Ford Kicks Off U.S. No-Idle Revolution

On Nov. 12, 2010, we ran a story about the fuel-saving technology known as stop-start or micro-hybrids. The article read: “There are virtually zero micro-hybrids currently on U.S. roads, mostly because the technology is dismissed in favor of sexier alternatives, like electric cars…[but] the reluctance to shift to micro-hybrids could turn around very quickly. The micro-hybrid technology is completely proven and ready to roll.”

Six weeks later, Ford announced this week that it plans to introduce its stop-start technology—which it calls Auto Start-Stop and others call stop-start or micro-hybrid—to its global vehicle line beginning with next year’s models. Use whatever name you like for the technology, but it means the same thing: the beginning of the end of vehicle’s wastefully idling—burning fuel and spewing emissions at a traffic light or while waiting in a line. The stop-start system automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop; the engine automatically restarts when the driver releases the brake pedal.

Small Ideas Take On Big Ideas

Ford’s announcement follows the news that the company plans to spread its Eco-Boost fuel-efficient strategy throughout its vehicle line-up. While the “big idea” of plug-in vehicles dominates much of the automotive discussion, Ford is becoming known as the proponent of “small ideas” that are likely to end up having more positive impact on the country’s oil consumption and emissions than those other headline-grabbing vehicles.

The impact of the nearly 3 million micro-hybrids already on European roads —if estimated to improve fuel economy by 10 percent—provide reductions in carbon emissions equal to hundreds of thousands of grid-connected vehicles, according to Jacob Grose, senior Analyst at Lux Research. The most affordable micro-hybrids can cost as little as $300 and provide a 2 – 5 percent improvement in fuel economy, while the most robust micro-hybrids can cost $1,000 to $1,500 while providing a 10 to 15 efficiency gain. The cars use affordable lead-acid batteries and ultracapacitors for energy storage, rather than the pricey nickel metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries found in hybrids and EVs.

Ford’s Auto Start-Stop will be deployed first on Eco-Boost models featuring direct-injection systems and electric water pumps. Direct injection allows a quicker engine start and the electric water pump keeps the engine’s coolant circulating even when the engine is off. Auto Start-Stop also includes a stronger starter-motor, an upgraded ring gear on the engine’s flywheel and an 12-volt battery engineered for deeper discharge and charge cycles.

The company already features stop-start on its hybrid models—170,000 sold so far on Ford Escapes and Fusions and sister vehicles—but these new applications should quickly increase the technology’s rollout into the millions. Ford said it would apply the technology to all models—passenger cars, crossovers and SUVs—and expects drivers to achieve 4 to 10 percent gain in fuel economy.

Why Europe and Not Here? No reason.

As with many fuel-saving technologies, stop-start is another system already in widespread use in Europe on gasoline and diesel models, where it is predicted to be offered soon on virtually all models. “I think all the automakers are going to start bringing micro-hybrids to the U.S. starting in a couple years, and ramp up after that. As carbon targets start getting closer, there’s going to be a lot of push on industry to get those cars out,” Grose said. “It’s something they know how to do. They just have to reconfigure it for the American market, with relatively minor tweaks.”

We expect Hyundai to quickly follow on Ford’s heels. In April, Timothy White, Hyundai-Kia’s senior powertrain manager, said, “Start-stop will be a key part of our development activity in the next two product cycles,”


  • Anonymous

    after few hits, ford seems to be going towards the wrong path again. it will find no idle technology will not be enough to stop the coming oil shock or compete with other companies’ hybrid/EV technologies. ford needs a better long term vision than settle for no idle. if i hear ford using “game changer” for this, i’m going to laugh, just as i laughed when they used the term for their crossover vehicles.

  • Anonymous

    GM & Ford jointly developed the 6 speed transmission and they applied it in all the latest models and both companies had big success.

    Now Ford is trying the same with Start-Stop – Great.
    Even 2 – 5 % improvement is better than 0 % improvement.

    Parallelly they should also expand their HEV, PHV & EV lineup.
    Focus is the model concentrated for the above 3 and its good. They can just develop 1 motor and apply on all models.

  • Anonymous

    This is great news! I was just wondering, if motor would support the HVAC requirements of the vehicle when engine is switched off ?

  • FamilyGuy

    Why doesn’t Ford sell the C-Max here in America? Looks like an interesting vehicle.

    Nothing wrong with cost effective small improvements along the way to greater efficiency. Sometimes you just need to pick up a first down instead of a touchdown.

  • Shines

    I agree FamilyGuy the C-Max looks like a better version of the Mazda 5 which is highly rated by Consumer Reports.

    Any efficiency improvement is good.
    As far as picking up a first down instead of a touchdown – tell that to the Seahawks
    ;-p

  • Dom

    I’m more interested in stop-start systems than full (or strong) hybrids. Stop start systems are cheaper, can easily work with manual transmissions (of which I am a big fan), and are also a good match for diesel engines (full diesel-hybrids being cost prohibitive). Bring ‘em on!

  • Anonymous

    “The impact of the nearly 3 million micro-hybrids already on European roads …”
    Hmm… Not sure about where your figure comes from. According to Lux Research, which was called by Jim Motavalli of “offering the most bullish forecast so far” about the future of micro-hybrids, 2.8m will be sold in Europe this year.
    By my rough est., that’s about one in five cars sold in Europe this year has to be a micro hybrid, which sound quite ‘bullish’, when ‘only’ a handful (roughly a dozen or so) models is available with micro hybrids.

  • Nelson Lu

    Anonymous wrote:

    “after few hits, ford seems to be going towards the wrong path again. it will find no idle technology will not be enough to stop the coming oil shock or compete with other companies’ hybrid/EV technologies. ford needs a better long term vision than settle for no idle. if i hear ford using “game changer” for this, i’m going to laugh, just as i laughed when they used the term for their crossover vehicles.”

    And again, there will be somebody ready to step in to criticize Ford when not warranted. First, the C-Max is in fact coming to these shores — in 2012, I believe. Second, Transit Connect EVs are ready to be delivered, and the Focus EVs will be coming at the end of 2011; the following year should see Escape PHEVs showing up as well as well another PHEV (my guess is the Fusion, although Ford has left that ambiguous). Ford’s not sitting idle on those vehicles.

  • Anonymous

    i criticize all vehicle manufactures, including gm, ford, toyota, etc for not doing their part.

    hyundai has it’s goal set at fleet average of 50 mpg. toyota has it’s goal of making a hybrid version of each model. the point is, if ford is going to bank on “no idle” as their backbone, they will be in a lagging mode again. ford and every vehicle manufacture must be more aggressive in their commitment to weaning off our fuel addiction.

  • Ralph l colangione

    I own a 2010 Fusion Hybrid.It is a awesome vehicle. The best Ford I ever own. Not only do I save on gas mpg. But I forget how to pump gas it is so far between fill ups.

  • Pierre

    Ford Transit EV??? Is it true that it’s for fleet only?
    Focus EV??? Is it true it’s based on third party supplier Magna’s tech?

    Unlike other automakers, Ford doesn’t seem to be very eager to go for EV.

  • Kelly O’Brien

    Keep in mind, friends, that we are a diverse culture and one not exactly prone to what some might refer to as “social engineering.”

    While we’d all like to win the game in the first quarter, in truth, the game is usually won through a series of first-downs and time-of-possession (momentum), which ultimately lead to a series of 3-pointers and touchdowns (we hope!).

    So, I see this move by Ford as perfect. It’s a first-down, at least, maybe with a flag down against the opposing team (GM).

    goddddd, we DO love football analogies, don’t we? LoL.

    Every time I drive my 2002 Toyota Tacoma, saddled with some task that my RAV4 EV or Prius Plug-in Hybrid can’t do, it drives me nuts that the Tacoma doesn’t shut down at idle.

    Idling is sooooooo last century!

  • Anonymous

    let’s continue the football analogy… lol

    it’s middle of 4th quarter of superbowl, you are down 3 touchdowns, better start setting more aggressive targets!

  • BoilerCivicHy

    Anonymous must be one of those liberals bought into the scare tactics. Its not 4 quarter and down 3 touchdowns, not even close. Maybe you can tell us Anonymous what you personally do to help the situation, I drive two hybrids, burn corn instead of gas, and recycle twice as much per week than I have in garbage, you? Are you one of those people who only wants others to spend their money to help the environment? Did you run right out and buy and EV to help the environment? Are you using solar or wind in your home? I am a green advocate, but a pragmatic one, you do what you can, you push companies to do what they can, but you don’t bring down the entire global economy just to be green. This is one very good move by Ford, a move that I have thought for years should have been required of all gasoline vehicles sold in the US, its relatively inexpensive, most car buyers would not even notice the add on in cost, and if every car sold in the US got 5% better fuel efficiency, wow that would be a great START to the second half.

  • Pierre

    “Why Europe and Not Here? No reason.”

    Why Europe and Not here? Easy, because the testing EPA used does not reflect the advantage of micro hybrids.

    BTW, does Lux Research have any info. about how much it’ll add to car owners’ repair and maintenance expenses (e.g. a ‘deep-cycle’ battery)?

  • Anonymous

    @lakecountyhybrid

    i take transit. happy?

  • Anonymous

    Lakecountyhybrid says:

    “I drive two hybrids, burn corn instead of gas, and recycle twice as much per week than I have in garbage, you?

    I am a green advocate, but a pragmatic one, you do what you can, you push companies to do what they can, but you don’t bring down the entire global economy just to be green. This is one very good move by Ford, a move that I have thought for years should have been required of all gasoline vehicles sold in the US, its relatively inexpensive, most car buyers would not even notice the add on in cost, and if every car sold in the US got 5% better fuel efficiency, wow that would be a great START to the second half.”
    ____________

    good for you. this reminds me of some guy who drives 100 miles everyday in a prius and claims he’s greener than someone who drove 15 km in a suv. even recycling 100% is not better than reducing or reuse, hence there are 3 r’s.

    it may not seem like the situation is urgent to you, but it’s much more urgent than you think. US is already in wars partially because of oil. let’s not be naive about it.

  • Pierre

    Remember, Ford is only ‘beginning’ to introduce micro-hybrids to the U.S. This is a good, initial step for Ford to spread out its fuel saving technologies *across* its lineup, but nonetheless, an initial step only.
    Ford still offers one of the least fuel efficient fleet (based on CAFE) among automakers in the U.S.