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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Flagstaff has been mentioned a couple of times in the forum. Can anyone describe in detail a trip in an Insight from Phoenix to Flagstaff? As someone mentioned, it’s a two+ hour trip on an Interstate with a vertical rise of 6,000 feet. Speed limit is 75 most of the way and if you can’t maintain at least that, you’re stuck frequently behind trucks going twenty up the steep grades, being passed by a stream of cars going eighty. I live in the area. As a frame of reference, I’d like to know during how much of the trip is the engine screaming, how you handled battery management, and so on. For example, are there enough opportunities for battery charging that the drive can seem and sound normal for large portions of the trip? Is it a trip you’d rather avoid in an Insight?
 

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Flagstaff has been mentioned a couple of times in the forum. Can anyone describe in detail a trip in an Insight from Phoenix to Flagstaff? As someone mentioned, it’s a two+ hour trip on an Interstate with a vertical rise of 6,000 feet. Speed limit is 75 most of the way and if you can’t maintain at least that, you’re stuck frequently behind trucks going twenty up the steep grades, being passed by a stream of cars going eighty. I live in the area. As a frame of reference, I’d like to know during how much of the trip is the engine screaming, how you handled battery management, and so on. For example, are there enough opportunities for battery charging that the drive can seem and sound normal for large portions of the trip? Is it a trip you’d rather avoid in an Insight?
I haven't experienced it myself in this car, however I did have a gutless 2008 Honda Civic Hybrid that would take the hills just fine (with a screaming engine).. Besides the engine winding up, I would imagine the Insight would do just fine. Following this thread though, am curious myself as I now live in Florida and can't make that drive anymore (I miss it!)..
 

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I haven't made the drive in the Insight yet either, but was curious about the terrain. Terrain mapping is something I check before driving new routes with the Insight, to see if one route is 'better' for fuel economy than the other and to help anticipate managing modes (e.g. Sport mode to build battery ahead of hills) or anticipate heavy ICE use/noise.

It looks like there are two general/overall routes between Phoenix and Flagstaff: one via I-17 (144 miles, +5922 ft elev, 2 hr 13 min) and one via AZ-87 (185 miles, +6575 ft elev, 3 hr 22 min).
6257

This sounds counterintuitive, but given the side by side terrain comparison, I think I'd pick the longer/higher AZ-87 route from Phoenix to Flagstaff for both the outbound and return route. AZ-87 has more 'rolling' up/down periods of travel, which would allow for more regen on downhill and EV on uphill, which should net overall better fuel economy. The general slope would be ~32.5 ft/minute or ~35.5 ft/mile.

On I-17, you're pretty constantly climbing on the outbound, so won't have much opportunity (maybe 2 or 3 short periods?) for regen. On the return, the constant decline would max the charge on the HV battery pretty quickly without any use/outlet for the extra energy since already travelling downhill... so it would be hard to reap the benefits of regen that you'd want to maximize for fuel economy. The general slope is more aggressive at ~44.5 ft/minute or ~41.1 ft/mile.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I haven't made the drive in the Insight yet either, but was curious about the terrain. Terrain mapping is something I check before driving new routes with the Insight, to see if one route is 'better' for fuel economy than the other and to help anticipate managing modes (e.g. Sport mode to build battery ahead of hills) or anticipate heavy ICE use/noise.

It looks like there are two general/overall routes between Phoenix and Flagstaff: one via I-17 (144 miles, +5922 ft elev, 2 hr 13 min) and one via AZ-87 (185 miles, +6575 ft elev, 3 hr 22 min).
View attachment 6257
This sounds counterintuitive, but given the side by side terrain comparison, I think I'd pick the longer/higher AZ-87 route from Phoenix to Flagstaff for both the outbound and return route. AZ-87 has more 'rolling' up/down periods of travel, which would allow for more regen on downhill and EV on uphill, which should net overall better fuel economy. The general slope would be ~32.5 ft/minute or ~35.5 ft/mile.

On I-17, you're pretty constantly climbing on the outbound, so won't have much opportunity (maybe 2 or 3 short periods?) for regen. On the return, the constant decline would max the charge on the HV battery pretty quickly without any use/outlet for the extra energy since already travelling downhill... so it would be hard to reap the benefits of regen that you'd want to maximize for fuel economy. The general slope is more aggressive at ~44.5 ft/minute or ~41.1 ft/mile.
That’s a tremendously informative post! It gives me a new insight (!) into the art of hypermiling and understanding of how hybrids work. Thanks so much.
 

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A few years ago in a rented car, I took the trip from the Phoenix airport, up I-17 (to where the curve dips) to the Sedona turn-off, and then on to Sedona for a conference. AZ 87 runs through Sedona. I think Insightfully is quite right about AZ 87 being a higher mpg route. Not only is there mpg benefit from the terrain but AZ 87 has lots of small towns and lower speed limits, which will also benefit mpg. However it would take allot more time to make the trip.

Going to Phoenix on I-17 I have minimal worries about reaching capacity of the HV battery. The reason is that most of the downgrade is moderate, and the speed high. Thus to maintain 70 - 75 mph you can't coast and will need some amount of battery power to maintain speed.

Were I to take the trip Phoenix to Sedona in my Insight. On I-17 I'd use Sport Mode and either drive like a heavy truck, and look for mpg in the low 40's, or become slow traffic and maintain 75 mph (+ on short downgrades) and look for mpg in the mid 30's. On the return trip I'd look for around 125 mpg most of the way (regardless of speed 70-85 mph), due to minimal need to run the engine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
A few years ago in a rented car, I took the trip from the Phoenix airport, up I-17 (to where the curve dips) to the Sedona turn-off, and then on to Sedona for a conference. AZ 87 runs through Sedona. I think Insightfully is quite right about AZ 87 being a higher mpg route. Not only is there mpg benefit from the terrain but AZ 87 has lots of small towns and lower speed limits, which will also benefit mpg. However it would take allot more time to make the trip.

Going to Phoenix on I-17 I have minimal worries about reaching capacity of the HV battery. The reason is that most of the downgrade is moderate, and the speed high. Thus to maintain 70 - 75 mph you can't coast and will need some amount of battery power to maintain speed.

Were I to take the trip Phoenix to Sedona in my Insight. On I-17 I'd use Sport Mode and either drive like a heavy truck, and look for mpg in the low 40's, or become slow traffic and maintain 75 mph (+ on short downgrades) and look for mpg in the mid 30's. On the return trip I'd look for around 125 mpg most of the way (regardless of speed 70-85 mph), due to minimal need to run the engine.
Very informative stuff. Ignoring the mpg for a moment, what would your experience be going up the hill at a steady 75 (+ more on downgrades)? Would the engine be screaming at redline for large portions of the trip? I’m referring to what folks in the Clarity PHEV forum refer to as “angry bees” and in this forum as “squirrels”? I make this assumption because, in the absence of any remaining battery, that small engine would have to pull the car up the hill and charge the battery at the same time.

The only way I’ll find out firsthand will be to take one on a 120 mile test drive. I kinda sorta doubt any dealer would be happy with that.
 

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Very informative stuff. Ignoring the mpg for a moment, what would your experience be going up the hill at a steady 75 (+ more on downgrades)? Would the engine be screaming at redline for large portions of the trip? I’m referring to what folks in the Clarity PHEV forum refer to as “angry bees” and in this forum as “squirrels”? I make this assumption because, in the absence of any remaining battery, that small engine would have to pull the car up the hill and charge the battery at the same time.
Actually, I think MPG can be a proxy/indicator for what ICE usage (and noise?) to expect, since the fuel economy hit is directly related to ICE usage. I'd assume any 'extra' ICE usage is at "max squirrel capacity" and corresponding engine noise.

For LX/EX, the rated fuel economy is 55 city, 49 highway, 52 combined. At 75 mph, you'll already get less than 49 mpg highway (since the ratings are calculated for ~60 mph)... maybe 45 mpg? With @Moviemike's inputs:
  • On I-17 Phoenix to Sedona / Sport Mode driving like a heavy truck (slower speed) / low 40's mpg ---> +15% more ICE usage (and relative noise?) versus normal driving, based on relative mpg
  • On I-17 Phoenix to Sedona / maintaining 75+ mph / mid 30's mpg ---> +35% more ICE usage (and noise?) based on relative mpg comparison
In terms of gauging what this sounds like on a test drive, try to find a steep hill and ensure the HV battery is a 'low' level before approaching it (i.e. use up via EV). Have a listen and see if that level of performance/noise is acceptable. Then maybe re-try the route with Sport Mode on (which keeps the HV battery charged up) for comparison.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I haven't made the drive in the Insight yet either, but was curious about the terrain. Terrain mapping is something I check before driving new routes with the Insight, to see if one route is 'better' for fuel economy than the other and to help anticipate managing modes (e.g. Sport mode to build battery ahead of hills) or anticipate heavy ICE use/noise.

It looks like there are two general/overall routes between Phoenix and Flagstaff: one via I-17 (144 miles, +5922 ft elev, 2 hr 13 min) and one via AZ-87 (185 miles, +6575 ft elev, 3 hr 22 min).
View attachment 6257
This sounds counterintuitive, but given the side by side terrain comparison, I think I'd pick the longer/higher AZ-87 route from Phoenix to Flagstaff for both the outbound and return route. AZ-87 has more 'rolling' up/down periods of travel, which would allow for more regen on downhill and EV on uphill, which should net overall better fuel economy. The general slope would be ~32.5 ft/minute or ~35.5 ft/mile.

On I-17, you're pretty constantly climbing on the outbound, so won't have much opportunity (maybe 2 or 3 short periods?) for regen. On the return, the constant decline would max the charge on the HV battery pretty quickly without any use/outlet for the extra energy since already travelling downhill... so it would be hard to reap the benefits of regen that you'd want to maximize for fuel economy. The general slope is more aggressive at ~44.5 ft/minute or ~41.1 ft/mile.
Hate to show my ignorance but where did you get those great contour diagrams?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Actually, I think MPG can be a proxy/indicator for what ICE usage (and noise?) to expect, since the fuel economy hit is directly related to ICE usage. I'd assume any 'extra' ICE usage is at "max squirrel capacity" and corresponding engine noise.

For LX/EX, the rated fuel economy is 55 city, 49 highway, 52 combined. At 75 mph, you'll already get less than 49 mpg highway (since the ratings are calculated for ~60 mph)... maybe 45 mpg? With @Moviemike's inputs:
  • On I-17 Phoenix to Sedona / Sport Mode driving like a heavy truck (slower speed) / low 40's mpg ---> +15% more ICE usage (and relative noise?) versus normal driving, based on relative mpg
  • On I-17 Phoenix to Sedona / maintaining 75+ mph / mid 30's mpg ---> +35% more ICE usage (and noise?) based on relative mpg comparison
In terms of gauging what this sounds like on a test drive, try to find a steep hill and ensure the HV battery is a 'low' level before approaching it (i.e. use up via EV). Have a listen and see if that level of performance/noise is acceptable. Then maybe re-try the route with Sport Mode on (which keeps the HV battery charged up) for comparison.
I can’t understand how Sport Mode can “keep the HV battery charged up” on a long uphill climb at high speed. If in Normal mode the battery would soon be exhausted, doesn’t charging the battery just put more demand on the engine which is already maxed out? Differently worded, if maximum engine rpms are needed to keep the car moving up the hill, where does the extra power to charge the battery come from?

I owned a great 80s era Honda Accord station wagon. I believe its Max horsepower was around 135. Driving from Phoenix to Flagstaff required the engine to downshift frequently, and even then, with the engine revving as high as it would go, the car would slow down into the low sixties. The Insight has less horsepower, is bigger and probably weighs more than that old Accord. So how could the Insight go 75 up the same hill and charge the battery at the same time? I’m confused.
 

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Hate to show my ignorance but where did you get those great contour diagrams?
No worries... it's just Google maps. There are other apps for terrain mapping (think cross-country bicycling), but Google has been good enough and easy enough.

The link to the Terrain Mapping thread was embedded in the text of the post above, and re-linked here for quick reference - Terrain Mapping for Best MPG Route
 

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I can’t understand how Sport Mode can “keep the HV battery charged up” on a long uphill climb at high speed. If in Normal mode the battery would soon be exhausted, doesn’t charging the battery just put more demand on the engine which is already maxed out? Differently worded, if maximum engine rpms are needed to keep the car moving up the hill, where does the extra power to charge the battery come from?
I think it's a relative thing. Sport Mode does a 'better' job at keeping the HV battery charged for longer, with the algorithms seeming to prioritize the ICE running for longer and targeting a higher HV battery level. At some point of constant uphill climb, it will also struggle... but Sport Mode will do the better job at maintaining HV battery level for longer. The more HV battery level you have, the more potential propulsion help you can get from the EV motor to supplement the ICE running.
 

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I think it's a relative thing. Sport Mode does a 'better' job at keeping the HV battery charged for longer, with the algorithms seeming to prioritize the ICE running for longer and targeting a higher HV battery level. At some point of constant uphill climb, it will also struggle... but Sport Mode will do the better job at maintaining HV battery level for longer. The more HV battery level you have, the more potential propulsion help you can get from the EV motor to supplement the ICE running.
Your Accord would not have benefitted from higher tech etc. My old Civic Hybrid could maintain speed going up to Flagstaff on I-17 and was just as heavy (maybe a hundred pounds lighter) as the Insight. It only had 90 horsepower (110 for very brief stints with the battery charged).. I am not sure how it did it - but it did not slow down into the 60mph zone. I am assuming the tech and CVT had a lot to do with it.
 

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Very informative stuff. Ignoring the mpg for a moment, what would your experience be going up the hill at a steady 75 (+ more on downgrades)? Would the engine be screaming at redline for large portions of the trip? I’m referring to what folks in the Clarity PHEV forum refer to as “angry bees” and in this forum as “squirrels”? I make this assumption because, in the absence of any remaining battery, that small engine would have to pull the car up the hill and charge the battery at the same time.
For me allot would depend on how steep the incline was. I use the Power meter gauge a whole lot. On steep up grades I wouldn't let it get above 3/4 of maximum power output, maybe not more than 1/2, regardless of speed. This would avoid any sustained or substantial strain on the system at the cost of some mph.

I would continue to avoid concern about engine noise, partly because the car's speakers are programed to output engine noise while in Sport mode. (aka "angry bees" or "squirrels")

My understanding is that the ICE engine functions primarily as an electric generator. So at a given engine rpm the car's computer distributes the electricity to the wheels and battery, and decides how much to send to each. In Sport mode the driver is telling the computer to maintain a higher minimum charge level in the HV battery.

Both engine rpm and battery provide the power to meet the drivers' demand communicated through the throttle. Which is why a strong HV battery is a great mpg benefit for climbing hills, accelerating, or any other high power demand by the driver.

At speeds above around 50 there is a computer controlled gear which if engaged discontinues battery charging and puts 100% of ICE output to the wheels. However with sufficient load on the system, due to power demands to climb big hills or high speed, the computer may disengage that gear.
 

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  • On I-17 Phoenix to Sedona / Sport Mode driving like a heavy truck (slower speed) / low 40's mpg ---> +15% more ICE usage (and relative noise?) versus normal driving, based on relative mpg
  • On I-17 Phoenix to Sedona / maintaining 75+ mph / mid 30's mpg ---> +35% more ICE usage (and noise?) based on relative mpg comparison
Those numbers around ICE usage seem quite reasonable given my relatively limited use of the Racer on the highway. The numbers I gave were just intuitive estimates.

However the noise aspect is deceptive due to the artificial addition of engine noise, by Honda, to encourage driver attention to mpg. ...Something I'd do away with if I could.
 
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