Among the many new SKYACTIV technologies that Mazda plans on introducing to its global lineup, a unique start-stop system is one of the most important. Initially Mazda had decided not to bring its idle-stop system to the US as the EPA system didn’t measure a major improvement in efficiency, but ultimately the decision was made to make all of its vehicles idle-free by 2015. But an early test of a SKYACTIV idle-stop-equipped Mazda2 by Automotive News [sub]’s Hans Greimel reveals an interesting characteristic:
a funny thing happened when I paused for a red in Tokyo’s harbor district.
After a few moments of silence, the engine clicked on, as designed, to help keep the air conditioner going. OK, that’s normal. But as the engine jumped to life, so did the steering wheel. To my surprise, I found the engine’s start-up vibrations turning the wheel to-and-fro in my loose grip.
I turned to the Mazda powertrain engineer sitting beside me.
“Didn’t engineers notice that during development?”
“Well, didn’t they try to fix it?”
“Yes, but they decided this amount of feedback was acceptable.”
I’ve driven cars with stop-start engines before, but this was a first. The self-animated steering wheel only happened once during my 40-minute run. And it was more an unexpected annoyance than a safety issue. But I suspect it will take drivers some getting used to.
Greimel says the SKYACTIV Mazda2 1.3 won’t be sold in the US, but the same technology will arrive with the next Mazda3. Because Mazda’s idle-stop system uses detonation rather than an electric motor for re-start, it eliminates a key problem with early stop-start systems: battery wear-down. But apparently Mazda’s detonation-based system isn’t without its downsides. Here’s hoping they work out the kinks before bringing the system to the mass market.
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