Automotive

Published on March 18th, 2013 | by Jordan

Engine Stop-Start Systems Make It Easy To Be ‘Green’

Your inner Jiminy Cricket wants to drive an eco-friendly vehicle, but the car enthusiast in you balks at the thought of a small, “powerless” hybrid. Oh, the anguish of a conflicted consumer! In response, vehicles with stop-start systems that automatically shut off the engine when stopped in traffic are beginning to roll off assembly lines.

Repurposed technology

Stop-start systems are old news on hybrid vehicles; the challenge has been adapting the systems for use with conventional powertrains. With an automatic transmission, engine shutdown occurs when the vehicle is stopped for several seconds with the brake pedal applied. With a manual, shutdown takes place with the transmission in neutral and the clutch released. As soon as the brake pedal is released, or the clutch pedal is depressed, the engine restarts automatically.

Is this the ‘green’ for you?

Motorists in Europe and Japan are already familiar with stop-start systems – 40 percent of new cars in those markets have them. Availability has been limited in North America, but automakers now predict there will be more than 8 million stop-start vehicles on the road by 2017.

There could be a couple potholes. Drivers need to adjust to the off/on experience and lack of engine noise. Also, heater and air conditioning performance can suffer if the engine remains shut down for an extended period. Finally, the special high-capacity batteries required by stop-start systems cost nearly twice as much as conventional units, which could cause sticker shock when replacement time arrives.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the successful compromise of driving a vehicle you love coupled with improved fuel economy and lower emissions. It’s almost as if you wished upon a star…

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