Currently, the only Ford car that you can buy with a start-stop feature to save fuel is the 2013 Fusion equipped with Ford’s 1.6 liter EcoBoost four cylinder engine. The $295 option is said by Ford to save about $1,000 worth of gasoline over the course of five years of average driving. According to Raj Nair, Ford’s global product development chief, the Dearborn, Michigan based carmaker will be offering the feature on all of it’s volume vehicles and it will be “aggressive” in promoting it. (Read More…)
Some forty years in the making, start-stop technology has arrived on your smartphone. Volkswagen launched an app that stops YouTube videos automatically when you look away from the screen. And it starts again, when you look back. The app uses facial recognition technology to capture when the viewer is looking away, only to resume when eyeballs are back on screen. PWHS (People With Heightened Sensitivities) will not like it: Averting your eyes during a shocking scene on YouTube won’t help anymore. The price of progress, I guess.
But what are the origins of this startling technology? (Read More…)
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.
TTAC has long seen stop-start systems (which turn off the engine at idle) as one of the many common-sense technologies that will continue to improve internal combustion engine efficiency at a relatively low cost. Outside of these digital pages, though, the systems have taken longer to gain awareness in the United States, resulting in the lagging adoption rate pictured in the chart above. Up to this point, we’ve assumed that this can largely be blamed on the EPA test’s unwillingness to acknowledge the urban-driving advantages of stop-start systems, pointing to Mazda’s protests on the matter as evidence that government intransigence was keeping the technology out of the market. But recently Mazda has announced that all of its vehicles will get stop-start as standard by 2015, and Ford has said that it will begin offering the technology on “some” four-cylinder models for the North American 2012 model-year… and the rest of Detroit isn’t far behind. So what’s the deal? The EPA hasn’t changed its test… why are stop-start systems finally starting to trickle over?
Thanks to new research obtained by TTAC from the cleantech investment fund Pacific Crest, we now have a better understanding of stop-start technology, and why we’re actually glad it’s taking so long for the systems to get here.
Despite the fact that current EPA testing methods fail to demonstrate the advantages of “stop-start” systems, which shut down engines at idle, Ford will begin rolling out the technology on 2012 model-year vehicles. Automotive News [sub] reports that “some” four-cylinder models will go idle-free starting with next year’s rollout of 2012 models, and that
Based on the European rollout, the most likely initial vehicles include the 2012 Ford Fiesta and Focus cars, Escape crossover, C-Max minivan and Transit Connect delivery vehicle.
By 2015, Ford will have joined Mazda as one of the manufacturers offering start-stop across its lineup (on manual and automatic models). There was, however, no cooperation between the two firms on their respective stop-start systems. Ford’s newest system can reportedly improve efficiency by ten percent in the city and five percent overall.
With so much focus being put on electric, full-hybrid, and plug-in cars, it’s easy to forget that these kinds of lower-cost and widely-applicable (but less-sexy) methods of improving fleet-wide efficiency will have a much larger incremental effect on overall fuel consumption. Along with its commitment to technologies like gasoline direct-injection, downsized, turbocharged engines and dual-clutch transmissions, Ford’s introduction of start-stop systems should help America’s healthiest automotive manufacturer maintain a technological and environmental advantage over the competition for the foreseeable future.
Whither the electrified market? According to this slide from a recent Johnson Controls analyst presentation [full PDF here], 2m global units by 2015 seems to be one of the models the industry is working on. And compared to other 2015 estimates, like Pike Research’s 3.1m worldwide number, it’s a fairly conservative approach. Still, there’s a long road ahead for plug-in and even hybrid vehicles. Toyota’s Prius, by far the best selling hybrid nameplate in America, sold about 152k units in the last 12 months. All hybrid nameplates sold 27,800 units last month [per Edmunds], for an annualized rate (non-SAAR) of about 333,600 or about half of the estimated 2015 market. Why that’s a problem, after the jump…
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. (Read More…)
For an industry under ever-increasing pressure from government emissions standards, start-stop technology (which shuts off engines under idling conditions) seems like an easy route to improved fuel efficiency. Cheaper and less complicated than a true hybrid system, a number of automakers from BMW to Kia are proliferating start-stop technology across their product lines without hybrid-like price premium. Since this technology represents a relatively easy, incremental efficiency upgrade, we’ve wondered why it hasn’t been made available stateside, where hybrids are making up a growing proportion of sales. Detroit’s executives seem to think it’s a good idea, and Mazda has even gone so far as to complain that EPA test results refusing to show the Japanese test-cycle’s 7-9 percent improvement is the main factor preventing it from bringing more stop-start equipped vehicles to the US. But there’s another issue preventing stop-start from becoming standard issue industry-wide, and it’s actually remarkably obvious.
When we first saw the slide pictured above at Chrysler’s five-year plan, we jumped on it as the only seemingly positive bit of news coming out of that deeply depressing 7-hour presentation. We should have known better. Today Chrysler is reminding us why it always pays to be cynical about everything that comes out of the mouths and powerpoint slides of our friends in the industry: buying into the hype always makes you look like an idiot down the road. Jeep CEO Michael Manley brings the inevitable letdown to the Toledo Blade.
We have no plans at the moment for diesel Jeeps in North America, although one of the things I’ve learned in this business is to never say never. I wouldn’t rule it out, but specifically on Nov. 4, we were commenting on diesel in Europe.
But hey, there will be more special edition Wranglers!
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?