A group of people on Insight Central, an Internet forum focused on the Honda Insight, have initiated a project that provides greater driver control over the activation/charging of the Insight hybrid system: MIMA, or Manual Integrated Motor Assist.
The premise behind MIMA is that (some) humans can do better than the relatively simple automatic hybrid control software in current hybrids at finding the best mix of gasoline to electric drive.
MIMA, which has just finished early beta testing, allows a driver to control the Insight electric motor/generator via a small joystick on the shift lever (or automatically through a programmable system) to activate the assist when the MPG drops to an adjustable set point and to activate the regeneration when the MPG raises to another set point.
At (legal) highway speeds, a MIMA Honda Insight can achieve the nominal EPA fuel economy—or beat it. In the hands of a careful driver it can beat the EPA mpg by a substantial amount.
With the MIMA modification, an additional 15% improvement has been realized, and the system software has a lot of room for improvement, according to Mike Dabrowski, the primary software and hardware developer for MIMA.
I find it really interesting that hybrids seem to be attracting “hackers” — is it me, or does that seem unique to this type of car? Furthermore, it’s very cool that there seems to be a competitive mindset arising about achieving greater fuel efficiency among hybrid owners. But, most interesting, these ideas aren’t coming from car manufacturers, but from owners and drivers. I’m sure there’s a message here for the auto industry — I’ll let someone else try to spell it out, though…