By on December 28, 2009

Stop-start stopped?

Idle-stop technology, which turns off a car’s engine instead of idling, is available from a number of automakers in the European and Japanese markets. Mazda claims nearly half of its Mazda3 compacts and Biante minivans sold in Japan are ordered with the $500 option, as consumers seek out fuel economy improvement without the cost of a full hybrid system. So, why doesn’t Mazda sell idle-stop equipped cars in the US? According to the company, though Japanese fuel economy tests show stop-start improving efficiency by seven to nine percent “the EPA city-mode test cycle includes only one complete vehicle stop, so stop-start technology registers only a 0.1- or 0.2-mpg improvement.” And who would pay $500 for that?

Mazda aren’t the only ones clamoring for an EPA rule change. Audi USA spokesfolks tell Automotive News [sub] that its idle-stop system “did not realize any savings in U.S. EPA estimates based on required testing cycles.” Automakers from BMW and Mercedes (which says it will offer stop-start on all its engines by 2011) to Kia, Honda and Toyota also offer the system in European markets, and could bring the systems to the US should the EPA decide to modify its testing to improve the impact of stop-start on official efficiency ratings. The EPA is reportedly taking public comment on rule changes that could do just that, providing automakers with the impetus to start bringing stop-start systems to the US market. Needless to say, this is something that should have been done yesterday.

Meanwhile, is it any surprise that none of the US-based manufacturers have invested in start-stop to the same extent as their European and Asian competitors? If and when the EPA does modify its test parameters to improve the impact of stop-start, it will be yet another opportunity for Detroit to fall further behind its foreign competitors.

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51 Comments on “Mazda: EPA Test Keeps Stop-Start Out...”


  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    So, I guess what you are saying, Ed, is that the Detroit automakers don’t invest in technology to save fuel, but instead only invest in ways to get a higher score on the EPA test?
    Impossible!

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      Sure! Just like our schools don’t invest money in educating children, they invest money in having our children pass a specific, government mandated test.  If our children happen to become educated in the process, I guess we should consider that a bonus.

      Or, our hospitals don’t invest money in healing people.  They invest money in meeting government-mandated test grades.  If people happen to get healthier in the process, cool.  If not?  Well, that’s a shame….

      That is what you get from life when you allow government to make your decisions for you….half-assed everything.

    • 0 avatar
      pgcooldad

      Chrysler does have stop-start technology.
      As reported right here:
      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/fiatchrysler-walk-away-from-electrification-and-hybrids/
      Longer term though, neither Fiat nor Chrysler have anything beyond a few ICE-improving incremental upgrades (direct injection, multiair, turbocharging, stop-start) with which to lure investors into an IPO.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    For my next purchase, I would consider purchasing a car with stop-start technology, EPA testing methodology notwithstanding.  If they could put stop-start in a Miata, I might consider owning one again!

    In this economic and fear-of-drilling climate, I will be shooting for fuel efficiency here on out.  But I’m not ignorant, I know how often I have to stop at red lights in my city.  I can’t be the only one capable of realistic reasoning.

    I hope Mazda figures this out.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Lies, damned lies and government work.  Chapter 3,672.

    One would think that with such stringent CAFE rules coming up, the domestics (and all other OEM’s) would be clamoring like the clappers of hell for any edge which would get them closer to that mythical number of nirvana of 35 mpg.

    Then again, having spent so much time in the last 24 months looking to their survival for next month and the next quarter, perhaps they haven’t been able to look that far ahead?

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      CAFE does not work and never has to curb purchases of low mpg vehicles.  It is supply side economics trying to alter demand which does not work especially with SUV sized loopholes in the CAFE regulations.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      jaje +1…..

      Never said I AGREED with CAFE rules….only intended to say that in order to MEET them, I would think that all OEM’s would be looking at how the tests are conducted, and if possible, would be lobbying to bring tech to the table which will increase their odds of meeting the CAFE rules (which I personally detest….and would gladly bring a flexible per-gallon gasoline tax in place of, if I ruled the planet…..benevolent despot that I am….)

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    You can’t buy a $500.00 that will give you an improvement in mileage, but you probably can buy a dumb-ass wing/spoiler that looksl like it came off a COT for the back of your car that cost’s twice as much. 

  • avatar
    jaje

    Why not put this option in all their cars – by making it no longer an option that $500 cost will go down substantially through economies of scale and lack of having to track the option.  Put in a feature in the car to turn it off via a simple button so the owner can choose if he wants it or not.  Also make sure it is not intrusive – meaning it only functions when your foot is on the brake and the engine comes back on w/o issue once the brake is lifted.
     
    If your work commute or drive  frequently requires waiting at long lights this will pay for itself sooner than you think – especially in much lower mpg vehicles such as trucks and SUVs.  Look at parcel delivery trucks that do this – engine turns on when brake is released.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      The government already MANDATES way too much content in our cars…..can we please just try and let the MARKET and its invisible hand so SOME work in our economy? if it is a good idea, and the market demands it, it will come to fruition…..look at 5, 6 and 7 speed transmission. Look at multi-displacement technology. Neither gov’t nor anyone else has mandated those items and yet they are starting to penetrate the markets nicely, without being crammed down our throats…..

      The Nanny state liberals are killing me…

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      While you’re complaining about the nanny state, why not go after one of the biggest offenders – subsidization of oil?

      The petroleum industry, “probably has larger tax incentives relative to its size than any other industry in the country”, according to Donald Lubick, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s former Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy.

      I don’t think that all those subsidies came about from the liberals – and that kind of subsidization destroys the value of oil-saving innovations.

      And I’m sure the nanny state that bailed out the banks for reckless policies was under liberal control at the time.

  • avatar
    segfault

    They should offer it whether or not it improves the EPA rating.  It will still improve real-world mileage, no?  It also shouldn’t cost $500 for what is essentially a piece of software and maybe a deactivation switch.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Not necessarily true – it should include some mechnical modifications as a lot of the mild hybrid systems allow the a/c to run off of battery power (where in most cars a/c is belt driven).

  • avatar
    EEGeek

    Something about “the EPA city-mode test cycle includes only one complete vehicle stop” doesn’t pass the sniff test.  The test cycle at <http://www.epa.gov/nvfel/methods/uddsdds.gif&gt; has 18 complete stops. 

    Perhaps they should be longer in order to make the stop/start technology more effective, or perhaps Mazda, et. al., are just whining.  The real question is whether the EPA test cycle reflects average city driving conditions – and defining “average” is quite a chore.

    The European cycle <http://www.epa.gov/nvfel/methods/ecedds.gif&gt; has only three stops, but they appear to be a larger overall percentage of the test and are longer each in duration.  But aren’t the Euro numbers notoriously high compared to real-life driving experience?

  • avatar
    mcs

    I think Ford offers it on one of the Fiesta models in Europe. I have to deal with a lot of stop and go traffic on the freeway – and just about everywhere else for that matter. It would be a huge advantage to have that technology over here in vehicles other than hybrids. I think the biggest winners would be the large SUVs and pickups.

  • avatar
    Mike Kelley

    Imagine that.  The EPA is as good at encouraging innovation as Homeland Security is at stopping terrorism.

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      I doubt that fault rests entirely with the EPA…  Imagine how GM’s scores would stack up against the Prius and Insight if the EPA suddenly added lengthy stops.  At idle, the Prius and Insight consume no fuel whatsoever.  All Detroit’s city scores would skyrocket in comparison.

      I’m thinking the Michigan delegation is working overtime to prevent “undue tinkering” with the EPA tests.

      The answer, of course, is “city, suburban and highway” tests.  The suburban test should include at least one realistic stop.

      EPA tests or no, if I could add start/stop for $500, I’d probably do it.  When I drive across my suburban town, I spend less time driving than I do sitting and waiting.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    And I’m sure the nanny state that bailed out the banks for reckless policies was under liberal control at the time.

    Yes it WAS under control of the liberal majority in congress and pretty liberal president – Bush.
    The only difference now is that the congress is even more liberal combined with the Marxist President.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      You seriously have no idea what a Marxist is, do you?
      Obama is pretty far from it, and Bush was even farther.
      But hey, learning about politics is hard, let’s just spout Glenn Beck’s talking points and pretend we’re smart.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      A Marxist wants to take from each individual according to his perceived ability to give, and provide to each other individual according to their perceived needs.

      Mr. Obama wants to take money from my ability to provide for myself and my family to provide health-care and government support to those who have failed to educate themselves and thus must rely on the government to subsidize their existence.  Sounds like Marxism to me.

      Hey, I just came here to read/write about cars, but since you brought it up….

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      If Bush was liberal, then a Caprice Classic must look like a Lotus to you.
      Mark – do you consider fire and police protection Marxist as well?  After all, we could all hire armed guards or police insurance to do that.
      Fire and Police protection, like health insurance, can be cheaper and more effective if everyone is insured.  And while you may think it’s just your education and genius that allows you health insurance, many people who have been pegged with pre-existing conditions may beg to differ with you.  For-profit health insurance simply makes no sense; the *only* way for health insurance companies to increase profit is to dump customers who may actually need to use their insurance.
      A proper insurance pool is about amortizing risk.  Ideally, it is also able to enforce cost reduction.  Like it or not, government can be very good at both of the above.
      And if you think our system is so great, why do we pay twice as much for health insurance as Japan, go to the doctor less often, and get lower survival rates?  The point is that the system that you (and I) buy into is not very good at what it does, despite what health insurers have spent a lot of money to make you believe.
      All government is not Marxism.  Good government is the only way to alleviate the Tragedy of the Commons, which is what happens when we all pursue our own self-interest at everyone else’s expense?  Do I like a lot of the big government stuff we have?  No.  However, a lot of the mess comes from the blockading of good legislation by people who have been paid off by industry (see Republicans and many Democrats on the health care side).
      When did we stop giving a crap about our neighbor in this country?  Why did we get so selfish?  Helping our neighbors helps all of us, and it doesn’t need to be communism or Marxism.  The alternative seems to have been massive government giveaways to arms manufacturers and oil companies without accounting for the costs.

    • 0 avatar
      Damage

      All you idealogues — left and right –  need to leave the talking points for the political blogs and realize that the average American could give a crap about your labels and ideology.

    • 0 avatar
      Facebook User

      Marxist doctrine can be boiled down to worker ownership of the means of production, thereby creating a classless and equal society.  Healthcare would be a part of this society, but it is also found in most capitalist societies (Europe, Canada, Australia and the like) because it not only ensures that people will not die of easily treated diseases simply because of their social status, but it also takes the strain off businesses and does not harm the worker, who already had to pay for health insurance in the first place.
      It seems you’re not only a sociopath with no empathy for other  human beings, but you’re also dumb. I guess that’s the conservative movement for you.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      So much for the no-flaming policy of the site.  Like I said, I just wanted to come here to read and write about cars….

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Motorists were previously told shutting down a car for a two or three minute stop and restarting wasted more gasoline than it saved. Suppose it’s not trendy anymore, though one wonders how the basic math changed.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    rather than pay 500 dollars for this option, I bet it could be done for a lot less.  Like everything else automotive, the true cost of this feature is probably 1/10th the price charged.
    A lower cost solution would save you money without the headaches of government and industry agreeing to implement the new feature, lawyers reviewing the legal ramifications (there are always lawyers involved), the dealers marking up the feature and having it only on a few cars, new instruction manuals for idiots that think the car has a problem somewhere,
     
    And it gets done a lot faster. The downside is strain on the starting system and related parts, since there isn’t a giant induction coil around the flywheel to start the engine easily. A delay should be built in to wait 10 seconds before shutting down. And have it all be selected with a switch.
     
    I see a business opportunity here before it arrives officially.

  • avatar
    ash78

    I recommend they just do what VW did–when faced with “unfair” testing that penalizes a particular technology (tdi or in this case, stop-start), just hire some people to squeeze every ounce of economy out of the drivetrain, make sure the results are independently verifiable, then build an ad campaign out of it.

    EPA city tests only include ONE stop? That must be a pretty fancy city.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Meanwhile, is it any surprise that none of the US-based manufacturers have invested in start-stop to the same extent as their European and Asian competitors?
     
    Didn’t the GM “hybrids” of a few years ago use stop-start, or at least something very similar to it? If the EPA changed its testing procedure couldn’t GM just implement that system across their entire product line?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      The recently discontinued Malibu Hybrid and Aura Hybrid used the GM BAS (Belt-Alternator-Starter) system in combination with a bunch of batteries behind the back seat to run the accessories while stopped. Unless you had the A/C running, then the motor stayed on, but this seems to be common among  hybrids. I think that it added $2300 to the list price of a Malibu.
      I personally think the cost of the batteries are what adds so much to those cars. I think if the car companies could offer it for $500, it would have been done a long time ago.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    “That is what you get from life when you allow government to make your decisions for you….half-assed everything.”

    The intent was for the tests to serve as verification that education, health care, and fuel efficiency are happening.  They weren’t meant to be goals in themselves.  If that’s what they’ve become, it’s because of the individuals in those industries, not the government.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      So it’s OKAY to flout the law of unintended consequences, as long as the INTENTION of the law was good?  Or, if it can be foreseen (as indeed these fiascos were foreseen by many) that a well-intentioned law will have negative unforeseen consequences, shouldn’t we come up with another plan?

      The government is made up of individuals, friend. We are supposed to be a gov’t by the people, for the people, of the people. Giving “the government” a pass on stupid laws or regulations because people misuse and take advantage of them is a rather naive and idealistic POV, I should think…..

  • avatar
    Dave Skinner

    “If the EPA changed its testing procedure”

    Way easier said than done. The core of the current test dates back to 1968, and the EPA strives to keep procedures unchanged to provide consistent data from year to year. Almost every change ever made to the test consists of additional steps added to the existing test, rather than a new clean sheet approach.

    Keep in mind, the EPA’s focus is emissions, NOT fuel economy. They were charged with providing fuel economy measurements during the 1974 fuel crisis because they could simply extract existing data. Off the record, EPA staff agrees it’s a bad way to measure fuel economy, but they are beholden to the politicians they serve…

    Bottom line, they won’t make any test changes that affect their ability to measure tailpipe pollutants. Every thing else is secondary to their primary job.

    • 0 avatar
      TomH

      Also, keep in mind that the emissions of a stopped engine is zero.  Assuming every car in a traffic jam only ran the engine while they were actually moving, the EPA should expedite the rule change if their primary mission is regulating/minimizing emissions.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark MacInnis

      The EPA’s focus may have been fuel economy back in the day…..but when the feds invented CAFE, they changed that focus…..

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    I would buy it in a New York minute.   I live in Philadelphia, the land of stoplights every block, horrendous traffic jams all up and down the northeast corridor.  I used to stop the car myself at stoplights,  then my mechanic said it would wear down the entire starting system, and advised against it.

    I normally respect what EPA says, but in this case they are wrong.  I realize that most people in thic country do not live right in the middle of very crouded cities with small streets, but there you have it.  I could  improve my fuel economy significantly AND also cut down on  air pollution by not running at idle, its a win-win.  There does not seem to be any downside.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      If I still lived out East, I would pop for one of these cars, too.
      I can’t tell you how many traffic jams I spent in Atlanta (on 285) moving at less than 2 MPH. It was even less fun during the times I owned three pedal cars.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Ford has already said that they intend to roll automatic start-stop out throughout their global product line over the next several years:
    http://green.autoblog.com/2009/01/13/detroit-2009-all-fords-to-eventually-get-auto-start-stop/
    Opel (nee GM) plans to roll start-stop tech out over the next 2-3 years as well:
    http://media.opel.com/content/media/intl/en/news/news_detail.brand_opel.html/content/Pages/news/intl/en/2009/OPEL/09_15_IAA_World_Revolutionary
    The problem with any standardized test cycle is that it ends up motivating manufacturers to only build that which does well on the test. The EPA should be constantly re-evaluating its test scheme in light off the ongoing evolution of technology and real world use scenarios.

  • avatar
    iNeon

    If a modern automobile’s starter lasts appx 175,000(my neon, a friend’s Jetta and his girl’s Grand Cherokee all at the same appx mileage, all need starting issues resolved– hillbilly statistics at their best!) without an issue, does this mean we can start looking forward to starter replacements at 125-150k instead?
     
     
    Starters absolutely suck to replace, is there no other way of making this 1.5mpg improvement?

  • avatar
    GS650G

    How about a motor on a belt up front with an electrical clutch to engage with? A warm engine doesn’t need more than a bump to start again, the starter is probably overkill for the task.
    If the 500 dollar option includes a flywheel equipped with an electromagnetic starting system I’d say it’s worth it.
    I agree that fuel savings would be wiped out by a starter failure. In as much as paying 500 dollars for auto stop makes less sense when saving money on gas is concerned. If you find solace in reduction of pollution then it’s probably fine.
    Like a lot of fuel economy ideas, they are pretty expensive to begin with. Something like this should be cheaper eventually, especially if it was made a standard feature. Just don’t let government start mandating it or it won’t get any cheaper.

    • 0 avatar
      TomH

      Valeo’s start/stop technology is essentially that.  (The electronics toggle the alternator into a starter.)  All in all, it’s lots cheaper than a hybrid, but provides a lot of the benefits.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The alternator would be my first choice if it could be made to work as a motor. Perhaps another alternator replacing the original would be a good starting point. I’m interested in this even more after riding in a Toyota SUV hybrid last week that shut off at red lights in DC. Some of those lights were pretty long too. When the defroster was called into service the engine started to provide power to the compressor, so in the summer this would not work too well either.
    I stop my motorcycle at lights to prevent overheating (it’s air cooled) and I notice my gas mileage is improved slightly as well.

  • avatar
    jnik

    Chevy charged a lot more than $500 for it in the Malibu; they just called it a hybrid!

  • avatar
    Patapon

    What are the effects of Stop/Start tech on engine life? I thought that starting your engine causes: 1) increased engine wear and 2) increased fuel consumption. The constant on-off cycling can’t be good for the starter and alternator either, right? Is there something I’m misunderstanding?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    What are the effects of Stop/Start tech on engine life? I thought that starting your engine causes: 1) increased engine wear and 2) increased fuel consumption. The constant on-off cycling can’t be good for the starter and alternator either, right? Is there something I’m misunderstanding?
     
    Most idle-stop systems don’t have a starter or alternator in the conventional sense, but instead use a much larger motor/generator tied to the crank or accessory.  They’re more robust than a puny little starter or alternator.  In practical use, these systems seem to hold up fairly well.
     
    The concern I have is with the potential for increased emissions as the catalytic converter cools at stop.  I’d imagine it’s a concern for hybrids as well, especially those that run in a very urban environment, and are in EV or stop mode for long periods of time.
     
    And on that note, I’m not surprised the EPA city cycle is kind of weak.  I am suprised it’s only one full stop, but not hugely so: getting good city mileage is hard to do and requires unsexy compromises like small engines, hybrid powertrains and fairly complex and expensive transmissions.  Since the vehicle-buying public is largely suburban and it’s much easier and cheaper to boost the highway number, you’d expect as little emphasis as possible on city use.
     
    There’s been a terrific hatchet-job done on urban living in North America.  Suburbanism is cheap and effective for municipal tax gatherers, planners, developers, and automakers, and it’s resulted in a huge marketing push that’s not just made suburbanism desirable, but also distorted it’s true cost, all the while gutting and ghettoizing urban centres, especially small ones.

    • 0 avatar
      ihatetrees

      In practical use, these systems seem to hold up fairly well.
      +1. Given all the advances in engine and electronics, I’m certain a harmless start/stop system could be designed.
      Although, I doubt any programming team  could design a  start/stop system to seamlessly work with a clutch. 

      The concern I have is with the potential for increased emissions as the catalytic converter cools at stop. 

      A rational EPA would allow a cost-benefit analysis regarding improved economy vrs slightly higher emissions.

      There’s been a terrific hatchet-job done on urban living in North America.  Suburbanism is cheap and effective for municipal tax gatherers, planners, developers, and automakers,…

      Suburbanism is cheap because land is cheap in NA. Americans (and their Canadian friends) don’t want to live in Euro-grade closets.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Suburbanism is cheap because land is cheap in NA. Americans (and their Canadian friends) don’t want to live in Euro-grade closet
     
    People misunderstand this. 

    No one is advocating coffin hotels for the masses when they say “Suburbanism needs to die”.  What they are advocating is a return to the integrated, pre-war North American suburb, where you had large homes mixed homogenously with low-density high-rises, curbside retail and light commercial. Think about neighbourhoods built from 1800-1930.
     
    Not only do you get to keep your car and your large house, you get a tighter community that’s largely walkable, a reduction in fuel use, and a small business climate that’s more economically sound than big-boxes that open and fold with regularity.  Yes, you lose a few square feet of lawn, but you gain a community that makes gated lawns largely unneeded, and works for people, rather than tax-men and developers.
     
    The reason these neighbourhoods were abandoned and left to decay is that their business were crushed by big-box retail, and their neighbourhoods were overtly marketed against, driving all but the destitute poor out and ghettoizing them.  In towns where the box stores were kept out and development curtailed, the core towns thrived.  It’s rather like the SUV marketing push of the 1990s: people don’t realize how adroitly they were manipulated, because the marketing push was so subtle and so pervasive that most of us thought trucks and suburbanism was our own idea.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    In GTA, we have too many unnecessary STOP signs instead of roundabouts. Replace STOP signs and you will improve in fuel economy without fancy technology.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Funny – I thought Mazda was going to leapfrog the existing S-S Tech with the DI engines by firing the cylinder that happened to be nearest to just past TDC (with a squirt of fuel and a spark) to re-start the engine, thus not requiring the larger battery, etc.
    It wouldn’t keep the A/C running though, so a larger (and/or higher voltage) battery and electric A/C (a’la Prius) would be required to keep cool – maybe a wash as far as costs go.
    Also, on this 19-degree morning in PA), why engine block heaters seem to be standard equipment on Canadian cars (many of which are sold just north of the U.S.), yet unavailable on the same models in the U.S. somewhat baffles me. Of course, remote start is becoming available on many more vehicles – combined with block heaters, a lot of fuel could be saved (when parked at home) just warming cars in the driveway.


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