/c, audio, except for cruise control which may not be compatible with the CVT technology for now).
    S2000 is a different case where only materials differ, and some are even shared with hi-tech Hondas (Type-Rs and the NSX, example the engine technology, electrically powered steering, lightweight, tiny suspension system etc.), and with production of about 12K cars per year, the cost would be easier to control. In fact, Honda churns out fewer Integra Type-Rs than S2000s!
  • wenyuewenyue Posts: 558
    I agree there is no concrete number on how much Honda and Toyota are losing on each vehicle. It's certain that they are losing money, even though the sticker is already considerably above other similiar non-hybrid products. The $20K is an estimate by industrial analysts. I don't think it's right on the money, but probably in the ball park. Eitherway, like you said, the Prius and Insight are concepts, not meant for mass production.

    I agree that fuel cell technology will become commerically available very soon. I am encouraged by Honda's projection of a fuel cell car by 2003. Toyota lead the way in fuel cell technology with the world's first prototype in 1996 to carry it's fuel in hydrogen absorbent alloy. It also has the 2nd generation fuel cell technology, displayed first time in 1999 Tokyo Motor show. It's actually quite interesting. I was reading Toyota's technology news. With the second generation fuel cell technology, the Toyota fuel cell now has more capability than U.S department of Energy's 2004 target (it hold more than 1 kW energy per liter). Toyota stated that the R&D phase of the fuel cell vehicle is already complete, and it is already in the production developement phase. It won't be too long now. The major hurdle that remains, cost is one of them, securing reliable fuel source is another. But I can see by 2003-05, most manufactuers will have found or created solutions for them.

    As for HX, I haven't seen on the road. Maybe it's more popular where you live. When I was shopping for a compact car last year, one of the HOnda dealers offered me a left over 98 Civic HX. There were 3 to choose from. It doesn't seem to be very popular here.

    Anyway, we will just have to wait and see if these things catch on. Well nice talking to ya. Got to get some shut eye.
  • The brochure for the Honda Insight given to me this afternoon states that the CVT will be available as an option sometime later in 2000. That means a hybrid engine, and a hybrid transmission!

    Since I drive 60-80K per year as a courier, the gasoline savings would be seen in about four to five years. People who drive long commutes daily, who put 30-40K a year or more on their cars, would see the gas savings well before the life of the car was up.

    Interesting note: the Toyota Prius is available for 21,500 credits in the Playstation game Gran Turismo 2. It's strange to see the tachometer drop to 0 when braking or cornering with my finger off the accelerator. I was able to win a couple of races with it against VW Lupos and other small cars.
  • CVT is the rubber band transmission. It's a Continuously Variable Transmission, with no preset gears. See the January 1996 issue of Car & Driver for an explanation (Civic won 10 Best that year, and also Automobile magazine's Car of the Year), or maybe somewhere online might have it.

    The Civic HX comes standard with a 5-speed, gets 37 city and 43 highway. The CVT has been available since 1996 on the Civic HX coupe, and it gets 34 city and 38 highway. Those are figures I remember from 1997 when I worked at the Civic factory in East Liberty.
  • Hydrids don't make sense in the US, gas is just plain way too cheap, even now. Even with the huge subsidies that are provided by maker, the numbers just don't add up.

    I think Europe is the place they should be pushed - gas is 2 to 3X more expensive there. If they are offered there it will be interesting. The question is not whether people will want hybrids, but at what gas price? 3 bucks per gallon, 4, 5, 6, 10?!

  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    Hybrid cars will be used by environment conscious more than by money conscious in the USA since gas is cheap. There will not be big savings here in terms of money but when one would go back and think how much of the limited natural resource (gas) he/she burnt every week, the results would come faster. Small attempts like this are for advancements in the future. 5000 little Insights sharing road with 50000 Excursions (BTW, 95% of the time, both will have only one passenger) makes the "green" advantage insignificant. But, future Hondas could use the technology in the mainstream cars if the battery pack could become cheaper. Again, Hondas are not all there are, but then the rest will follow. It has to begin somewhere.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    51 Insights sold in the USA in January 2000.
  • alexpalexp Posts: 70
    Few days ago I went to check out the 4Runner, (Chicago Suburbs) and my daughter noticed Toyota Echo. She was sold immidiately.! She said it is the right size and right amount of options. Even though it is sold below the manufacturers cost right now, it will pay off later. Not because of the environment (we don't have that much impact on it) but because of the loogic behind the the more economical car.
  • alexpalexp Posts: 70
    And yes another thing... some of the posters are talking about something they shouldn't be... If you are talking about Europe or Japan look at their market first. Not at the "USA Today" but at the source, like "Aautomotive News Europe" or "Japan Auto"
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    Toyota Echo is not the Toyota hybrid. Toyota Prius is. Echo replaced Tercel and comes with CVT transmission (same as in Civic HX).
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,809
    Seem to attract shoppers who are...well...,non mainstream. Was that PC? :)
  • jguojguo Posts: 49
    If these hybrid cars are allowed in the HOV lane (with 1 passenger) like the electrical cars in California, there might be quite a demand for them, at least in the SF Bay Area.
  • robertsmxrobertsmx Posts: 5,525
    I was just reading couple of newswires at CNNfn, and learnt that there is now a waiting time for Insight (2-4 months), and that Budget Rent A Car (Beverly Hills and another in California) have them to rent. Also that Insight comes with 8 year/80K powertrain coverage.
  • dannygdannyg Posts: 131
    Just saw the Prius at the NY Auto Show, and I must say I'm impressed. I think it would make an excellent second car for running errands (+60MPG for city driving) or perhaps a good only car for a couple or small family.

    I do wonder why they don't offer the Prius drivetrain in the Echo. VW gets a $1K premium for their TDI cars (Jetta, Beetle, etc.) which also get excellent MPG. If the Prius drivetrain was offered as a $1K option, I think it could be a real seller.
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