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Are You Annoyed by Auto Start-Stop Systems in New Vehicles?

Have you driven a vehicle with auto start-stop system lately?  If you have not, the chances are you will get to experience it sometime in the near future.  Some reports forecasts 8 million new cars to have the system installed in next 5 years.  That is not a majority of new cars sold in the U.S., but it is definitely a huge portion of the pool.

According to Johnson Controls, a major global manufacturer and supplier of the advanced batteries used in stop-start systems, up to 40 percent of all new cars and light trucks sold in the U.S. in 2015 could be equipped with engine stop-start systems.

What is Start-Stop System?

A start-stop system or stop-start system automatically shuts down and restarts the internal combustion engine to reduce the amount of time the engine spends idling, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions. This is most advantageous for vehicles which spend significant amounts of time waiting at traffic lights or frequently come to a stop in traffic jams. This feature is present in hybrid electric vehicles, but has also appeared in vehicles which lack a hybrid electric powertrain. For non-electric vehicles (called micro-hybrids,[1]) fuel economy gains from this technology are typically in the range of 5 to 10 percent.

On a manual transmission vehicle, stop-start is activated as follows: Stop car & depress clutch - move gear lever to neutral - release clutch - then the engine stops. The engine won't stop if the car is moving, even if the aforementioned steps are followed. The engine restarts when the clutch is depressed prior to selecting a gear to move the car. The engine may also restart if there is a demand for power from, for example, the AC system.

Since automobile accessories like air conditioners and water pumps have typically been designed to run off a serpentine belt on the engine, those systems must be redesigned to function properly when the engine is turned off. Typically, an electric motor is used to power these devices instead.

What is the Downsides?

Two major components of the car that are strained by the system are battery and starter motor.  The technology advancements made to the starter motor puts it at over 1 million start cycle.  On the other hand, that makes another higher priced parts in you vehicle that can make a bigger dent in your wallet if it fails outside of the warranty period.

On the battery side of the the equation, things don't looks as good, at least for now.  New types of batteries are being developed, and they will command significant increase in price as well.  Depending on your driving situation, auto start-stop system can lead to premature wear on the battery's charging capability

Finally, many drivers find it disconcerting when the engine shuts off each time they come to a stop. To make the matters worse, some systems aren't as smooth as others, with drivers reporting unexpected jerks and jolts when the engine restarts. 

BMW's system, for example, has been widely criticized for this. Many owners report that they have disabled the system with the shutoff switch that's standard with the BMW system. 2013 Mercedes C300 sedan I drove last week wasn't much better.  Each time the engine restarted, I could feel the vibration and brief delay before the car started moving again.  It is pretty scary feeling to think that the car won't restart at an critical moment.

There are times when you have to inch forward during traffic hours or at an intersection waiting for my turn.  The car literally started on and off almost 10 times, annoying the hack out of me.  Most stand-alone stop-start systems come with driver-selectable on-off switches, but they are turned on by default each time you insert the key and start the engine.  Most manufacturers chose this route so that they can claim high gas mileage numbers.

Are You Annoyed by Auto Start-Stop Systems in New Vehicles? Reviewed by Blogs on 4:55 PM Rating: 5

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