Honda Insight ZE1

After driving my Nissan Sunny B12 Coup├ęs for a while, I felt I needed something more environment-friendly, and a bit safer. From my work, I had the opportunity to drive the latest-model Toyota Prius as a test car. Most car enthusiasts would consider it boring. I, however, loved the technical details this car had to offer. Driven properly, you could easily reduce your fuel consumption to 3.3l/100km. An impressive value for a sedan!

Hence, I decided I need a similar fuel efficient vehicle myself. My search started right at, a German platform where users document their fuel consumption records. The website allows filtering the fuel consumption records by the most fuel efficient vehicles, and the first entry in the list surprised me. It was not a Toyota Prius, as I would have thought. It was a car that so far has completely evaded my attention. A Honda Insight.

The record displayed a fuel consumption of less than 3l/100km, a value which I considered to be almost unobtainable without a plug-in possibility. Even stranger, it was a car built in 2000! How can such an old car achieve such numbers? Read on.

Doing my research, I learned that in the early 2000, under pressure from threatening US enivornmental laws, built a car with the goal of reducing emissions as much as possible. That car was not designed my the marketing department. It was a product made by engineers, without compromises, or cutting corners to reduce costs. Just looking at it in detail, you could feel how the hard-working Japanese engineers in the late 90ies did everything possible to build a revolutionary car. Below is a list of features that the little Insight has to offer:

  • full aluminium monocoque, total weight of the complete car of just about 850kg
  • 3cylinder 1L engine
  • lean-burn operation
  • NOx-trap type catalysator
  • super-lightweight aluminium wheels
  • 144V NiMh battery pack with battery management system, thermal monitoring, over/undercharge protection
  • A ultra-slim 10kW brushless DC motor, mounted on the crankshaft

You really have to give Honda credit for investing so much R&D effort into building this car. I mean, how was this possible back in the late 90ies? People were still struggling with Windows 95 bluescreens ever day, and, unlike today, electric drivedrains were neither famous nor popular.

Long story short, these technical details fully convinced me, and I had to get one of these fascinating two-seaters. Unfortunately, Honda did not sell many of these in the old Country, especially not in Germany, where at that time clean Diesel engines were regarded the future of Automotive. Only about 100 of these little cars made their way to customers here.

Now, I have to say that an ecologial lifestyle is very important for me. I value it much higher if someone fixes something that breaks, instead of just buying new. I apply the same principle to cars, and tend to buy the kind of cars that other people would simply scrap, and then invest tons of effort to bring them to life again.

That’s what happened here as well. It looked bad.

It’s hard to see, but that car was in a front crash. The bonnet, bumpers and radiator and support are all bent. The headlight was cracked. It was leaking coolant.

Very bad.

The interor shows signs of 340 000 km driven.
The seats? Forget it, worn out.

Noone with a clear mind would have brought that car back to life.

A “mouse dead” IMA battery, as we like to say in German

My appologies for the pictures. As a student, I only had a very basic smartphone, with a pretty bad camera.