The original Honda Insight has a “cult” like following. How did this odd looking hybrid attract so many fans? Honda introduced the first hybrid to America in December 1999. It was a month that changed a lot of what we thought we knew about cars. The first generation of the Insight was discontinued in 2006. The Insight prototype, by another name, was first shown to the public at the Tokyo Auto show in 1997. It was a 2-passenger sports coupe. It had been in development for about 3 years prior to that. The Insight, code named the VV, was seen again in the U.S., at another auto show. In the summer of 1999, it was named the Insight and Honda released the details. Before they were sold a few Insights were available to reporters and politicians for road testing. Stan Stephenson, former Editor of Motor Age magazine, and a member of IMPA (International Motor Press Association) had a preproduction Insight in October of 1999. He called me at my home is Worcester, Massachusetts and I flew down to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the next day for my first drive in what would become my first of many hybrid car purchases. First year sales were limited to less than 6,000 due to lack of production ability. Insights were made in Japan in the same small factory that built the NSX and the S2000. It has an all-aluminum chassis and is very high tech in chassis, aerodynamics, engine, hybrid software and electronics. The first year it was only available with a 5 speed manual transmission.
2006 Honda Insight.
A little Honda History; Honda’s first use of the Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) system was for F1 racing. This was to add more torque to the ICE coming out of the corners when RPMs are low and torque in not enough to get maximum traction. It never saw a race as it was not allowed. This type of system was finally used by FI in the 2009 s season. If you haven’t been keeping up with Formula One racing, take a look. Also check put Formula E. Adding more torque electrically to the crankshaft works great as Honda has proven on and off the track. This Insight was light weight, streamlined, and efficient. It handled well and ran like a Honda. The old Insight was one of a kind.
How do you experience 2020? ACDC is a very international business, but most of our business in 2020 was in the States as travel restrictions stopped travel, for good reasons in late February. The human condition was on display as never before. In America, the elderly were hit hard with Covid-19, but the Indigenous American Indians were really left out in the cold. If you were without health problems and had access to good health care, Covid-19 didn’t seem like a big deal to many. It was a test of every countries health care system, but more importantly the amount of trust the citizens of that country had in its institutions and leadership. Would the people do what they were told? Do you have customers that do not take your recommendations on their car repair? Did they read on some website that you were just trying to make money off of them? People need facts. Have you ever fixed a car without facts? 2020 was a bad year, unless you were in the mask, sanitizer or distance learning business. We also learned who the essential workers are, you!
So here we are in 2021. Covid 19 looks like it will be under control sometime this year. We all hope so. ACDC will be holding classes again at our training center. Our long awaited hybrid-EV book is nearing completion. Next month we will look back at what ACDC did in 2020. It was a year like none other.
On December 20, 1977 Van Batenburg’s Garage opened up for business. It was warm for that time of year in Massachusetts. The shop I worked at all summer has closed and I had that American Dream of starting my own repair shop. I had about 450 dollars, a tool box, a 1959 VW bus and a fairly new 1975 CB400f motorcycle. Single (had a college girlfriend), no kids and a plan. I would be honest, work hard, charge low prices, specialize in Honda Cars and Motorcycles, Datsun and Toyota. My brother Clay painted a sign on an old piece of wood while I painted the inside of the shop white and gray. Two bays, no lift. Heat and electricity include in the rent for under $300 per month. The rest is history.
On December 20, 1950 a baby girl was born in Columbus, Ohio to Michael and Lillian Landy. Her name was Deborah K. Landy, now Deb Van Batenburg. We met years later in Boston. December has been a great month for me, as I also celebrate my birthday on the second day of December.
When Deb and I were dating in the late 80’s when I found out when she was born. I was happy to know that I had been celebrating the twentieth for years and so was she. Now we combine those two events into a day of gratitude.
For those of you that started your own shop from scratch, I know that feeling. Did you name it after yourself? Did you ever wonder why? America was built by dreamers. I hope all you dreamers out there, where ever you live, can have your dreams come true.
Imagine a world of peace, a life of joy, and someone to share it with. What more do you need?
The US election is over, Covid 19 is out of control and has ACDC suspended our in-person classes until February. Great ending to a very weird year. For those of you who don’t know what my career looked like in the 90s, it started as a management trainer working with the Automotive Management Institute (AMI) out of Texas. The original name of our training company was the “Automotive Career Development Center” (ACDC for short) and that name had absolutely nothing to do with electric cars at that time. As Deb and I traveled the world and helped countless shops get into the hybrid and new EV business, mostly on technical side, we also added management training for those shops. Attracting new customers and working directly with hybrid and EV owners was what they needed. It is time for me to get back online and go through the things that I’ve learned, not just from shops in America, but Europe, Canada, Australia even shops in Africa that work. I think some of their ideas could fit perfectly well here in United States. These classes will be live, and unlike many classes that unmute you at the end, we stop about every 10 or 15 minutes, and check in with all the participants. And if anybody has a question, you don’t have to wait until the end. We start with our basic 9 classes, and then we’ll add more as I get some feel from the people that are taking the classes. The specific topics may need more attention, so after the one-hour long classes are done, specific topic can be covered, sometimes in less than 30 minutes. We start up in December and take some time off for the holidays. It would be great for your management staff, or anyone in the shop, to get a complete picture of how a business works from insurance to workman’s compensation, finances and everything in between. Getting and retaining new customers and more. We will make sure you’re prepared for a future that doesn’t look anything like today as Covid-19, new EV pickup trucks and more will change how we do business.
ACDC is playing it safe when it comes to Covid 19. We are limiting classes to 4 students and not using hotels or restaurants. We are accepting students form the states that our Governor, Charlie Baker, is allowing in without a 72 hour old test that states you are negative for Covid 19 or if you are tested negative. This is about the health and safety of all involved, ACDC and you, the technicians, teachers and others. Before Covid 19, it was explosions at the tire machines, asbestos in brake linings, gasoline vapors catching fire, an A/C hose with pressures high enough to damage your eyes, and a lot more. Staying safe has been a concern for mature people as we witnessed some unsafe antics in the shop by the young and restless.
At ACDC we have been working with high voltage systems for well over 20 years. No problems and we plan on keeping it that way. That same thinking is what we are using as we start up live classes again.
The guidelines may change for the better, but we will assume it will stay the same. Our building is 1,000 sq. feet with an attached building of 4,000 square feet. To make this work, ACDC is limiting the number of students to 4 people, less than the allowable maximum in the building.. We will be 6 feet apart and have to wear masks. If you live and/or work in State or Country where the Covid 19 infection rate is rising, ACDC reserves the right to reassign you to a later class. Make sure your travel expenses are refundable. ACDC will provide all the meals, ground transportation in Worcester, and a place to stay. In addition we will supply masks, hand sanitizer and other safety items as needed. You will only socialize with the ACDC staff, use ACDC cars and eat ACDC food. No outside trips are allowed. Once class is over, you may want to tour this part of the country.
Until we have a cure and a vaccine, we will be as careful as we can and still provide the hands-on, in depth training, we are known for.
We have just launching a new web site, www.fixev.com. It was built from the ground up as our old site still ran on a “points and condenser” platform.
Deb, I and all the people at ACDC are working hard behind the scene getting ready for seeing you in person again. We miss you and wish you well.
There is another virus in America and other countries as well. If a Democracy was started while slavery was part of that beginning, racism is still a part of that culture. Many countries under Spanish and British rule, had a dark past. Slavery was invented 500 years ago. It has led to where we are today.
Here is a story about an ACDC hybrid class I taught in the Deep South at a repair shop. A class I will never forget. I will not mention the city or the man (we will call Ray) that owned the shop.
Two night, eight hour class, year 2010, $200 bucks. Books extra. Bad pizza. I drove the ACDC 2004 Prius for many 2 night classes or an all-day Saturday back then. First night no problem. Well attended, great questions and sold a few books. Next night just before class starts, Ray, the shop owner runs outside and starts yelling at a Black man walking by the shop and using the “N” word. The class can hear everything. As you may expect, half the class were of African descent and possibly had a Grandfather or Grandmother who was a slave. Ray walks back into the class area (a few bays in the back). I ask Ray to step outside. I talk quietly and told him he cannot use that language in my class. It did not go well. I finished the class, keeping a professional face on and packed up the Prius and off to the local hotel. I knew his wife, so the next day I called and talked to her. She is and was wonderful. Her statement “That’s just the way he is”.
I have learned in the last 10 years, as an older white male, that that that answer is one big reason why we are having civil unrest today. No it is NOT “just the way he is”. He was not born like that, he was taught that. Time to go back to school. Listen to people that don’t look like you. Look into their eyes. If you have a racist outlook, take another look at your brothers and sisters. Think again. Is this your best self?
I was born and raised in Ogden, Utah in 1950 by a racist white Father and an open minded Mother that grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts. I lived in a white supremacist town and a racist house. I knew no other way of being. I didn’t know it was wrong. The ONLY people I had ever met or had ever seen were white, period, except in magazines and TV. As I grew older, age 8, I wanted to see the Harlem Globetrotters. I loved them. I asked my Father, Raymond van Batenburg, to take me to see them at the local college on a Saturday night. His answer “I wouldn’t pay 50 cents to see a “N****er” bounce a ball”. I learned what racism was that day. My parents divorced when I was 10 and a couple years later, Shirley and her six children move to her home town. I have been here ever since.
I am lucky that I did not accept Raymond’s fears about black men. I don’t know why he and so many other white men and women from their generation felt that way. My father died when I was 20, so we never talked about his deep rooted racist views. Was it WWII and Korea? He served in the Navy in both wars. His Father, Oker van Batenburg, an immigrant from Holland? Their church views at the time? I will never know why but I did know it was wrong at age 8. If you grew up in a racist family, just forgive them and love on with your life. Our Church, brought in the local “Black Lives Matter” chapter years ago, when they started to educate white people who would listen to them, after our Sunday service. Reverend Aaron Payson, leads our church, The Unitarian Universalist of Worcester, and he a big white man and is helping our community. He works closely with the Police, our black friends, homelessness and food insecurity and many other inner city issues. I live is a mixed race city neighborhood by choice. When I dropped my Chevy Bolt off at the local dealership a few days ago, a young Black salesman I had never met, took care of me. As I was leaving I asked him, what can I do to help stop racism in America? His answer “Listen to us”. It is always the way to start solving any issue. Just listen, as it may change your heart.
The above picture from 2016 is DJ (our intern) getting the “ACDC Intern of the Year award”
I was a motorcycle mechanic before I was paid to fix cars. In 1972 Honda came out with the Civic and once I was trained by Honda on this little marvel, I was hooked on smart designs. But motorcycles have always been a part of my life and still are. My father road a Harley after WWII with me hanging on for dear life. I was 3 years old.
In August 2012 I blogged on the ACDC website about Mr. Honda and a man named Joe Bolger. Joe was bigger than life. On April 21, 2020 Joe passed away at 90 years old. He lived a long time and this is a tribute to him and what he stood for.
I met Joe in the summer of 1967 after I bought a used Honda 305 Scrambler and needed some parts. He was a co-owner of Sportsman Cycle Sales in a town next to Worcester, Massachusetts were l lived then and still do. Joe was in his late 30’s and hired me because I couldn’t pay the repair bill after he fixed the engine I blew up. Being a young crazy kid (weren’t we all) Joe had me work the summer of ‘68 to pay off the bill. After that summer job, I was back for my senior year at Burncoat High school, but what I really looked forward to was working with Joe Bolger in the afternoons when school got out. After graduation it was a full-time job that ultimately lead me to a Honda Insight and rest is history.
Joe was from Prince Edward Island and as tough as nails. He was a motorcycle racer. He was physically strong and mentally tough. It may have been his years in US Army (he was a Canadian at that time) fighting in the Korean War or his time in PEI. Working under his direction influenced my character, mental outlook, discipline and honesty. As a business owner I never saw him cheat anyone. He made his own tools, when the factory tools were not good enough. He was smart, a genius some say, but I saw him as a role model, a mentor. After my own Father died when I was 20 in a tragic car accident, Joe was given the role of “Father” too. Over the years we grew apart and I started my own repair shop working on Honda two and four wheeled products. We saw each other many times but working together was gone.
My last visit with Joe, and his wife Sandy, was Labor Day, September 3, 2018. I was riding an old Honda 250 VTR, with my granddaughter on the back, near Joe’s house and we stopped by. Sandy loved the visit as she had never met Savanna, age 11. Joe sat quietly and looked on. It was a great ending to a relationship of 50 years. May we all be as blessed as I was to have a competent and helpful boss at a young age. It can set the direction for a lifetime. It did for me.
As a former shop owner turned hybrid / electric car trainer, this pandemic is the most disruptive event I have lived through. I have lived close to seven decades on this planet, five of which I have been working, four of them employing some great people. Here are my thoughts and some ideas as well.
First, all of us at ACDC, including the four part-time technician/ shop owners (or sons of shop owners) that teach at the ACDC training center with me are feeling well as are their families. Our staff consists of Deb and myself; along with David “Oz”, a veteran from Iraq and Afghanistan wars; Kena, a student at Worcester Polytechnical Institute studying electrical engineering; Oscar, a student at Worcester Technical High School studying automotive technology; Aiden, a college student Middlesex Community College taking mechanical engineering.
As you may imagine all of our live hands-on classes are postponed, but everyone is still working and no one was laid off.
Our company is continuing to develop more unique classes and we have more time for the completion of a three-year project, ACDC’s “Hybrid, Electric and Fuel Cell Vehicle” college level book and support materials.
We have launched a completely new series on-line broadcast live twice a day. 8am and 2pm (EST) so everyone, no matter where you live can continue to learn and prepare for your future in EMVs (vehicles with orange cables).
Lastly, if you are wondering “why did this happen?”, maybe that is the wrong question. This time is horrendous for many. Can you help someone in need is a better question? Can you offer support? Can you use this time wisely? ACDC wishes you all well and we are here to help you as we all get through this together.
Contrary to what you may have seen or heard, a real “Atkinson Cycle” engine is not used in any motor vehicle sold today. LIVC stands for ‘Late Intake Valve Closing.’ It is the valve train and induction system that mimics, to some degree, what the Atkinson system was doing. LIVC is used in many, but not all, hybrid and plug-in hybrid models. LIVC is also used in conventional cars and trucks as well. We will use “LIVC” and not “Atkinson Cycle” when referring to these gasoline engines.
When Toyota was creating the Prius in the early 1990s, they had one big advantage that allows them to develop a new concept based on the old “Atkinson Cycle” engine. They designed a powerful electric motor inside the transmission that allowed the use of a low torque ICE with a high torque electric motor both powering the wheels. This was the first modern hybrid built for mass production.
Bigger Gasoline Engine gets better Fuel Economy
When the Prius was redesigned for the M/Y 2010 (known as “Gen III” is the USA), the internal combustion engine was completely new. It has grown from 1.5 liters to 1.8 liters, but used less fuel on the highway. How is this possible, one might ask? When Toyota increased the displacement, the torque curve had more low-end power. Using their eCVT, the road speed was matched with a lower rpm but the same amount of torque. Less fuel is needed at lower rpms so a larger engine improved the highway mileage.
December 2019. End of a year, end of a decade. It was just about ten years ago when electric cars, that were affordable, were close to production. The Tesla roadster was out, but at 100,000 dollars each. Not your average car owners price range. This year, Americans spent 37,000 on a new car and that will buy you a pure electric car with over 200 miles of range. What a decade!
Up Your Voltage 56
Many people ask why I got into the hybrid repair and training business 20 years ago. Yes, it was that long. It was combination of factors. My personal commitment to sensible private motor vehicle transportation. Living in a city near Boston, Massachusetts and using public buses, light rail, a small scooter (now electric), a bicycle and walking to get around. That will shape who you are. Add to that the climate crisis we are now in, and you have an idea why ACDC feels strongly about what we do.
2019 was ACDC’s best year ever, if the financial report is your only indicator. Everyone got a raise, except me and Deb. Three of our employees, DJ, Aiden and Carlos, are in college for engineering. All three will still work for ACDC but a lot less and further away. They were hired out of High School and I believe we (maybe Deb) inspired them to do great things with their lives. The advertising budget for 2019 was zero and almost every class was sold out. Jeff, a trainer from the “Up Your Voltage” classes a few years back is with us again, adding his decades of experience to what we do. Matt, a tech nearby, also started at ACDC on 2019 and teaches at our 7-day class. We hosted interns, again for all over the world. We bought our first European HEV, a VW Jetta Hybrid. I could go on.
Deb and I are grateful for what we have. We celebrated 30 years of marriage. Our two sons’ lives are stable (they don’t sleep on my couch) and the grandkids (five now) are a joy. Deb and I also had birthdays in December.
In many ways, you have added to our year as well by training and learning from us. May your holidays be blessed with love, health and good cheer.