Honda Insight vs Toyota Prius

Honda Insight dashboard

Toyota Prius dashboard

So I gave back the loaner Insight to Honda yesterday. Honestly, I was sorry to see it go.

Here are my impressions of the Insight divided into my likes and dislikes and most are direct comparisons with my current car, a Toyota Prius. Realise I am no motoring expert and these are extremely subjective opinions!


  • The Insight is quite a bit more responsive than the Prius
  • It has a lot better external visibility, especially rearward and the two side mirrors are very generously sized
  • The driver’s seat gives very good lumbar support
  • The radio sounds a lot better (more bass, less tinny) than the Prius


  • The dashboard in the Insight is very confusing and hard to read information from. Honda could definitely do with some input from usability experts here. The dashboard in the Prius is far easier to find information from as you drive
  • There is significantly less rear passenger legroom in the Insight
  • Although the emissions figures for the Insight are roughly similar to the Prius (101-105g CO2/km), it is slightly less fuel efficient (I got 5.5l/100km (46.12mpg US) in the Insight compared to 5.1l/100km (42.77mpg US) for the Prius)
  • The one button for Eco Mode means it is not possible to control the EV mode as easily as with the Prius – this is important as there are times driving the Prius I want to be in EV mode for fuel economy reasons

Other opinions –

  • My wife found the Insight passenger seat too hard for her taste (the lumbar support I liked!)
  • My six year old didn’t like that his seat belt was harder to close in the Insight (seats might be narrower and thus booster partially covers seatbelt buckle)
  • My three year old liked the flowers on the side of the loaner Insight Honda gave me!!!

The bottom line for the Insight is that it is a nice drive. It is about ?3,000 cheaper than the Prius to buy in Andalucia (depending on options you are looking at ?18k for the basic Insight vs ?21k for the basic Prius). This biggest issue I had with the Insight was the dashboard but if I could save ?3,000 on the purchase price without sacrificing on emissions, I’d put up with poor information display.


Toyota Prius and Honda Insight – Spot the difference?

Our Toyota Prius

Loaner Honda Insight

I went to Jerez today to collect the a Honda Insight which Honda offered to me to try out. They are letting me have it for a week.

Jerez is about 100km away. I drove there in our Prius and drove back in the Insight. A couple of differences struck me straightaway –

  • First off, the dashboard of the Prius is far clearer – the Insight’s dashboard is not integrated and makes finding the information you want more complex (not something you want distracting you while you are driving)
  • Secondly, the Insight seems more responsive than the Prius – although I wasn’t pushing the Insight, the accelerator was very obviously more sensitive than the Prius’.

In terms of fuel economy, the Prius beat the Insight on the 100km journey with the Prius achieving 5.1l/100km as opposed to the Insight’s 5.5l/100km – it might not sound like much but that makes the Prius 8% more fuel efficient than the Insight in this (admittedly unscientific) test.

I’ll publish more pics and impressions of the insight as the week progresses.


A giant distributed battery for the country?

Toyota Prius plug-in
Photo Credit geognerd

Having just taken delivery today of my Toyota Prius and having just read the Rocky Mountain Institute’s (RMI) fabulous report on Vehicle to Grid possibilities, I decided it was time to address a post to this topic.

First off, what is vehicle to grid? Vehicle to Grid (or V2G) is the idea that plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) could be used to help stabilise electrical grids by consuming power when there is an excess of electricity, and selling electricity back to the grid when electricity is scarce.

The supply of electricity is variable. All the moreso as the concentration of renewable sources added to grid increases. When this variability of supply is combined with the constant variability of demand the result is an extremely unstable grid and the occasional resultant power outage. This instability increases with the addition of more renewable sources (wind and solar).

Early on summer mornings (2am to 6am) is the typical trough of demand for electricity. As more and more wind farms are added to the grid, if there is a steady wind blowing at this time, there is a very real possibility that the amount of energy being supplied by wind farms will exceed the demand! With an excess of demand over supply the price for electricity will go extremely low or even negative to stimulate demand. At this time, if there are a large number of PHEVs connected to the grid, they can pull down the excess power and store it. In other words, they start to act like a giant distributed battery bank for the country.

The following day, if there is little wind and the temperature is high (not unusual in summer) the supply of electricity will be low and the demand for power will be high as people turn on their air conditioning units. With low supply and high demand, electricity will now be quite expensive. At this time, it would make economic sense for PHEV owners to sell the electricity stored in their vehicles back to the grid.

Furthermore, as the RMI report put it:

Utilities sell a disproportional amount of their power on hot summer afternoons. At night, business plummets. For the utility, that means their expensive generation and transmission equipment stands idle. “Night-charging” vehicles, therefore, could be a lucrative twist on the business of selling electrons.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently estimated that if half the nation’s light vehicles were ordinary plug-in hybrids they would represent a night-charging market of 230 gigawatts. That’s good news for the U.S. wind industry. In many areas, wind tends to blow harder at night, creating more energy when the vehicles would be charging.

All this requires the implementation of smart grids by utilities. These grids will be able to signal the cost of electricity (reflecting the supply and demand) in real-time and devices (vehicles, air-conditioning units, diesel generators, refrigeration plants) will respond to the price fluctuations accordingly so that when electricity is expensive, the demand will drop and supply will be stimulated to increase.

Smart grid trials are already taking place with Enel in Italy having rolled out a smart grid to 27.2m Italian residences! In the US, Austin Energy has been working on building its smart grid since 2003 while Xcel Energy announced its plans to build the first fully integrated “Smart Grid City” in the nation in Boulder, Colorado.

To get this vision to become a reality, consumers will have to be incentivised to buy PHEVs. This might be done by governments, or by utilities who contract with the vehicle owner to subsidise the price of the car, for the use of the battery when needed!

Governments could help push this forward by mandating that all government owned vehicles be PHEVs (though the police might want a derogation until there are high performance PHEVs!).

Car manufacturers also need to produce PHEVs! Toyota will bring the first plug-in Prius to market in 2009 and Renault Nissan have committed to producing electric vehicles for Israel and Denmark. With oil now at $140 per barrel and not looking likely to drop significantly in the coming years, the number of people looking to buy PHEVs will only trend upwards.

Then there are the environmental benefits of large fleets of cars not emitting CO2 for large portions of their journeys. And the resultant grid stability would enable greater penetration of wind power, producing (typically) more power overnight, just when PHEVs would normally be recharging.

What about you? If you could by a plug-in hybrid which would help stabilise the grid, increase the penetration of renewables, and allow you to sell power back to the grid, would you?