You might have not heard about it, but there’s a new fuel saving technology being used and tested by car manufacturers. Stop-start engine systems can increase your gas mileage by using a simple and relatively low cost solution. But how does it work?
Car engines are designed to perform best when driven at highway speeds, hence you’ll get better fuel efficiency at around 60-70 miles per hour. However, when your car is sitting idle waiting for the light to change, you get zero miles per gallon (car not moving, still burning fuel), which goes into your car’s average MPG. Stop-start engine systems eliminate the idling but shutting off the engine and immediately restarting when the brake pedal is lifted.
This technology first appeared in hybrid cars to minimize the use of the gasoline engine. Now that stop-start systems have gotten better and more affordable, manufacturers are including them as a standard feature in most vehicles.
Start-stop systems work through the computer that controls the engine. Once the main computer detects the vehicle has made a complete stop, it sends a signal to shut off the engine. Conversely, when the system detects the brake pedal being depressed, it seamlessly re-starts the engine, without the driver noticing.
Johnson Controls, a leading manufacturer of start-stop systems, projects that up to 40% of vehicles in the U.S. will use this technology by 2015. The technology has matured rapidly and most of today’s consumers show an eager interest.
With the introduction of the turbo-charged Fusion SE in 2013, Ford announced its own start-stop system. The company is now using the technology across different models and it hopes to bring it to every Ford in the near future.
While this fuel-saving method is relatively inexpensive and simple, there are a few challenges engineers had to overcome. For one, the system relies heavily on the battery, as it is literally turning switches on and off. Another challenge was to keep the air conditioning system on while the engine was not. In the end, better battery management and new a/c technologies allowed for the system to be widely used.
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