A Brief History of Batteries and Battery Tech

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

What comes to mind when you hear the term “car battery”? Fifteen years ago, the answer would have been quite obvious. But lately the idea of what a car battery entails has shifted away from that essential-but-oft-forgotten black box under the hood to state-of-the-art propulsion systems of the near future. When talking about batteries, we focus less on volts and more on kilowatt-hours and MPGe. We’ve mentioned batteries a lot lately, specifically in regards to the Chevrolet Bolt, GM’s potentially game-changing affordable all-electric vehicle. But when we talk about the Bolt’s 238 miles of battery range, how is that different from talking about the battery at the end of your jumper cables?

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Another Fuel-Efficient Honda Bites the Dust

Honda Insight

Way back in 1999, Honda released a funky little car with an electric motor, a gas motor and enclosed rear wheels. The Insight was successful as a niche car and gained a cult following, but never had mainstream success and died a quick death.

Just 5 years ago, Honda released a new version of the Insight, built to nearly identical specs as the much more popular Toyota Prius. The Insight took the Prius’ shape, but lacked a certain something we in the car business like to call “fuel economy and performance.”

Honda likes to believe it’s a leader in hybrid technology, but it has trailed the competition since hybrid technology became a thing.

Want proof? The Insight is about to die. Again.

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Coming in March: 2012 Toyota Prius C (C is for City)

So there, we blew it all in the headline. But the Prius C’s big story is that it appears to be a quite good subcompact hybrid from the king of the hybrids. And it will sell in the U.S. “with a starting MSRP below $19,000.”

It will be lighter and cheaper than its competition and beat them by bearing the Prius nameplate.

Curb weight is 542 lbs less than the standard Prius; mileage will be about the same (50 mpg combined), with 53 mpg in the city. Four trim levels will be offered, with good safety features and the usual electro-tech stuff, plus optional Entune system.

Those who have driven the car in Japan, where it is labeled the Aqua, liked especially its drive feel and handling. Inside Line called it

the most un-Prius-like Prius that Toyota has made to date. Here’s an eco champ that’s unexpectedly taut, sporty and, yes, even fun. It’s a surprisingly far cry from the regular Prius, a lovable fuel miser well known for its numb steering and aversion to cornering.

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Honda Getting Its Groove Back

2012 Honda Civic

About a year ago we posted a story expressing concern that Honda was losing its way. Our writer jgoods commented that the company was drifting on several fronts, saying,

This won’t be news to you car gurus who follow such things, but for a company that’s been on top so long to be sagging in product development, engineering, marketing, and sales—while losing market share to Ford, Hyundai, and Kia—signifies big trouble.

He was absolutely right at the time. The monstrosity that is the Accord CrossTour was newly introduced, the disappointing Insight sales numbers were becoming clear, and the hotly anticipated CR-Z was underpowered and uninspired.

Just over a year later, things seem back on track.

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