Use of stop-start systems set to grow
The systems go by other names, among them idle elimination, idle-stop-go, and micro-hybrid and Lux Research predicts that more than eight million vehicles in North America will be equipped with engine stop-start systems by 2017. Early versions of stop-start technology date back to the 1980’s, and today over 40 percent of the new cars sold in Europe and Japan use this gas saving technology, the report noted
“Engine stop-start isn’t a brand new technology, but the latest systems benefit from significant advances made in the last few years,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s Director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “This technology is only going to gain momentum as vehicle manufactures work to meet the more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards set for 2016.”
Lux estimates stop-start system can improve fuel economy up to 12 percent and contribute to a reduction in vehicle exhaust emissions. With an automatic transmission, engine shutdown occurs when the vehicle is stopped for several seconds with the brake pedal applied. With a manual transmission, shutdown takes place with the transmission in neutral and the clutch released. As soon as the brake pedal is released, or the clutch pedal is depressed, the engine restarts automatically.
How much does it cost? On some models, the stop-start system is standard equipment and its cost is included in the vehicle price. Where stop-start is offered as option it generally costs around $300.
If gasoline costs $3.75 per gallon, the owner of a car that normally gets 20 mpg and is driven 12,000 miles per year would save an estimated $167 per year in fuel costs if the vehicle were equipped with an engine stop-start system. In this case, the system would pay for itself in less than two years and offer ongoing savings thereafter.
A major challenge in developing stop-start systems has been engineering the systems to meet consumer expectations, Lux said. The engine stop-start transitions must be smooth and seamless, and drivers new to the technology will need to learn that engine shutdown at idle is a normal thing and not a sign of a problem. In some vehicles, heating and air conditioning performance could suffer if the engine remains shut down for an extended time. In addition, the larger and more powerful batteries that are required for stop-start systems will be more expensive to replace when the time comes.
The first non-hybrid stop-start systems in the U.S. market are on 2012 highline vehicles from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. For the 2013 model year, Jaguar will join the group, but stop-start systems will also become available on popularly priced models from Ford, Kia, and possibly others. Even trucks will start to see some systems with Dodge adding stop-start to its V6-powered Ram 1500 pickup for a one mile per gallon fuel economy improvement. By Joseph Szczesny