November 2005 - By John Waiveris, Photos by Jamie Hodgson and John Waiveris, Quotes from owners on install day.
"Esoteric vehicle...but one I wouldn't want to live without." - Brian Hardegen from MA, Winner of the 2005 Tour De Sol Monte Carlo Rally (94 mpg in a MIMA modified Honda Insight)
Who are these people and what are they doing to their cars? Do you know that feeling of "How did I get here"? I had it yesterday. Picture a row of 9 silver and red Honda Insights lined up with their hatchbacks open. Engineers and Scientists are hacking apart wiring harnesses and comparing notes about their mystical number, MPG. I'm having an out of body experience. Maybe I am at a factory in Japan or seeing into the future. Then I realize, one of those cars is mine. I forget sometimes - I've only had it a week.
"I only got 55 miles per gallon on the way here. Don't tell anyone, I'd be embarrassed." - John from CT (me)
Buying a New Car
Just a week ago I was driving a big Chrysler and spending $35 per week on gas. I didn't expect to need a new car, but sometimes life throws you curves. I'm sort of obsessive about these things so I started with online research and made a big spreadsheet. The logical choice was an economy car so I almost bought a Hyundai...but then I got into a Toyota Prius and it was obvious. My next car would be a hybrid.
What you don't realize is that one of these cars is a ticket to an exclusive club. Just spend some time on InsightCentral.net or Priuschat.com to see what I mean. Owners gather online to trade stories about "lifetime MPG", crazy modification ideas, and little else. These are people that always wanted to design their own car, and many of them probably could.
"This is no sports car at all...I drove a vintage 911 once and was massively impressed" - Walter
Tour De Sol and MIMA
Some owners take it a bit further. Last year, Brian Hardegen and his son Phil won the Tour De Sol Monte Carlo Rally using a board designed by Mike Dabrowski. The design seems to be an extension of a running conversation on InsightCentral.com. Owners have been chatting about ways to improve MPG for years, and sharing numbers is a way to be competitive in different places. It's as though the Internet is an extension of their car. Maybe someday people will figure out how to race cars in virtual reality. Until then, this is closest we've come.
The trophy served as an inspiration. In less than a year, MIMA evolved from a race winning prototype to a product being installed into more and more cars. (Four of the cars today drove away with brand new MIMA kits.) It gives the driver control over the motor and battery systems. It's enough for a 15%-20% improvement right away; in the right hands perhaps more.
"What does Honda think of this? They'd be horrified. Obviously they did it the right way, and we're here corrupting the right way." - John from PA
Honda versus Toyota
Hanging out with the owners I hear brief comments about "Prius+". There's almost a quiet fear that a modified Toyota will come spoil their party at the next Tour De Sol. And why not? The Honda may be the most efficient car on the road, but Toyota outsells it 20 to 1. Further, the Prius+ team is selling a product that converts a gasoline hybrid to one that can plug into your electrical socket at night. It's a matter of cost too. A Prius+ conversion will set you back $10,000-$12,000 (keep in mind; this is in a $22,000 car). A MIMA board that you install yourself will set you back $650.
"Prius owners don't even know the Insight Exists" - Armin
Fashion and Engineering
If you think about it, Toyota seems to have read the American public a bit better. It's not about technology and conservation as much as style and fashion. The Prius introduced innovations such a smart key technology. Just walk up to the car with your key in your pocket. Touch the door handle and it's unlocked. Sit down and push a button to start the car. The onboard computer communicates with your cell phone. It's as though the future has arrived early.
The Honda in comparison is most efficient as a manual transmission. It's an all aluminum car that weighs 1200 pounds less than a Club Sport Porsche 911. The engine has features found on cars 10X the price and pushes combustion into ratios that would destroy a regular engine. On the other hand, the stereo is mediocre at best, and it has barely enough room to carry a night of camping gear. As a sports car, it is exciting but disappointing. As an engineering project it is sublime.
"We all owe a debt of gratitude to Yves. Yves was courageous. He was the first. I did mine as the third knowing it worked both of their cars." - Brian
More about MIMA
Go to 99mpg.com if you'd like to modify your own car with a MIMA board. Mike will talk you through the process, fill out the paperwork, and the kit will be on its way.
You might want to spend some time reading about MIMA on InsightCentral.net too. It's amazing the way you can trace the design and development all the way back to initial ideas. Be sure to read about forced auto stop, the cardboard trick, and various other ways that Insight owners are modifying their cars. It's more than a product you order and install, it's a way of thinking.
"It took 8 gallons of gas to go 120 miles!?! I haven't driven a regular car in a while." - Alex from CA (a stock Honda Insight would take 2 gallons)
"Notice the car stereo. It runs Linux, a fitting companion to the car" - Armin
See you on the road...
John Waiveris writes about technology and online marketing for Invisible Gold, LLC.
For more information call (860) 285-0172 or visit him online at www.invisiblegold.com. "Your Website Should be Easy to Edit"