By on March 24, 2010

By 2015, no new car made by Mazda will stand around idle. By this year, Mazda plans to install its idling stop function on all of its new automobiles, says today’s Nikkei [sub]. Some domestic and European Mazda already have this feature. In a few years, it will be universal, including North America, where current EPA regulations discourage idle stop.

Minivehicles, which Mazda sources from Suzuki, will remain an exception.

This will not be your father’s idling stop. It’s an idling stop with brains. (Not that I’m saying your father has no brains…) The Mazda idling stop has sensors in the engine that specify which cylinder will get the first spark after the vehicle had stopped. By picking the piston with the optimal position in the cylinder, Mazda shortened the time to restart to a third of a second.

Mazda will introduce a new direct fuel injection engine in 2011. The new engine will improve fuel economy by 15 percent in gasoline models and by 20 percent in diesel models. With idle stop added, Mazdas will be even more fuel frugal.  Mazda aims to improve average fuel economy by 30 percent come 2015. Their opposition is hybrid cars. Mazda plans to beat them with an improved ICE, in fuel consumption and especially in driveability.

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45 Comments on “Damn The EPA: Mazda Makes All Cars Idle Free...”


  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    “Their opposition is hybrid cars.”

    Not strictly true.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/mazda-and-toyota-seeking-hybrid-synergy/

  • avatar
    tparkit

    Note to Mazda: thank you for simplifying my auto shopping. I do not intend to own a vehicle built by people who think they should decide whether I may idle it.

  • avatar
    Hank

    Good for Mazda.

  • avatar
    rnc

    And if they aren’t going to make a turbo diesel, 6mt, rwd, wagon for $15k with a 20/200 warranty then they aren’t getting any of my business either.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    I’m sure there will be some means of disabling the idle stop for those who don’t want it.

    My big question is, how does this effect things like heat and air conditioning? The engine will stay warm even if you are at a stoplight for a while, so I’m assuming heat will be fine, but will Mazda move to all electric a/c systems like Ford’s hybrids so that the ac will still run even when the car is parked?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      They probably will. There’s a lot of good reasons for moving the accessory belt (less the alternator) off the engine and to an electric motor—not the least of which is cutting down on parasitic loss—but you’d also gain the ability to run accessories when the car is off and/or subject to idle-stop.

      Couple something like this with regenerative braking and, well, you end up with something pretty close to a small version of GM’s BAS system. Again, not a bad thing: BAS is cheap and easy to add to existing cars.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      The system is currently on their cars in Japan. There’s a switch on the dash to turn it off, also in cold weather, etc the start-stop system won’t kick in until the engine is sufficiently warm. The Biante, Mazda 3′s 20S A/C functions normally when the engine is off so I’m assuming its electric.

      Also, on slopes, brakes are applied automatically to the car in i-stop mode so you don’t slide back. You can accelerate from a stop on a slope effortlessly. Japan is a small mountainous island country so that was taken into consideration as well.

  • avatar
    dmrdano

    It will be fun to see how well they run where I live. It’s -38 degrees some mornings! On those days if I do not let it run idle for a few minutes, I am doing substantial damage to the engine and transmission due to cold lubricants. Furthermore, they have defrosters for a reason. If a car sits even for a minute at an intersection with a few people in it but no defroster going, you will fog the windows. Finally, I actually like a little warmth in my car while driving to work. It’s bad enough that I have driven mostly Chryco products that tend to not heat up much until they are moving (the coolant does not get as high while idling as with some other cars). Not every car buyer lives in southern California (thankfully – I’ve been there, and always have come back, crazy as it sounds).

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      Wrong on several accounts: Letting a car idle prolongs the warming process of the engine, while doing almost nothing to increase gearbox fluid temperature. Just like you said yourself: “It’s bad enough that I have driven mostly Chryco products that tend to not heat up much until they are moving” . Start driving immediately, while avoiding excessive revs.

      Also, my Mini already has such a no-idle system. It’s pretty intelligent and doesn’t engage when the engine is still cold, when the battery charge is low, or when the AC is running at full steam. Also, you can completely disable it.

      Sometimes the underlying paranoia of certain commenters really annoys me. Not every technical development is there to control you and make your live miserable. Sheesh.

    • 0 avatar
      dmrdano

      Vega, you have never lived north of Dixie, have you? I do not let it warm up long, but if you do not give it a minute or two, the transmission shift points go way high and then it jerks in (true in all cars I have driven for the last 35 years). The engine oil, even lighter viscosity, wants a little warm up to. The mechanics here who actually work on these things assure me that a couple minutes lengthens the car’s life. I think I will take their word for it.

      By the way, in my son’s Nissan with the standard transmission we have to let it warm a little or it will barely shift. I spend a few seconds moving the clutch pedal and shift lever to loosen them up or they both stick. We put synthetic fluid in and it helped a little.

      I am aware they would use a “smart system” but there really is nothing smart about living here in the first place, so what’s the point. I have even seen Prius having trouble here just because cold affects everything.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I live well north of Dixie; well up in friggin’ Canada. And I’m with dmrdano. No matter how cold, I have never idled my car for more than 2 or 3 minutes before driving it. On some occasions the tires have frozen a bit square and needed a kilometer or two to smooth out, and yes, the manual transmission is a bit notchy for a while.

      I agree that the defrost thing can be a problem with a car full of people, but I usually open the windows a crack for more ventilation (much to the dismay of my passengers).
      Finally, driving the car warms it up so much faster. I won’t be such an ass as to suggest that there’s never a need to warm your car up by idling it, but I don’t buy the “it’s cold where I live so idling is a fact of life” line either.

    • 0 avatar
      dmrdano

      Srogers, you and I are probably mostly in agreement. I give my son a hard time because he will warm the Nissan for 10 minutes (on MY gas card!). But a 1-3 minute warmup, to me, falls into the “Can’t hurt, could help” category, and so I do it. I too crack the window when I am alone, but I have a fragile psychy and can’t take the verbal abuse when others are in the car. Regarding “square tires,” if you’ve never felt it, you don’t believe it. Once you have, you never forget because you think you have a flat! Thanks for your comments!

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      I just like to rant because I see neighbours warming up their cars in the morning for 15-20 minutes because they’re waiting for the defroster to melt the frost/snow from their windows, rather than scraping them. I suppose that they enjoy that the interior has warmed up as well.

      Another curse around here is remote starters. These could be used wisely to give a car a minute or 5 to warm up in extreme cold, but I see co-workers firing up their engines 15 minutes before work ends. When you go to the parkade at closing time, the air is thick with exhaust.

    • 0 avatar
      zenith

      I only let an engine warm up via idling when the car’s been outside in an ice storm. Gotta burn the extra gas then. I wish cars came with electric heat strips encircling the windshield so you could get a start on scraping ice w/o having to wait for the entire cooling system to warm up enough to put out tepid defrost air.

      I’ve noticed that vehicles warm up faster in use. As for higher shift points for auto transmissions, they’re programmed to do that in order to speed warmup of both engine& catalytic converter.

      I’ve always stayed in lower gears while warming up the lube in manuals. This feature in automatics just mimics that.

    • 0 avatar
      dmrdano

      Zenith, in Alaska some cars come with some kind of heating element in the glass. I’m not sure what it is, but a shirtsleeve relative up there swears by it. Regarding the higher revs, yes that is intentional; it feels bad because it tends to clunk a bit when the shift is attained. I’ve never understood people (like my son) who like to burn the gas, but he drives 40 min each way to high school, so I guess he likes to start out warm. I used to live in an apartment with a detached, unheated, gang garage. I could not park there in the Winter, because so many were running cars IN AN ENCLOSED BUILDING, and I couldn’t hold my breath long enough to escape with mine.

      Overall, systems like this are not all that bad, as of course they do make allowance for weather conditions. I suspect it is smarter guys than me that have put this together.

  • avatar
    Brian P

    All of these idle-stop systems are only active when the engine temperature is above a certain minimum and the state of battery charge is above a certain minimum. During warm-up or if the battery is weak, they operate as normal (idling does not stop) so extremely cold-weather start-ups are a non-issue. It means there is less benefit in extremely cold weather, but you don’t need to worry about any of the things dmrdano is worrying about. Also note that Mazda’s start/stop system does NOT rely on the electric starter motor so there is not a high current demand on the battery nor is there abnormal wear on the starter motor. Read about it elsewhere.

    Remains to be seen how they’re going to handle the A/C system.

  • avatar
    detlump

    Won’t this increase wear on some parts? The starter for one, of course. In many cars it is not easy to get to. Even older cars, the starter is a pain to replace. What happens when these cars get older and are not maintained as well as when new? Will we see a rash of stalled car reports on the radio?

    What about manual transmissions? Will it restart in gear or will you have to hold the clutch down? (I know, by 2015 there will be no manuals – stock up now)

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      Mazda’s system does not use the starter motor. These are direct-injection engines. They squirt a shot of fuel into a particular cylinder and spark it to rock the engine backwards causing compression on the “previous” cylinder, then squirt a shot of fuel into that cylinder and spark it, and presto, the engine is spinning. By the way, this is not new; Bombardier snowmobiles with their “semi-direct-injection” engines do a similar thing to spin the engine backwards for reversing the snowmobile (you can run a two-stroke backwards no problem).

      In any case … idle-stop systems by other manufacturers use a heavier-duty starter motor. Engineers are fully aware of the number of duty cycles that the starter motor will need!

      Manual-transmission vehicles have a switch that detects when the clutch is depressed all the way and a switch to detect the transmission is in neutral. By the time you’re starting to engage the clutch, the engine is already spinning. Idle-stop systems are already in production for vehicles with manual transmissions and have been for years – just not for sale here.

      As someone else noted, there are a lot of unfounded concerns. Engineers are fully aware that the starter motor needs to last, that the interior needs heat and A/C, that the emission control system needs to reach proper temperature, that the car needs to start going the moment the driver wants it to, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      They already work with manual gearboxes in Europe (BMW, Mercedes and Mini): Standing at a read light, put gearbox in Neutral, release clutch, engine shuts off. Light turns green, engine spring to live again immediately, as soon as you press the clutch to engage 1st gear.

      Oh, and the starter engines are specifically strengthened in these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      JeremyR

      Brian, thanks for being the voice of reason. It’s amazing how little credit is given to automotive engineers, whose job it is to think about this stuff and come up with solutions.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I emailed the EPA to ask about their test cycle and the claims (made here) that the start / stop feature is not used often enough in city driving. They responded back and said that there are several stops in their test loop and the start/stop systems are activated. Please check into their EPA test cycle more clearly for the facts instead of the assumption.

    That aside – I applaud Mazda for bringing us a simple gas saving technology that can be easily and cheaply be added to our regular gas cars. Why only hybrids get this functionality and a failed attempt by GM (their failure wasn’t the concept – it was calling the cars hybrids in the first place). You do this to the 10M cars / trucks sold in the US it will completely outweigh the gains all hybrids sold in the US will make. It will also be better for the environment b/c no rare earth elements are used in production of these cars (outside of cat converter – but Honda has made a cat converter that uses no rare materials) and no disposal of large amounts of the hybrid batteries.

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      Weird…I’ve heard from several sources (including, I thought, the EPA themselves) stating that the city cycle does not include any real stops at all.

      This was in response to claims that EPA city numbers are too optimistic. For true city driving, I definitely agree.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I thought the MFGRs had input in the mileage numbers they put on their window sticker (has to be based on EPA). From this Honda is more conservative in their mileage estimates leading to most drivers getting as good or better mpg than advertised / the flip side is GM’s and Ford’s #s seem to be on the higher spectrum and most are disappointed about mpg from advertisements.

  • avatar
    7th Frog

    Glad I got my Mazda when I did.

  • avatar

    GM calls Malibus equipped with this no-idle technology “Hybrids”.
    You could even claim the hybrid tax credit on a “Hybrid” Malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven02

      The Honda Insight uses a very similar technology to the BAS system that GM uses. Don’t get me wrong, the Malibu was a pretty weak hybrid, but the battery can power the vehicle some, but not much. It was a pretty weak battery that was being used.

  • avatar
    dhathewa

    I like it. Why would I want to burn fuel when I’m not moving?

    My town has far too many and very long lights. Some years ago, for a couple weeks, as an experiment, I shut off the crapmobile I was driving at the time at all opportunities and even switched it off to coast down a couple long hills. The result was to improve my usual fuel economy from 25mpg to 35mpg. However, doing this manually is a pain in the neck and I’m pretty sure that starter motor wasn’t going to take too much more of that.

    This was also a good idea when GM implemented it as BAS. However, GM’s system was too expensive, especially when you considered that you could get a nearly 50mpg Prius for less than a BAS-equipped Aura or Malibu that wasn’t going to turn more than 30mpg. And running the air defeated the idle stop.

    I’m hoping Mazda will get the price right and electrify the accessories.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    I am interested into what else Mazda is doing to make the engines more efficient. Direct injections doesn’t have a 10% mpg boost. It does have a rather large HP/TQ boost though.

    The no running idle seems to be a pretty easy way for cars to get a MPG boost.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      “It does have a rather large HP/TQ boost though.”

      That would imply that a smaller engine could be used; thereby, improving the fuel mileage for a given car. I do agree that a 30% improvement in gas mileage through these technologies seems a little optomistic.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      But that HP/Torque increase means you can get the same amount of power out of a SMALLER engine, which will reduce fuel usage. Poster child for this is the VW TSI motor. 1.4L motor with DI, a turbo and a supercharger that makes power like a good 2.0l and has the fuel consumption of a 1.6l or better. Not sold in the US, of course….

  • avatar
    A is A

    * The user manual of my 2004 Toyota Avensis II turbo diesel instructs me to let the engine idle for 20-40 seconds before shutting off, unless I want to shorten dramatically the service life of the turbo. Some car buffs claim that is wiser to let the engine idling for 1-3 minutes before shutting off.

    * OTOH, with the purpose of warming the oil before usage, I am accustomed to let the engine idle for a minute of two before before using the car (meanwhile I click my seatbelt, DRL my headlights, adjust my sun glasses, MP3 player, this and that).

    How do you let your engine idle if the engine shuts itself off?.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian P

      If there is a valid reason for them, these various time-delays can very easily be programmed into the system. In fact, rather than using an all-encompassing timer, they can either include appropriate sensors or, more likely, appropriate modelling conditions inside the programming that measure or predict when the actual underlying condition that would require the extended idling exist and only extend idling under those conditions, and only to the extent absolutely necessary.

      The reason you sometimes need an extended idle on turbo-equipped engines is if the engine has just come off a period of very high load and would otherwise heat-soak and cook the oil inside the turbo. It’s only an issue if you have just climbed the side of a mountain while fully laden and towing a trailer, and you pull into a rest stop and *immediately* stop the engine. Under normal light-load puttering around town, which is the condition when idle-stop is normally a benefit, the temperature in the turbo isn’t going to be a concern. In a “manually operated” situation such as yours, it’s too hard to explain this to normal people, so it’s easier to say “idle engine 20 to 40 seconds before shutoff”. If the implementation is in the ECU, it is capable of monitoring the underlying conditions and only doing this when it is actually needed.

  • avatar
    A is A

    “In a “manually operated” situation such as yours, it’s too hard to explain this to normal people, so it’s easier to say “idle engine 20 to 40 seconds before shutoff””

    Uh, I understand. It is an “idiot proof” recommendation for the “nut behind the wheel”.

    Anyway I prefer to play it safe: Shutting off the engine is countinuing to be the last thing I do (after turning off the -”manually operated”, i.e. nonexistant- DRLs, unclicking, putting off the sunglasses…).

    Thank you for the explanation.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I would bet we could get even better mpg if we stop over contenting our cars. Weight is becoming the real enemy here (driver and car!).

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      True, but the mass isn’t so much from content (electronics and such really aren’t the heavy) but from:
      * Frames
      * Seats
      * Wheels
      * Powertrain

      Part of that has to do with crash regulations, but a lot of it has to do with people not wanting slow, noisy, flexy cars.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I guess the safety items and sound deadening make the car better but add the majority of the weight. If they could still decontent – use slightly more expensive but lighter and stronger than steel (aluminum, carbon fiber, etc.) as substitutes – you get as safe a car with less mass and better mpg.

  • avatar

    >>>where current EPA regulations disincentivize idle stop.

    Bertel, I don’t think “disincentivize” is a verb, or even a word. How about “discourage”?

    • 0 avatar
      porschespeed

      Bertel, I don’t think “disincentivize” is a verb, or even a word. How about “discourage”?

      Actually pretty common biz-speak. In fact, it’s been around so long I’d bet the whiz-kids have come up with a replacement.

      According to Webster, it’s been around since 1946.

  • avatar
    niky

    Equipping a turbo-diesel with a start-stop won’t necessarily endanger the turbos… if you’re stopped at a stoplight with the engine off for thirty seconds, it doesn’t give the oil time to coke. And safeguards can be programmed into this… safeguards that will leave the engine on if oil temperature is above a certain amount.

    I don’t see why people are so against idle-stop (as long as it’s programmed properly)… when I’m sitting in traffic and it’s not too hot or too cold, I turn my engine off if I know I’m going to be waiting for longer than thirty seconds. Saves you lots of gas. Make this automatic and combine with a system that either doesn’t use a starter or uses a high-speed (2000+ rpm) starter, and extra wear and tear is negligible.

    That said, engines hate to idle… they’re outside their optimum efficiency range, they’re generating more heat inside an engine bay that doesn’t have 50 mph air going through the radiator and they’re using gas needlessly.

    It’s just like open-loop engine mapping… you don’t need to run your engine with tons of timing advance and a rich air-fuel mixture when you’re cruising at part throttle on the highway… that’s just a waste of gas.

    And just like that fuel-saving, emissions friendly feature, a stop-start system won’t interfere with your driving pleasure when you’re actually mashing the pedal and carving up the road.

  • avatar
    MarcKyle64

    If I’m wrong, I trust that any TTAC readers will set me straight but:

    The crankshaft is spinning on a thin coating of pressurized oil over the main bearings when it’s running. When the engine stops running, the bearings are no longer lubricated and the crankshaft bearings are now resting on the main bearing itself. When the engine starts again, there is a small amount of wear on both sets of bearings due to the metal to metal contact and the high points of unworn metal being sheared off. I read in ‘Drive It Forever’ by Robert Sikorsky that starting your car puts the same amount of wear on your engine as 500 miles of highway driving. Now, take the effect of being bumped backwards over the bearings by the initial spark to pump up the compression and then running forward after the start which will again create wear before the oil pressurizes. Wouldn’t this double the wear of a normal restart as per my example? If a car is mostly driven in the city, what kind of wear happens? How long before the crankshaft is out of tolerance? How much for a rebuild?

    I think this is a bad idea, much along the lines of the Caddy V-8-6-4, which was also implemented to save fuel. You want to save fuel and still have power? Then make engines smaller and add supercharging AND turbocharging! Or use a small diesel as a charging device for a bank of batteries and drive the wheels using electric motors.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      Despite the assertations of after-market oil pump salesmen, the pressure of the oil in the bearing makes little difference. How much pressure do you think there is in the oil between piston ring and cylinder wall, or between camshaft lobe and lifter? The oil pump only ensures that there is enough quantity and flow of oil to form a continuous film around the bearing.

      I expect that the “start = 500 miles of wear” was meant to apply only to a COLD start, when the oil is thick and not flowing well. Hot starts are not considered harmful to the engine; the starter and battery though will inevitably be subject to more wear and hopefully are upgraded when an idle free scheme is implemented.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      As mentioned elsewhere, idle-stop is already used on hybrids, so if Toyota engineers didn’t foresee a problem (I know, I know…) with frequent stop/starting, then you might be worrying a little too much.

      I would imagine that there’s enough oil residue remaining to minimize any friction/wear.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      And even during cold starts, modern multigrade oils minimize wear even there, as multigrades are much less viscous and flow more easily when cold than older monograde and non-synthetics.

  • avatar
    jaje

    A modern and well designed start / stop system has little bearing on longevity of the engine. Those concerns are unfounded. It’s benefits can be quite large. It is a little unnerving when the engine shuts off at a stop – but it will restart immediately when you are ready to go.

    Minor problems is when you have the a/c on and whether it stays on (i.e. electrically driven and no longer dependent on engine running). Or car just cycles already conditioned air through cabin and a/c is off until the car is moving again and engine is fully running.


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