WASHINGTON - Vehicle technology that saves fuel when the driver is stuck in a traffic jam or gridlock, and limits idling when the vehicle is not in motion, may no longer be a pipe dream for non-hybrid vehicles. The high-tech auto "Stop-Start" system, also called the idle-stop system, shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop, is going mainstream, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
More than eight million cars will have the technology by 2017, says AAA Mid-Atlantic, saving motorists on gas when they pull up to a traffic signal or sign. Some car makers say once the feature is included in vehicles with conventional gasoline engines some motorists will be able to improve their fuel economy by 4% to 10%.
"Engine stop-start isn€™t a brand new technology, but the latest systems benefit from significant advances made in the last few years," said Ben Perricone, territory manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic€™s Approved Auto Repair (AAR) program. "This technology is only going to gain momentum as vehicle manufactures work to meet the more stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set for 2016."
The stop-start system, a technology that shuts off a vehicle€™s engine when stopped in traffic, is now making its way to the U.S. from overseas where such systems are already in common use.
Lux Research predicts that more than eight million vehicles in North America will be equipped with engine stop-start systems by 2017. Early versions of stop-start technology date back to the 1980s. Today more than 40% of the new cars sold in Europe and Japan use this gas saving technology. Just two years ago Ford announced it now has "more than 244 patents for its Auto Start-Stop technology."
AAA€™s automotive experts explain stop-start systems:
- What is stop-start? Stop-start technology automatically shuts off the engine when a driver is stuck in traffic or waiting for a red light to change. By doing so, the system can improve fuel economy up to 12% and contribute to a reduction in vehicle exhaust emissions.
- How much can it save? If gasoline costs $3.75 per gallon, the owner of a car that normally gets 20 mpg and is driven 12,000 miles per year would save an estimated $167 per year in fuel costs if the vehicle were equipped with an engine stop-start system. In this case, the system would pay for itself in less than two years and offer ongoing savings thereafter.
- What American market vehicles offer stop-start today? All hybrid cars have stop-start capability, although they use a different technology than the systems on conventional powertrains. The first non-hybrid stop-start systems in the U.S. market are on 2012 highline vehicles from BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. For the 2013 model year, Jaguar will join that select group, but stop-start systems will also become available on popularly priced models from Ford, Kia, and possibly others. Even trucks will start to see some systems with Dodge adding stop-start to its V6-powered Ram 1500 pickup for a one mile per gallon fuel economy improvement.