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Insight, Prius lead the hybrid-powered fleet
At the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Fujio Cho, president of Toyota Motor Corp., lobbied the auto industry to limit the impact of automobiles on the Earth. Cho said that automobile pollution is making some of our cities unlivable.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vehicle exhaust accounts for 70 percent of smog in the United States.
Cho's company is one of only two auto manufacturers currently producing hybrid-powered vehicles for the North American market. Toyota's Prius is a four-door, five-seat sedan that combines gas and electric power. When power demands are low, the Prius is powered by its electric motor. At normal driving speeds, the gasoline engine becomes the primary power source.
At high speeds, additional power from the battery boosts gasoline efficiency. During braking, the electric motor acts as a generator to recharge the battery. The gasoline engine shuts off when the automobile comes to a stop.
The Prius has a 70-horsepower, 1.5 liter, 4-cylinder gasoline engine, plus a 44-horsepower electric motor. It has a body weight of 2,765 pounds and a payload of 800 pounds. It has an electronically controlled, continuously variable transmission.
The Prius has a base sticker price of $20,450, higher than the price of conventional gas vehicles of similar size. The cost of the car is offset by fuel savings. The Prius is rated at 45 miles per gallon in the city and 52 mpg on the highway.
Honda's Insight is a sporty two-seater that combines aerodynamic design, light weight and a parallel hybrid system to maximize fuel efficiency. In contrast to the Prius, the Insight is essentially a gasoline-powered car that uses electricity to boost performance and fuel efficiency.
Honda's Integrated Motor Assist power system combines an ultra-efficient 67-horsepower, 1.0-liter, 3-cylinder gasoline engine with a 13-horsepower, 10-kilowatt electric motor/generator and a nickel-metal hydride battery pack for improved efficiency. The Insight comes with a five-speed manual transmission.
Like the Prius, regenerative braking during normal operation generates electricity for the Insight. Neither vehicle requires an outside source of power. Unlike the Prius, the Insight cannot accelerate from a stop solely by electric power.
The Insight's distinctive teardrop shape has a 0.25 drag coefficient. This means that it requires 30 percent less power than a conventional automobile to operate at highway speeds. The automobile is made of lightweight materials including aluminum, plastic and magnesium. At 1,847 pounds, the Insight's aluminum body is 40 percent lighter than a comparable steel-bodied vehicle. The car has a payload of 365 pounds.
The Insight is rated at 61 mpg for city driving and 68 mpg on the highway. Its base sticker price is $19,235.
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Goodbye gas-guzzler, hello super-sipper
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