Hot New Hybrids: The Prius and the Insight

By dancurranjr On March 29th, 2009

new-insightWhile the cost of a gallon of gasoline is far less these days than it was last summer, when it peaked at around $4, the conventional wisdom is that prices eventually will spiral their way back upwards.

“Americans view low gas prices as an aberration,” says Jack Gillis, public affairs director for the Consumer Federation of America and author of “The Car Book,” (Gillis Publishing, 2008). “Expecting higher gas prices in the future, they are planning to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles.”

Or at least that’s what automakers are betting, as they bring an array of new fuel-saving gas/electric-powered hybrid models to market this year.

For the uninitiated, hybrids use a conventional gasoline engine as the primary source of power, using an electric motor/generator to run the vehicle at lower speeds and augment the engine at other times. A hybrid’s battery pack is self-charging, recovering energy that’s otherwise lost via braking and decelerating, and the vehicle automatically powers down the engine at idle to further preserve fuel.

Here’s a quick review of several all-new hybrid cars and SUVs that will he hitting the road in the coming months as early 2010 models.

  • Toyota Prius. The industry’s top-selling hybrid gets a complete makeover this spring, though it still retains a futuristic appearance. Toyota says it’s roomier and quieter than before and boasts improved fuel economy that’s estimated at 50 mpg in combined city/highway driving. An improved hybrid powertrain features a more powerful 1.8-liter gasoline engine. Advanced options include a pre-collision system that automatically retracts the seat belts and applies the brakes when a crash is unavoidable and a solar panel sunroof that economically powers the car’s air conditioning. A Lexus-branded luxury spin-off, called the HS250h, will follow this fall.
  • Honda Insight. Not to be confused with Honda’s original two-seat hybrid from 2000-2006, an all-new Insight is a more-practical four-door hatchback. Wrapped in sleek aerodynamic styling, the Insight will be priced below the Civic Hybrid in Honda’s lineup when it debuts this April. A 98-horsepower 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine teams with an electric motor/generator to power the front wheels via a gearless CVT automatic transmission. The engine can shut down select cylinders when not needed to provider greater fuel efficiency at highway speeds. It’s expected to deliver 40 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the open road.

SOURCE: Poughkeepsie Journal

Leave a Reply