TOKYO - Honda Motor Co. Ltd. says its Insight hybrid car will get 82.3 mpg, the highest fuel economy for any mass-produced gasoline-powered car.
The mileage figure is based on Japan's so-called 10-15 standard, which includes a mix of city, highway and idling driving conditions. That standard is not directly comparable to U.S. mileage measures.
The Insight goes on sale this fall in the United States, Europe and Japan. It combines a gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain with a lightweight aluminum body to achieve its fuel economy.
The aluminum body uses a combination of extruded aluminum in the main structure and die-cast aluminum in the joints connecting structural elements. As a result, the Insight weighs only about 1,760 pounds, of which 356 pounds are aluminum. Honda said the body was about 40 percent or more lighter than a standard steel body.
Moreover, Honda said it has significantly improved recyling technology for aluminum. Previously, aluminum, unlike steel, has degraded each time it was recycled. After being recycled several times, aluminum was fit for beverage cans but not auto bodies.
Honda's new technology, however, allows it to recycle aluminum die-cast materials such as engine blocks into extruded materials. The Insight uses such recycled aluminum to form the hanger beam of the steering column.
Honda, citing cost factors, said that it currently has no plans to extend the aluminum body structure to additional models. Honda also builds the high-performance, high-priced NSX sports car, which uses an aluminum body.
Honda unveiled the powerplant it plans to use in its hybrid car at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show. Most of the technology remains the same as what was shown then. A lightweight 1-liter, three-cylinder lean-burn gasoline engine is the main power source, while the car's electric motors provide power for extra acceleration.
But Honda has dropped the 66-pound ultracapacitor it relied on in the 1997 version to store electricity. Instead, the electric motors are driven by a 44-pound nickel metal hydride battery.