Hybrids Come of Age
Just 10 years ago Honda released the Insight as the first US mass market hybrid combustion/electric car. Its two seat aerodynamic teardrop shape, light weight and focused engineering delivered spectacular fuel economy that generated quite a bit of media attention. In the real world however, the Insight represented significant compromises in terms of utility, performance and perceived safety. Launched at the height of the SUV boom alongside inexpensive gasoline, sales weren’t significant and to many people the Insight was another Honda engineering experiment; a car that Honda’s Asimo robot might drive, but not something American families would put in their garage.
What a difference a decade makes. Last week the EPA released its annual Fuel Economy Guide for 2010 and hybrids swept the podium with 9 out of the top 10 MPG scores. At least in terms of EPA ratings, hybrids are the drivetrain technology of the moment. Perhaps more important than MPG is how the technology has evolved into a variety of solutions that can be used across a range of body styles without many of the original Insight’s compromises.