Posted 10-16-2003

Honda IMAS

What Is It?
Honda IMAS Concept

What's Special About It?
Honda says that it drew inspiration for the IMAS concept car from the bicycle, a responsive mode of transport that makes it easy to get where you need to go while doing minimal damage to the environment. While the IMAS still does more damage than your average bike through its use of petroleum, it is yet another application of Honda's gas/electric Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system and this time the company claims to have used this technology to create a fun-to-drive sports car rather than a basic urban runabout like the Civic Hybrid or Insight.

Of course, to look at the IMAS is to see a more futuristic version of the Insight, and Honda was mum on the all-important matters of engine size, horsepower and suspension components, offering only the assurance that this is an exceptionally lightweight sports car. Built mostly with carbon fiber and aluminum, the IMAS weighs in at approximately 1,542 pounds about 300 pounds lighter than the Insight. And its coefficient of drag is said to be just 0.20 compared to the Insight's 0.25. Honda estimates fuel economy at 40 kilometers per liter, which works out to about 94 mpg far more frugal than any production gas/electric hybrid we've seen thus far. An electronically controlled throttle works with a shaftless variable gear steering system (VGS) to produce precise throttle response and handling, according to Honda.

Inside the two-person cockpit, designers wanted the car to have the "naked interior of a road racer," and as such, there are many exposed metal components. The instrument panel and the navigation screen mounted on top of the dash are constructed of thin, transparent material. And the steering wheel assumes an aeronautical design, rather than the usual doughnut.

Why Should You Care?
Two-seat sports cars are typically low-volume sellers, and given the fact that most people are still only vaguely familiar with gas/electric hybrids, it's unlikely that Honda would offer anything like the IMAS in production form over, say, a hybrid Accord or Odyssey. But the IMAS is a reminder that the potential of gas/electric hybrids extends beyond bare-bones urban transportation for greenies.
Erin Riches