UNTIL car manufacturers invent a battery system that will provide electric cars with much longer mileage ranges the future of electric propulsion is with hybrid cars such as the Honda Insight I have just been testing that are an ideal petrol electric compromise writes Bryan Longworth.
For the average range of electric cars is only around 100 miles and they are so expensive they only have very limited appeal which is why hybrid cars are now so popular with those motorists interested in this type of power for fuel economy low C02 emissions and green motoring.
I remember attending the launch of the original Insight in 1999 which was a very distinctive two door coupe that is now regarded as a classic but the latest second generation Insight is a five door hatchback with the lowest price in its class that includes the Toyota Prius and which has much wider appeal.
Honda call their system Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) which combines an electric motor with a 1.3-litre petrol engine and controls how they work together which improves fuel economy and brings down CO2 emissions to 99g/km which means there is no road tax to pay.
My test car was the Insight IMA Hybrid CVT HS which at £20,925 is next to the lowest priced model which costs £20,100 and prices rise to £23,190 - all models have the same petrol and electric power units but have different specifications and the test car had as standard CVT automatic transmission, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, climate control, eco mode and 16 inch alloy wheels.
Top speed is 113mph, zero to 62mph takes 12.5 seconds and combined fuel consumption is 65.7 mpg - I noticed that the on board computer showed that fuel consumption was averaging about 10mpg less than this figure which I have found is the usual situation with most cars.
The petrol engine runs all the time unlike some hybrids and despite its size it provided a good power output and it worked well with the smooth CVT automatic transmission which was one of the best CVT systems I have come across.
The interior is roomy and comfortable with an impressive fascia and its futuristic instrument display which also indicates to the driver whether the electric motor is assisting the petrol engine and also when the electric battery is being charged especially during regenerative braking.
There is also Eco Assist which together with the ECON switch enables the driver to achieve high fuel economy and also minimise exhaust gases with the driver being able to see how the system is working.
The hatchback lifts to reveal a large load area of 408 litres with the rear seats up rising to 584 litres with the seats down and the absence of a spare wheel means there is quite a lot of space under the floor for stowing valuables.
My only grumble concerned the split rear window which had restricted visibilility because the larger top section that has a wiper is so sharply angled that the driver can only see through a fairly narrow slot and the divider between both sections also affects visibility which is more noticeable at night - this rear styling looks good on the outside but is not very practical for the driver.
As mentioned earlier until there is a battery invented to provide expensive electric cars with much better mileage ranges their future is very limited which is why hybrid cars such as the Insight are a much better proposition for motorists wanting low emissions and good fuel consumption at an affordable price.
My Verdict: A tempting Honda hybrid.
Model: Honda Insight IMA Hybrid HS.
Power: 1.3-litre petrol engine plus electric motor.
Combined output: 97bhp @ 5800rpm.
Transmission: CVT automatic.
Top speed: 113mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 12.5 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 65.7mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 99g/km.
Price: £20,925 on the road.