Don’t fear the computer: MIMA system maximizes Insight mileage

By Mike Mello

10.07.2007

The Boston AltWheels festival has come and gone like a spent barrel of crude, but there was a fascinating, mileage-boosting system on display that must be shared with anyone interested in gas-electric hybrids. Hybrids capable of better mileage are sure to come our way but New England engineer Mike Dabrowski has already accomplished this – and then some – with the invention and installation of his Manual Integrated Motor Assist system (MIMA) into his 2000 Honda Insight.

Unsatisfied with the mileage delivered by the Insight’s factory hybrid system, Dabrowski developed the MIMA system to let the driver control the gas-electric ratio. By adding a microcontroller-based circuit board, associated wiring and a joystick controller, Dabrowski states: “MIMA allows the driver to make better decisions as to the amount of electric assist and the timing of that assist, to best use the available electric power to reduce fuel consumption.” Hills and flat strips of highway will affect any car’s mileage, so why not make the most of the electric side of the Insight’s hybrid system? Many hybrid drivers already practice driving methods to extend their mileage. MIMA lets Inight drivers dramatically improve their mileage, depending on where and how the car is driven.

For example, when climbing a hill, the stock Insight system will deliver 45 MPG or less due to how much gas engine power the computer says to use. By moving the joystick one way, MIMA places more of the load on the electric side of the mix, using available battery power to allow 90-120 MPG. When descending a hill, flex the joystick the other way to tell MIMA to start aggressively charging the battery. This is just one way drivers can use MIMA to improve mileage over the factory computer settings, however, since MIMA becomes part of the factory computer dialogue, the battery is never completely worn down and never overcharged.

Anyone who’s ready to – as Dabrowski freely says – “hack” into their Insight’s existing computer setup will probably welcome the fact that you must decide where to mount your MIMA led readout and how to mount the joystick. The two shifter images above are examples of how one could choose to mount the joystick. Since MIMA is made by Dabrowski and not in factory-size batches, there’s no standard-issue mounting hardware available.

MIMA kits are available for sale on Dabrowski’s site, but there’s a lot more to this particular Insight than just the MIMA system. Think of Dabrowski’s personal ride as the ultimate Insight: it features a whole extra bank of 48V booster batteries which he can recharge with solar power, collected through panels mounted above his home garage. Even more impressive is a portable solar panel assembly that’s hauled inside the car and can be put to use wherever it’s parked. As a last resort, the 48V pack can be plugged in to an outlet to recharge using power from the grid.

Think that’s it for this Insight? No way. Have you ever seen a fifth wheel mounted below the rear end of a car that drops down to provide 100% electric power at speeds up to around 30 MPH? The e-wheel, as it’s referred to, is a way for Dabrowski to temporarily turn his Insight into a low-speed, fully-electric car. By turning off the engine and letting an extra electric motor run the belt-driven e-wheel, he has traveled 35 miles at an average speed of 30 MPH on a full charge of his 48V booster pack. By using the Insight’s spare tire as an air tank, a compressed air system deploys the swingarm-mounted e-wheel and plants it on the pavement with about 130 lbs. of down force. All this additional equipment is supported with the help of a pair of small air bag suspension units.

Rounding out the current modifications to Dabrowski’s Insight is the fact that the 48V booster batteries can pump a constant charge into the stock pack with the addition of a 48V to 180V 16.5A dc/dc converter, so that MIMA can use more electric without the need to use the gas engine to recharge.
While pointing out how the e-wheel could be installed on any front-drive car that has room for such equipment in the rear, the innovative engineer described how electric, wheel-mounted motors could be another part-time source of electric power available as an aftermarket system. Imagine pulling off one of your non-driven wheels and bolting on an electric wheel that would run off an extra battery bank? The PML company built the Mini QED that runs on electric motors at all four wheels and is most impressive, but could a single, bolt-on, automotive e-wheel be developed and brought to the aftermarket?
Dabrowski is into delivering increased electric mileage to consumers’ Insights now! Although MIMA is not available for the Civic, Prius or other hybrids, Dabrowski’s enthusiasm and knowledge of hybrid power is shared through the Saturday workshops he hosts. AutoblogGreen posted this YouTube segment where you can hear about MIMA from the man himself. Eager to help other Insight owners and those seeking better hybrid mileage in general, Dabrowski’s ideas are further illustrated on his site.
Top and bottom photos by Mike Mello. All other photos courtesy 99mpg.com.
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Author: Chris Haak

Chris is Autosavant's Managing Editor. He has a lifelong love of everything automotive, having grown up as the son of a car dealer. A married father of two sons, Chris is also in the process of indoctrinating them into the world of cars and trucks.

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4 Comments

  1. I respect all the work this guy did, but for someone like me who can still not figure out everything on his cellphone, it is hard to know just how significant the efforts are. It seems impressive, but putting aside all the manual adjustments that 99.9% of drivers will NOT do, is it a lot better than what is being offered by manufacturers in hybrids currently?

  2. In terms of mpg, figures like 120 mpg seem tough to beat. To your point about most drivers not wanting to make manual adjustments, or not figuring out how to make the manual adjustments, there’s a page on Dabrowski’s site that speaks to this point, and that the MIMA system is not for every kind of Insight driver out there. See this page: http://www.99mpg.com/mima/mimaintroduction/

  3. This guy Dabrowski should be working for a car company in some capacity. What he’s done is impressive.

  4. Dabrowski is a technological mastermind. His work on hybrids is an incredible achievement and standard to be beat for the next generation of vehicles. This is the future of the automobile as we know it

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