Thanks to decades of engineering and design work from countless developers of technology, hybrid vehicles have come a long way from the slow crawl of the original hybrids on the highways. It hasn’t taken long for automakers to get to the point where virtually every manufacturer has at least one hybrid available within its lineup, and producers like Honda have several across the board. In fact, the 2022 Honda Insight is one of Honda’s fully hybrid sedans available as a complete hybrid lineup; few manufacturers outside of Toyota’s Prius offer a full lineup of trims that are hybrid only.
While electric vehicles are also on the rise, hybrids are bridging the gap between electric and gas-powered vehicles to provide a sort of support network of lower-emission options as the kinks get worked out of fully electric vehicles. Since EVs typically suffer from troubles like long charging times and driving range that is adversely affected by cold weather and climbing hills, there is still work to do on getting EVs to the point where they make sense for all drivers. In the interim, hybrids can reduce the amount of fuel we consume and make it easier to transition to the fully electric automobiles we know are in the near future of transportation.
How the Hybrid Honda System Works
Basic knowledge of gas-powered engines is fairly common, with most people understanding that fuel goes into the vehicle and is burned for energy that gives the engine power. Such power propels the vehicle, and the systems in a vehicle involve a lot of moving parts. In some ways, a hybrid system is both more complex and simpler than a gas-powered engine alone because a hybrid has two motors instead of one. In general terms, the hybrid system in the Honda Insight is powered by a lithium-ion battery that is charged by kinetic motion from deceleration and braking. The gas-powered engine also provides charging power to the battery.
With the power available from the electric motor, the vehicle requires less gas to move the mass of the car via motion sent to the wheels. In essence, the electric motor supplements the energy use of the gas motor – sometimes propelling the vehicle on electric power alone – so less gas is burned in the effort of acceleration or use of onboard features like heat, lights, or air conditioning. Where the electric motor and gas engine differ most tends to be found in the amount of power available. The electric motor offers more torque and horsepower than a gas engine alone, which is why vehicles like “supertrucks” are becoming a new category of EVs with high outputs of horsepower and torque a gas-powered vehicle has never achieved.
Honda builds the 2022 Insight with an inline-four engine that generates 107 horsepower and 99 lb-ft of torque by itself. The electric motor is an AC synchronous permanent-magnet system that makes up to 22 horsepower and 99 lb-ft of torque. Combine the two systems, and the 2022 Insight has a total of 151 horsepower with 197 lb-ft of torque. That’s a good amount of power to move a five-seat sedan, especially with the immediate response you get from the acceleration of the electric motor. The Insight is more sprightly than the Prius and can go from zero to 60 in as little as 7.3 seconds.
Insight vs Civic
Because the Insight is based on the Civic, it seems only fair to compare the two vehicles side by side for a look at how much savings you actually gain from driving the hybrid. For 2022 models, the Insight starts at an MSRP of $25,210, and the Civic starts at $21,900. When comparing each vehicle according to the EPA fuel ratings, the 2022 Insight gets a fuel economy of 55 MPG in the city and 49 MPG on the highway, which means it actually gets better fuel ratings in the city instead of the highway thanks to the electric motor. For the 2022 Civic, fuel economy is 33 MPG in the city and 42 MPG on the highway, a significantly lower rating.
While these EPA ratings are a great way to judge generally how much fuel economy a vehicle has, every individual is going to see different results based on their driving habits, terrain, and weather. With that said, based on the percentages from the EPA, the 2022 Insight has up to 531 miles of driving range with its 10.6-gallon fuel tank. In contrast, the 2022 Civic only has 446 miles of driving range with its larger 12.4-gallon tank. The annual fuel cost for the Insight is averaged out to $950 per year, where the Civic annual fuel average is $1,350. A quick computation of the numbers shows that if you drive an average number of miles in a year, the 2022 Insight will save you $400 in gas over the course of the year. Over the course of five years, you save an average of $2,000 on gas.
Now, if you only keep your 2022 Insight for five years and you only drive an average number of miles in a year, the Insight may not be a good investment over that short time. However, if you tend to drive a lot of miles in the city, you contend with a lot of stop-and-go traffic in rush hour, or you drive more than an average number of miles because you commute daily, then the Insight may actually save you a lot more money over the course of a year. If you’re a person who likes to drive a car for the full length of its life, then the savings will build up over time to make it far more worthwhile to spend extra upfront for the hybrid.
Even after decades of improvements to hybrid vehicles, many people still remember their first impressions of the meager capability from weak engines of early hybrid predecessors. If you are a person who still believes hybrids are bland to drive, slow to accelerate, and will mean too many sacrifices, perhaps a test drive of the 2022 Insight will change your mind. You can expect acceleration to be responsive, thanks to the electric motor, and you get the option of choosing to utilize the boosted regenerative braking. Smooth acceleration is accompanied by a quiet cabin and well-sorted suspension that feels upscale and refined.
If you choose to purchase a 2022 Insight, you can geek out on analyzing your driving performance by using the data provided by the onboard computer. In the instrument panel, you can see how your driving performance is affecting the battery life, charging, and fuel use, so you can choose to engage the regenerative braking system more aggressively if you wish to get farther with less fuel. It almost feels like a game if you’re the type to find such experiences a challenge. Aside from the regenerative braking, you are unlikely to notice much of a difference in the way the Insight drives in comparison to its gas-powered counterparts aside from the quieter operation overall.
It’s Time to Try the Hybrid Life
If you’re thinking about buying a hybrid like the 2022 Honda Insight, taking the time to test drive and consider your personal driving habits can help you decide whether the extra price upfront will be worth the expenditure. For those who really are sold on using less gas and owning a vehicle with fewer emissions, the price may be less of a concern than the environmental benefit. In comparison to other hybrids, the 2022 Insight is actually priced very competitively and has a full suite of safety features for which Honda is widely known. It might be time to give a hybrid a try and see if it really is a better option.