A Hybrid Goes Rallying!

Although the Honda Insight is no longer available in the UK, there is still no production car that beats its super-low emissions of 85g/km. Which makes it all the more surprising that it is being rallied and enjoying considerable success.

The Oaktec petrol-electric hybrid Honda Insight competes in the Formula 1000 rally series based in NW England. After 4 rounds of the ANWCC Formula 1000 Tarmac Rally championship the Oaktec Honda Insight Hybrid is lying 7th overall in the Championship and 2nd in Class A for production spec cars.

The car won class A in the last 2 rounds, the Smartmole Weeton Stages near Blackpool and on July 15th at the Camsport Ranges Stages, a remote military range near Aberystwyth in Snowdonia.

The car’s best result overall was at the Weeton Stages on June 19th where the 995cc 3 cylinder hybrid Honda beat many much more powerful cars to finish the event in 36th position overall from a field of 80 cars. By the end of this event the car was beating many of the more highly modified Class B Formula 1000 cars.

Paul Andrews, the man behind the revolutionary idea of rallying a hybrid (and who has also supplied cars to Jeremy Clarkson for the Top Gear programme), is impressed with the car. “We are delighted with the way the season has gone. We were entering the unknown with a car designed for low emissions and fuel economy. The Insight was treated as a bit of a joke by some competitors when we first appeared on the rally scene, but it is now receiving many favourable comments about its speed and reliability. It is still at an early stage of development and we are sure there is a lot more performance waiting to be unlocked.”

At the Camsport Ranges Rally the car was co-driven by David Barnes who has over 30 years experience navigating in a wide range of rallies with cars and drivers of the highest caliber. David was surprised and impressed by the competence of the car over some very challenging stages and believes it has huge potential for the future.

So far the car has performed with faultless mechanical reliability and has only suffered development and reliability problems with the bespoke suspension, which the team and the suspension manufacturer are working hard to resolve.

And fuel consumption? Amazingly, the car still manages 30mpg on a special stage – which is considerably better than most other rally cars – although not quite up to the 65mpg that it can achieve on the road. Paul has experimented with both manual gearboxes (which were standard on the car in the UK) and continuously variable transmission (CVT – used in cars for the American market), and the CVT produces much better mpg as it holds the engine speed at either peak power or torque, whereas the manual car was on the rev limiter all the time.

The future for the car involves running it on biofuel, comprised of around 85% plant matter. Keep track of the car’s progress through the reminder of the season at www.green-car-guide.com.

Energy Efficient Motorsport  (EEMS)

Oaktec works closely with Energy Efficient Motorsport (EEMS), an organisation that is helping to develop more environmentally-friendly technology in motorsport – we say this is an exciting and admirable goal! For more information on Energy Efficient Motorsport visit www.eeemsonline.co.uk.

The Oaktec Honda Insight Hybrid rally car used E85 Bio-ethanol for the first time on the Centenary Stages Rally at Twyford Woods in Lincolnshire on Sunday 6th August.

The car competes in the Formula 1000 class and has support from Motorsport Development UK’s EEMS project. It was crewed by Oaktec partners Paul Andrews and Bill Meeson.

The one litre car uses a V-TEC 3 cylinder engine with an electric motor/generator built into the flywheel, which boosts performance under acceleration and converts wasted braking energy into electricity which is stored in a 22kg battery pack.

The team has been testing a development Insight with E85, and were comfortable with the performance and reliability of the fuel, but on the rally chose to use it just for the final 2 stages of the 6 stage event.

Paul Andrews comments: “The car ran faultlessly through out the event and the ethanol fuel gave us no noticeable drop in performance. The use of this fuel completes the green circle and gives us what we believe is the ultimate environmentally responsible rally car. Despite the car retaining all the technology that gives it low emission vehicle status, it has excellent straight line performance and only struggled on this event with the roughness of the stages for what has been built as a smooth tarmac car.”

The Insight finished in 29th position overall and 6th in F1000, and now leads Class A in the series.

The team is about to embark on an extensive development program to exploit the characteristics of the Hybrid systems for on stage performance and other motorsport applications, and to get the best output from the E 85 fuel.