Honda has announced a new ‘Ecological Drive Assist System’ to help drivers achieve better fuel economy. The technology will feature on the new Insight hybrid car, which goes on sale in spring 2009.

It will be the world’s first system to combine three different functions to enhance fuel economy: an ECON Mode which controls engine, transmission and other powertrain components to support more fuel-efficient driving; a guidance function that helps drivers become more fuel efficient behind the wheel using the colour of the speedometer display; and a scoring function that provides instant and long term feedback on driving techniques, after each journey.

Honda developed the Ecological Drive Assist System to help its customers improve their fuel economy in real world conditions. The scoring function provides cumulative, long-term feedback through graphic ‘leaves’, which ‘grow’ over time as drivers learn and then implement a smooth driving style that boosts fuel economy.

Honda says the visual nature of the scoring function display makes it easy and enjoyable for drivers to improve the efficiency of their driving skills over time.

“Hybrid technology delivers great fuel economy and low emissions, but these can both be affected by driving style,” says John Kingston, Government Affairs and Environment Manager at Honda (UK). “This new package encourages greener, more efficient driving, in a fun and engaging way.”

The technology will further boost the appeal of the Insight, which is due to hit UK showrooms in the spring next year. Honda has already announced that the 5-door family car will be significantly lower in price to any other hybrid on the market, making petrol-electric technology accessible to more people.

A production version of Insight will be unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show, in January 2009.

Key features of the Ecological Drive Assist System:

1. ECON Mode
By pushing an ECON button on the dashboard, drivers can engage ECON mode to support more fuel efficient driving.

As well as controlling the engine, CVT and other powertrain components, ECON Mode also adjusts the air conditioning unit, extends idle stop time and increases regenerative recharging during deceleration to enhance the fuel efficiency of the Insight.

2. Guidance function
The main part of the guidance function is an ambient meter in the form of a background colour behind the speedometer display that changes to indicate real time fuel consumption.

The ambient meter displays a green colour when fuel-efficient driving is being achieved: a blue-green colour when relatively fuel-efficient driving is being achieved with smooth acceleration and deceleration; and a blue colour during heavy fuel consumption.

The ambient meter makes the driver aware of real-time fuel consumption patterns, and encourages the driver to be more fuel efficient, while trying to maintain the green colour display.

The Ambient Meter is the world’s first technology of its kind that encourages environmentally-responsible driving by responding to braking practices as well as  acceleration.

3. Scoring function
The aim of the scoring function is to engage drivers in more fuel efficient driving, and encourage them to develop a more environmentally-responsible driving style.

The scoring function is located within the Multi-Information-Display, in the centre of the instrument panel. This part of the Ecological Drive Assist System uses graphics of tree leaves to ‘score’ the fuel-efficiency of the driver’s performance.

While the ignition switch is turned on, the display shows a score reflecting the real time driving performance.

When the ignition switch is turned off, the ‘leaves’ in the top row display a score for the journey just completed, while a horizontal bar in the bottom row of the display gives a ‘lifetime score’ that represents cumulative lifetime performance.

The Multi-Information Display also allows drivers to view fuel economy figures for the past three trips, as well as instantaneous and average fuel economy statistics.

When the technology debuts in the Insight in the spring, it will be the world’s first function of its kind to provide real-time and post-trip assessments of the impact of driving habits on fuel economy.