TAKANEZAWA, Japan - Honda has made extensive use of aluminum in the development of its new Insight hybrid car.
The Insight's 1.0-liter low-friction VTEC gasoline engine is of all-aluminum construction and incorporates aluminum components such as the rocker arm. The engine works in conjunction with an ultrathin electric motor and nickel-hydride battery pack.
The Insight's drivetrain weighs 57 percent less than that of a conventional hybrid model, said Honda.
The Insight also boasts an ultralight aluminum body. Basic structural elements are made of extruded aluminum that uses novel hexagonal and cross-shaped section frames.
Rigidity and crash safety are strengthened by the use of joints in die-cast aluminum with moldings designed to integrate several functions, reducing the number of parts. A small number of steel bolts are used at key locations.
The Insight's aluminum body is 47 percent lighter than the steel-bodied Honda Civic.
The Insight's aluminum suspension components are 30 percent lighter than the equivalent steel parts from the Civic. Other small aluminum parts such as the accelerator pedal, wheels and suspension arms save another 176 pounds.
The Insight has been developed for relatively large production runs. The Takanezawa factory is gearing up to make 8,000 units a year initially but can increase that figure according to demand.