Ford To Offer Fuel-Saving Stop-Start Option on Major Models

Ford will debut a stop-start option on all of its highest volume vehicles. That’s the word from the unveiling of the new Ford Edge concept (see picture) at the 2013 LA Auto Show last month. Stop-start systems automatically shut off a car’s engine at stoplights or in other situations where the vehicle would otherwise be idling.

Ford first offered stop-start as an option on the Fusion sedan last year, for an added cost of $295. At the time, the carmaker said the feature would save drivers an average of 3.5 percent of fuel economy, going as high as 10 percent for heavy city drivers. Fuel savings for those who pay the added up-front cost were estimated to be as high as $1,100 over five years of ownership, meaning that for some urbanites, the stop-start could pay for itself in the first 12 months.

Volkswagen originally made stop-start available for select European models in the early 1980s. Thirty years later, the technology is common in Europe, but it is available only on a handful of models sold in the United States, particularly hybrids like the Toyota Prius. That’s starting to change. Stop-start technology, in recent years, has begun to gain traction on many non-hybrid models.

Earlier this year, General Motors became the first carmaker to make stop-start a standard feature in a non-hybrid model with the release of the 2014 Chevy Malibu. The new Malibu boasts a 14-percent improvement in city fuel economy thanks to the 3 mpg boost it gets from the system. Standard stop-start replaced the optional $1,500 eAssist feature Chevy had offered in the 2013 Malibu because stop-start technology provided comparable fuel economy gains at a lower price.

Mild hybrids, like those utilizing GM’s eAssist system, are similar to stop-start vehicles in that they can shut off their engines almost any time that a driver takes his or her foot off the gas. But mild hybrids get more assistance from an electric motor and batteries. In stop-start cars, the engine can only shut off when it would otherwise be idling, but not at low speeds or when coasting.

In most vehicles, stop-start will net a 5 to 10 percent improvement in fuel economy depending upon the model and how that car is driven. Its major benefit compared to full and mild hybrid systems is cost, as it doesn’t require adding an expensive battery pack and can be combined with almost any engine configuration. In most cases, even drivers who don’t do a lot of city driving can make back the incremental cost of the feature over the life of a vehicle. Urban drivers, however, see particularly heavy benefit though, as they typically spend more time idling in heavy traffic or at stoplights.

According to a 2011 federal study, idling means that Americans waste almost 2 billion gallons of fuel each year.

Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.

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