What do two cars, two decades apart, and a 50 year old glider have in common? More than you might think.
I'm a volunteer Aptera Ambassador and enjoy spreading the word about this cool and innovative vehicle that charges itself! Eight years ago I was looking for a small energy efficient car and found out about the 1st Generation Honda Insight from the U.S. Green Building Council's categorization of energy efficient cars for LEED points. LEED is the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification that a building can achieve if they accumulate enough points for their project. Our old offices were LEED Platinum, in some versions of LEED you can achieve points by providing three percent of your employees vehicles with a lower Green Score. I was the one that got the vehicle and I chose the highest performing vehicle, the Honda Insight model that was built from 2000 to 2006. Mine is a 2000 Citrus that can get 100 miles a gallon if the conditions are just right.
So for the introduction of the second generation of the Aptera, I thought it would be interesting to compare the two vehicles as well as my other passion soaring. I own half of an ASW 15 racing glider built in 1970 in Germany. It's a one seater and an one wheeler. The comparison might not be relevant but the results are eyeopening as to the next step in land transportation.
Aptera is the first production vehicle that strictly focuses on reducing aerodynamic drag. It gives the car a definite streamlined look.
The 2000 Honda Insight was the first hybrid car developed after the US passed stricter mpg requirements. Everything was developed from the ground up. The tires are the lowest rolling drag coefficient, the engine was designed specifically for the Insight. The rear wheels are closer together to reduce drag. Photo source Top Speed.
The 1970 Alexander Schleicher ASW 15 was designed by Gerhard Waibel. It was the first production fiberglass glider of this racing class for Schleicher. Photo credit "asw15-46-flug.jpg."
Number of passengers and weight
The Aptera is designed for two people and weighs about 862 kg (1900 lb). The Honda Insight weighs 853 kg (1880 lb) and carries two people. The ASW 15 is for one passenger and max gross weight is 408 kg (899 lb). The glider has the capacity to add 90 kg (200 lb) of water to raise the racing speed at maximum performance.
The Aptera's coefficient of drag is .17. The Honda Insight's is .25 and at the time beat the Chevrolet Corvette's .29. The ASW 15's coefficient of drag is about .13. As a reference, a ball has a coefficient of drag of 1.
Three views and carrying capacity
Aptera Length: 4369 mm (172 in), Width: 2235 mm (88 in), Height: 1448 mm (57 in) Cargo Space is 25 cu. ft. volume
Honda Insight Length: 3645 mm (143.5 in), Width: 1685 mm (66.3 in), Height: 1305 mm (51.4 in). Cargo Space is about 18 cu. ft. volume
ASW 15 Length: 6.48 m (21 ft 3 in), Width: 15 m (49 ft 3 in), Height: 1.56 m (5 ft 1 in). Cargo Space is about 2 cu. ft. volume
Range Anxiety and Driver Experience The Honda Insight holds 10.6 gallons of premium gas and with an average of 50 miles per gallon, the range is well over 500 miles. The Aptera has a self charging capacity and the initial model will have a 400 mile range. With a larger battery the Aptera can have over a 1000 mile range on one charge. The ASW 15 on the other hand has no gas tank or motive power battery and electric propeller. After a two gallon tow to about 2000' the glider can travel hundreds of miles. From its Wikipedia page, "In 1971 and 1972, the American pilot Karl Striedieck set world out-and-return distance soaring records three times flying an ASW 15, including one flight of 1,009.854 kilometres (627.494 mi) on October 15, 1972." Both the Aptera and Insight will have very little pilot anxiety, there is always a gas station or travel center to stop at and get charged up. However in the ASW 15, the pilot is always on hyper alert about altitude, range to near airports or farmer's fields and weather conditions. Sailplane pilots don't fly on bad weather days and never at night. Gliders have no lights.
Parking and Ground Handling
With it's longer length and wider stance, the Aptera will require a larger parking spot than the Honda Insight.
The Honda Insight will park in just about any spot more than a couple of feet longer than it is. Photo source Top Speed.
The ASW 15 is very difficult to maneuver on the ground and requires a tail dolly wheel to be attached as well as a tow bar to allow rearward towing of the ship with a car.
Aptera will be tested to exceed all applicable FMVSS and NHTSA standards.
The Honda Insight received four out of five stars for all the NHTSA crash-tests vehicles with five stars indicating the most injury protection and one star indicating the least protection. Photo source.
Alexander Schleicher prides itself on the crash worthiness of their gliders. They are built with two skins with a composite filler in-between them. Photo source.
Depending on range and options, the Aptera will cost between $25,900 and $46,900. 220 400 mile range models and 110 1,ooo mile range models sold out in 24 hours after the launch December 4. The Honda Insight cost about $18,000 when it launched in 2000, about $27,000 in today's dollar. The ASW 15 cost about $6,000 in 1970, about $40,000 in today's dollar.
Cockpit and Instrumentation
The Aptera will have a 15 inch display in the center of the dash that will allow you to monitor range and the effects heating, cooling and speed will have on range. A custom sound system is an option.
The Honda Insight has a very effective computer that displays the actual miles per gallon you are achieving. It was just the calculations we needed to get 103.1 mpg for 103.1 miles on a Spring drive from Cleveland to Cincinnati with a 10 mph tailwind, excellent high test gas, 50 mph on the cruise control, and 50 psi in the tires.
A typical glider cockpit will include a couple of very sensitive altimeters that are capable of measuring the change of altitude from walking up stairs. An air speed indicator and altimeter are also standard. Behind the instrument panel is the flight computer that calculates the range of the glider and automatically adjusts for the wind speed and direction. An aviation radio rounds out the instrumentation. Most pilots carry a pilot range extender in the form of a wide mouth water bottle, plastic bag or wear a condom attached to a tube running outside.
Legacy and Acceptance
From the Honda Insight Wikipedia page, "With its aluminum body and frame, the Insight was an expensive car to produce and was never designed for high-volume sales. Instead, it was designed to be a real world test car for hybrid technology and a gauge to new consumer driving habits. With an aerodynamic fuel-saving shape similar to its predecessor, the Honda CR-X, and some unconventional body colors it was a bit more than mainstream car buyers could handle, preferring more conservative styles. Total global cumulative sales for the first generation Insight were 17,020 units. Honda had originally planned to sell 6,500 Insights each year of production." 453 ASW 15s were built until 1975 when it was replaced by the ASW 19. The 15 was competitive with the Standard Cirrus and the LS 1 but didn't win as many competitions as them. It is extremely difficult to create and manufacture consumer vehicles in the U.S. With the simplicity and maintenance free characteristics of the Aptera, it just may have a chance to have a successful roll out and production run. We've been looking forward to another energy efficient two place vehicle, and the Aptera is the perfect replacement for my 1st Gen Honda Insight.
By Chuck Lohre, Editor Green Cincinnati Education Advocacy https://green-cincinnati.com/aptera-1st-gen-honda-insight-and-asw-15-comparison/
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