Mazda: EPA Test Keeps Stop-Start Out

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Bimmer Bimmer on Dec 28, 2009

    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.

    • Steve65 Steve65 on Oct 14, 2010

      In Palo Alto, there are roundabouts with Stop signs governing at least some of the entrances. Thereby defeating the primary purpose of a roundabout...

  • Shaker Shaker on Dec 29, 2009

    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.

  • Foo Eh. Net present value is in the red, once you add in rapidly rising insurance, late by months basic repairs-and-no availability, battery replacement, future hazmat recycling fees, and even faster depreciation. Wait until litigants win for "too heavy" in accidents... The math is brutal but if you value virtue signalling, some will pay anything.
  • Lynchenstein @EBFlex - All ICEs are zero-emission until you start them up. Except my mom's old 95 Accord, that used to emit oil onto the ground quite a lot.
  • Charles The UAW makes me the opposite of patriotic
  • El scotto Wranglers are like good work boots, you can't make them any better. Rugged four wheel drive vehicles which ironically make great urban vehicles. Wagoneers were like handbags desired by affluent women. They've gone out of vogue. I can a Belgian company selling Jeep and Ram Trucks to a Chinese company.
  • El scotto So now would be a good time to buy an EV as a commuter car?