According to the American Automobile Association, you could save $179 a year on fuel if your car automatically shuts off its engine when stopped at a light. A tech feature known as “stop-start” or “micro-hybrid” makes that trick completely possible. In fact, about 50 percent of cars in Europe already use the low-cost fuel saving strategy.
America is finally catching up. While only 500,000 new cars sold in the U.S. in 2013 had a stop-start system, Navigant Research forecasts that the number will grow higher than 7 million by 2022. The stop-start feature—which puts the engine to rest when the car comes to stop, and wakes it up when your foot is lifted off the brake—can reduce overall fuel use by between about five and 10 percent.
AAA evaluated the technology by putting three stop-start cars through the EPA’s urban driving test: the 2013 Ford Fusion, a 2014 Mercedes Benz CLS550 and a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu. AAA assigned its $179 a year in saving based on a driver putting 15,000 miles a year on a car that would get 20 miles per gallon, prior to being equipped with stop-start. “The technology requires only minor adjustment for motorists,” said Greg Brannon, director of AAA’s automotive engineering team. “Automatic stop-start technology is simply applied to standard combustion engines.”
Ford said its 2013 Fusion, the first midsize family sedan available with stop-start technology, would provide $220 a year in savings. The stop-start option is offered by Ford as a $295 option.
Chevrolet now offers stop-start in some versions of both the 2015 Impala (shown above) and 2014 Malibu—not as an option, but as a standard feature. Stop-start will also become standard on the 2.4-liter version of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 sedan, as well as on the Jeep Cherokee equipped with its 3.2-liter V-6 engine.
The list of brands either currently—or soon about to—offer the technology include Audi, Buick, BMW, Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche. Automakers are being increasingly pressured to introduce fuel-saving technologies, because the average efficiency of cars is mandated to increase to 35.5 mpg by 2016—on its way to the 54.5-mpg mark by 2025.
Luxury carmakers, such as BMW, Mercedes and Porsche, are particularly keen to offer stop-start systems, because their high-performance vehicles use bigger more fuel-thirsty engines. BMW has seen its stop-start vehicles criticized for being loud and noisy—when the engine shuts down or kicks back on—compared to quieter and more seamless systems offered by competitors.
Nearly all stop-start systems can be shut off by the driver, but why would a drive want to disable a feature that can save fuel and money?
Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.