Where EVs Dare
What do you do when you really care about the environment, but you also it’s not feasible to walk or bike or take public transportation to work? You buy an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle of course. So on January 1, 2001 I picked up my charming, responsive and fun-to-drive Insight from the local Honda dealer and started to learn how to drive all over again.
It’s not that I wasn’t used to driving efficiently. I had been getting about 50 mpg max with my Suzuki Alto in Denmark using energy saving driving methods, so I had to get more than 50 mpg with the Insight quick to be impressed.
The manual wasn’t very much help, with a short introduction to the many indicators in the dashboard display, but no real guide as to how to use them. On January 2 I signed on with the great Insight e-mail list (http://www.onelist.com/community/honda-insight) to see if I could get help there. When I admitted that I had only reached 36.4 mpg in my first 25-30 miles, I got replies that made me feel quite the amateur. (I’m now up to about 55 lifetime mpg at 280 miles, which is getting there.)
Then someone mentioned something about a Gathering Of Hybrids and EVs at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, 40 miles west of here. Why not go talk with real people and ask them to show me how to manage all the indicators and get their driving tricks? Since I’d only been doing my twice 6 mile commutes each day, it would also be an opportunity to try the Insight out on a longer stretch of Freeway.
I had a feeling that there would be lots of identical silver Insights there, so I laid a pretty cover in the back and a little Danish flag in the front so I could see that it was MY Insight. (I’m thinking of calling it MILES, after my grandson.) My husband John thought that was ridiculous, but he appreciated it when we were all lined up!
We were 6 Insights (one citrus yellow/green, the others silver, as I figured), about 10 Toyota Prius (the gathering was arranged by a Prius owner), and two EV’s, a GM EV1 and a Honda EV-Plus.
We were encouraged to grill our lunch and bring the kids along, as there would be lots of neat things nearby for the kids, like the LA Zoo. Most of us ate a sandwich at the tables, and then wandered around looking at the other cars, or getting tips about our own. I didn’t understand how there could be many children there, thinking of our 2 seater, but then I discovered that the Prius has 4 seats, which of course is great, and has a pretty good trunk area, although the dashboard looks very conventional without the fun ”video game” we Insight drivers get to challenge ourselves with. John thought he might get one, though, when the lease on his Mustang runs out. It is nice to have room for a few passengers.
For me, coming from Denmark, the most exciting car there was a HONDA EV-Plus, with 4 seats and lots of space. The owner says they can get over 100 miles per charge. His wife uses it to commute, 85 miles per day. The 3-year lease runs out soon, but they may lease it again if they want. But he was quite curious to see what the Insights and Prius can do.
The owner of the EV1 likes how quick it is starting off. He had even kept up with a very souped-up car to the next intersection once. (But after 60 mph there was no more competition!) It was certainly the smartest car there, with the Insight number two.
Josh from near San Diego told how he gets really good mileage by not being tempted to drive fast. He keeps in the right lane and doesn’t go over 60, which I suppose might be a lesson for the rest of us. I tried that going back home again, and finally had a segment mpg of about 75.
People were very helpful getting me oriented in my new car. I learned how to adjust the trip counter and FCD, which is much easier to see than read about, and then I also found out that you don’t need the key to open the trunk. I suppose those things are in the manual, but I’m a jump-in-and-figure-it-out sort of person, that misses all the nice details in manuals.
After seeing the other models, I am still very pleased with my Insight. It may not be completely pollution free, but I’m not dependent of charging stations. It looks great, has lots of cargo space, handles beautifully, is easy and fun to drive, provides the challenge of the dashboard video game to encourage better mileage, and is "different"!
Drawbacks are of course the lack of a back seat, and in my opinion, that you’re almost sitting on the ground – not too easy for older drivers, nor short-waisted ones like me. The quality of the audio system that others complain about doesn’t really bother me, but then I haven’t had to drive in rain much, when the windshield wipers reportedly interfere with radio reception. I would have enjoyed a CD player, but that can be installed.
Advantages of the others are the 4 seats in the Prius and the EV-Plus, better cargo space in the EV-Plus, no (evident) pollution from the EVs (although I prefer not adding to the acid rains of the Northeast and Europe) and other colors to choose from.
I was surprised how few women came to the GOHEV. There was an attempt to attract families with the grills and play areas, but I only remember seeing two or three other women. There were even a couple of men who came in their wives’ cars! I got a lot of insight in my Insight there, and it would have been fun to hear what other women drivers have to say about their experiences.
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