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DayCreek Journal

November 08 , 2013

Still Gaining Insight
After Nine Years and Almost
300,000 Miles


honda insightá
Over 298,000 miles and going strong! The aluminum body looks just as good as the day I bought it...over 9 years ago.

Here it is November already. I really must apologize for not keeping up with the journal. Nothing sinister going on, just plain lazy I guess.

During the Spring of this year, the old Honda Insight started showing signs that it's hybrid battery was about to go to the "big battery in the sky". It still worked, but any time I found myself in stop-and-go traffic, the battery levels quickly depleted. Considering that I mostly do highway driving, this wasn't a big deal but I knew the days were numbered for the hybrid battery pack.

Knowing that the time was near, I did my due diligence and checked out what my options were.

Option 1 was to let Honda do the repair. I called Chris Schneider at Honda Motorwerks in La Crosse, WI and he got the parts department on the phone as I prepared to sit down. If memory serves me correctly (it was back in April of this year) I believe the cost to replace the battery pack was $2,000 but they also recommended replacing the computer IMA module for an additional $1,500 bringing the grand total to $3,500.

Option 2 was to find a third party that fixes them. I found one such company: Bumblebee Batteries out of Portand, Oregon. Bumblebee actually goes a step further than Honda. Honda is no longer replacing the old battery packs with fresh new ones. Instead, they're rebuilt battery packs and they only fix the batteries that are defective. In other words, you don't get a brand new battery pack and to top it off, they want to change out the computer module as to not stress out the rebuilt pack.

Bumblebee charges $2,100 for a rebuilt pack that contains 100% new batteries. Not only are they new, they have higher amperage giving the car extra punch and longer discharges for those big hills.

The only disadvantage I could see to option 2 was the fact that you are dealing with a small business vs. a large corporation and you never know if a small business will be in business a few years out in case there's a problem.

Waiting it Out
Since summer was nearly upon us, I decided to keep the old battery and wait until I got the dreaded IMU warning light.

Low and behold as soon as the weather started getting a bit chilly around here, the battery's performance dropped to a point in which the deadly IMU light brightly shown on my dashboard. Interestingly, the car's performance really didn't change at all. The car just had an ugly trouble light staring me in the face.

With the cold winter weather ahead, I decided now was the time to face the "battery reaper" and replace the sucker.

honda insight I battery compartment 
Here's a look at the hybrid battery compartment. The battery is on the right side. It looks complicated, but it's really not. Changing it out was quite doable for car-challenged folk like me!


Call to Eli
Of course, I went with option 2. I placed a call to Eli and Bumblee Batteries and within a week I had a new, rebuilt battery.

Eli told me it would probably take me 3 to 4 hours to do the swap. (He said that if you did them all the time, you could get it done in less than an hour.) Eli sent me detailed instructions and they were a godsend. As he predicted it was about a 3.5 hour job. About half-way through the job, I realized that using an electric driver with a socket attachment really makes things go much quicker! I really could have saved a lot of time using one of those from the start.

The installation went amazingly well and it wasn't long before I was ready to take a test drive.

Honda Insight Hybrid Battery 
Success! Here's the Honda Insight's hybrid battery that served me well for 298,000 miles.

The Verdict
All I can say is "Wow!". The battery charge level hasn't dropped less than 3 bars since I have been driving it now for about two weeks. I don't ever remember that being the case since I owned the vehicle. (I bought it with 6,800 miles on it.)

By the way, Eli at Bumblebee Batteries is a class act. How often do you get a thank-you card along with your purchase? Eli was great throughout the transaction and return of the core. I highly recommend using their service.

Final Thoughts
Here I am at almost 300,000 miles. In 2012, the average fuel consumption for U.S. consumer vehicles was 24 mpg. I have averaged 63 mpg. My Honda Insight has gotten more than 2.5 times the mileage of a U.S. conventional vehicle.

For the sake of discussion, let's say the average price of fuel over the past 9 years that I have owned the vehicle was in the neighborhood of $2.75 per gallon of gas. If I would have driven a conventional vehicle for 300,000 miles, it would have taken 12,500 gallons of gas to drive that distance. 12,500 gallons multiplied by $2.75 equals $34,375 worth of gas.

Now lets say that I was a step above the standard crappy fuel mileage that most Americans drive. Let's say I drove a car that got 30 mpg. That's certainly quite doable for most non-SUV, non-hybrid domestic vehicles. That would mean I burned 10,000 gallons and it would have cost me $27,500.

Finally, lets look at the Honda Insight. 4,762 gallons to drive 300,000 miles. That's $13,095 worth of gas. That's a savings of $21, 280 over an average U.S. vehicle and a savings of $14,405 over a fuel-efficient, non-hybrid vehicle.

It would certainly seem to me that spending $2,100 on a new battery is well worth the savings. The 63 mpg over the life of the vehicle is REAL, not a made up number. I look at that number every time I fill up at the gas station and smile!

Sadly, Honda stopped building these cars in 2005. Nobody wanted to buy a 2-seater. How ironic considered most American vehicles consist of 1 person.

-- Alan Stankevitz


16-side roof from above
A new perspective on the world...The roof of our cordwood house from directly overhead.