Automakers are in a fervent quest to make their cars ever more fuel efficient and are employing every trick at their disposal to do so. One method is to employ stop-start engine technology, which is going to appear in a growing number of vehicles.
Stop start engine technology coming along nicely
A big barrier to fuel economy is when a car is running but not moving, for instance when one is stuck in traffic. The engine is just sitting there, inconsiderately using the fuel the driver has paid for, without moving an inch.
As a result, the auto industry cooked up stop-start engine technology, which cuts the engine while the car is at idle. According to the great internet oracle Wikipedia, the first automaker to use it was Toyota, which experimented with stop-start technology in the late 1970s. The first automaker to put in into production, according to Car and Driver, was Volkswagen, introducing it on the Polo Formel E, a model only sold in Europe, in 1983.
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It’s more popular in Europe and hasn’t really been too terribly common among American car makers but, according to AutoGuide, that is about to start changing.
Appearing at a dealership near you
As of March 2011, according to Car and Driver, only six non-hybrid cars had stop-start engine technology available, all of which were German. There was the BMW M3, the Mercedes-Benz CL63 AMG, CLS63 AMG and ES63 AMG, and the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne. A great many hybrids did have it, including models from General Motors’ brands, Ford, Toyota, Lexus, etc.
However, according to AutoGuide, it is projected that 8 million cars are going to have stop-start functions as of 2017. About 40 percent of cars on the road in Europe already have it, but we gas-guzzling Yankees are next in line.
Mazda has been selling cars with its proprietary stop-start technology since 2009 called i-Stop, but it hasn’t been released in the United States yet. Ford is probably going to have the first among domestic makers out, in case one wanted to start looking at Ford dealers in Spokane to Buffalo and beyond. According to AutoWeek, the 2013 Ford Fusion is slated to be the first car wearing the blue oval with stop-start to be sold in the U.S., though it will be a $295 option.
About the only downside as far as driving experience for stop-start engine technology is the lag between when a person touches the pedal and the car goes again. It often is less than an a half-second, so don’t call off an auto bank loan just because there might be a slight lag in traffic.
Aside from that, the principle benefit is a gain of 4 to 10 percent in fuel efficiency in most cars, according to PC Magazine. Abrupt-restarting of the engine, according to the Discovery channel, is not as harmful to the engine as one might think, as stop-start technology is starting an already warm engine and warm oil, which results in far less wear than a cold start.
PC Magazine: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2374756,00.asp
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