Hyundai and Ford Will Offer Micro-Hybrids

The technology is called stop-start, idle-stop or micro-hybrid. Bottom line: It’s a cost-effective way to get a 10 percent efficiency improvement.

In recent years, Europe has been embracing stop-start systems—also known as “micro-hybrids”—but the US has been slow to adopt the technology. Until now. Automotive News reported this week that Hyundai and Ford will begin offering stop-start systems on several of their models.

“Start-stop will be a key part of our development activity in the next two product cycles,” Timothy White, Hyundai-Kia’s senior powertrain manager, said last week at the SAE World Congress. That could mean stop-start technology on a wide range of North American Hyundai and Kia models in about two years.

Ford promises to offer micro-hybrid technology on about 20 percent of its global nameplates by 2014. And Automotive News reported last year that Mazda is planning to bring its i-stop system to US cars.

What’s In a Name?

The auto industry has not settled on how to name or market the fuel-saving technology, which improves fuel economy by about 5 – 10 percent. Some will passionately argue that it’s not really a hybrid of any kind—but if you grant that the technology generates and re-uses energy for greater efficiency, then it belongs in the family hybrid technologies, which ranges from micro-hybrid to plug-in series hybrid (also known as extended range electric vehicle).

Whatever you call it, the technology is designed to shut off the engine when the car slows down or comes to a stop. The system is commonly composed of an energy storage device—like a battery—and a beefed-up starter-motor that can also act as a generator. As soon as the driver puts in the clutch, moves the shift lever, or accelerates, the battery powers the starter motor, which quickly switches on the engine. Full hybrids also employ a start-stop strategy.

Europe has so many cars with stop-start systems that it’s hard to keep up. The list includes the BMW 1-Series, BMW 320d, Volkswagen Passat BlueMotion diesel, Toyota Auris (sold as a Corolla hatchback elsewhere), Mini Cooper, Citroen C2, and Smart ForTwo.

Considering the relative lower cost of a stop-start system, global adoption of the technology is expected to outpace full hybrid or pure electric cars. Strategy Analytics Automotive Electronics Service forecasts that global sales of stop-start micro-hybrid systems will reach nearly 20 million units a year by 2015. Auto supplier Bosch has sold more than a half-million stop-start systems to BMW, which offers the system as standard equipment in its 1-series vehicles. Supplier Valeo is expected to supply 1 million systems to PSA Peugeot-Citroën by 2011.

The move to stop-start technology by Hyundai and Ford will likely be followed by other global automakers, which are scrambling to find the most cost-effective strategies to meet tougher efficiency and emissions standards.

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  • mls21

    Why do they have to worry about marketing the technology at all? The improved gas mileage over the previous model should speak for itself. Is it a big cost upper or something that will only be offered as an option?

  • Shines

    It is a good technology. I suggest “Power Pause” for what to call it. I would not use Hybrid (yes I am one who passionately argues against calling it hybrid) to describe it as it then gets compared to Hybrid Synergy Drive and other full hybrid technologies which are much more efficient and then it gets labled as a weak or wimpy hybrid technology. It is a technological advancement and it would save me having to turn off my engine at long stoplights. I know this site is, but still lets not confuse a technology improvement with a hybrid technology improvement.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Basically, this doesn’t use any technology that isn’t in essentially every ICE car today. It definitely should be employed but it definitely shouldn’t be called a “hybrid”.
    I believe that the challenge with these systems is that, by starting up often, it’s hard to ensure that the vehicle’s emissions remain within mandatory standards. Starting an ICE emits a lot of ‘stuff’ that isn’t emitted when running or idling.
    Another fuel economy -vs- emissions tradeoff.
    Solution to the automobile industry: Just go with a pure hybrid or EV and quit dragging your feet. The ICE is old news, along with the steam engine and horse cart.

  • Nelson Lu

    Agree with Shines and ex-EV1 driver; this is not a hybrid technology.

  • Lost Prius to wife


    You are probably right about what to call this particular technology. Calling it “Power Pause” rather than “Soft hybridization”, “Mini Hybridization”, or “Mild Hybridization” is really more accurate about the used technology.

    Ex-EX1 driver,

    Although each time the car starts, or restarts, will produce more emissions than an engine that is constantly running, the amount of emissions for restarts will be significantly less once the engine has properly warmed up compared to the emissions at the initial startup. Although I do not have any proof, I actual suspect that, after a proper engine warm-up, the emissions for restarts are very near to the emissions levels for a constantly running car than to the emissions levels for the initial startup.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Lost Prius to wife,
    Certainly, a warm engine helps but I’ve heard that this was the reason the original US Priuses did not have the EV button. It was also a huge problem when folks asked CARB to bless the plug-in Prius conversions.
    Supposedly, this is why the HCH and early Priuses would suddenly start up if you were stopped for a long period of time at a light or in heavy traffic or such – the engine got too cool so they had to start it up, just to keep it hot.
    I believe that they’ve solved this problem in the start/stop vehicles by storing hot coolant water to help keep the engine warm – but I don’t know the details.

  • BMWdriver

    The reason the U.S. does not have much in the way of micro hybrids or start/stop only is because it doesn’t help the car maker achieve higher city MPG numbers on the EPA sticker.

    The EPA test simply doesn’t give much credit for the start stop savings. From what I recall there are maybe four quick stops during the EPA’s city test. So although the technology would undoubtedly save consumers from using fuel, the car makers are no closer to meeting new CAFE standards.


  • Anonymous

    In Europe Volkswagen simply calls this feature ‘Start/Stop’. It isn’t yet available on all the models, but most models that have the so-called ‘Bluemotion’ efficiency package include it. And to deal with the warm engine issue, the feature doesn’t work from the minute you start the car. There is some logic about the engine being x degrees and perhaps other parameters as well that influence whether it works. I think there is a button to turn off the feature as well.

  • Anonymous

    BMWdriver, that is a good point if true. one of the reasons i love the idea of prius is the start-stop technology.

    just imagine, what’s more frustrating than stuck in traffic than knowing you are also wasting precious fuel? with start-stop, at least stuck in traffic will a small consolation that you are using less energy.

    i am also one of those people who tends to run low on a tank (1/4 left) before fueling up. this would help running out of fuel fears on a highway because traffic isn’t moving.

  • MC

    Just call the feature auto-stop like it’s already called on the Honda hybrids.

    Also, it’s simply ludicrous to believe that a vehicle produces more emissions in the 0.25 seconds it takes to start than it does sitting idling two minutes at a long traffic light. Please…

  • Max Reid

    Some improvement is better than no improvement.

    Pretty soon the market will have full suite of Hybrids
    Mild – Just a start-stop system
    Partial – Motor supplements the Engine
    Full – Motor powers the vehicle
    Plugin – Battery charged by grid and gives power for certain range.

    On top of all will be EV – which is full fledged electric powered vehicle.

  • BMWdriver

    My auto manual notes that even if you are going to be stopped for as little as 4 seconds, shutting off the car during that time will save fuel. A couple of obvious points:

    If you are going to be stopped for something like 10 seconds or less, it is probably more of a hassle to stop and restart the car considering the miniscule amount of fuel you will save.

    There are arguments to be made about wearing out the starter on the engine by excessive starts. And perhaps your air conditioner will not keep running, which would be no good on a HOT day.

    Most cars with the auto stop feature have a small electric motor that obviates the need for a starter, so that argement is out the window.

    I rarely frequent a drive through, but I do shut my car off at the bank drive through teller because they tend to take longer than 10 seconds about 100% of the time!


  • Anonymous

    Stop-Start is a false start. GM offered this and for pretty big bucks got about 2 MPG better mileage. If you are going to pay more to get high mileage, pay enough to get a real hybrid like the Ford Fusion or the Hyundai Sonata or the Toyota Prius and Camry.

  • RonBham

    What about the effects of constant air conditioning use? Down here in Alabama the summers are too brutal and humid to forgo it. I also wonder how much it reduces gas mileage in any hybrid (or micro hybrid). I will be trading for a a hybrid vehicle this fall as I have a 23 mile roundtrip commute to work (60% hwy) daily. I guess any hybrid will get better mileage than my premium drinking 530I which averages 22 or so.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    It isn’t fair to look at how much air conditioning affects your mpg since cars with better mpg will always look worse than cars with poor mpg even though your AC costs really remain the same. Higher mpg cars just cost you less to drive but just as much to air condition.
    This is because you’re going to consume the same amount of energy running the air conditioning for the 20 to 30 minutes per day, irregardless of how much energy your car uses to drive with.
    For example: if you assume the A/C uses about 0.24 gallons per hour then: a car that consumes 24 mpg w/ AC, 22 mpg w/o AC looks like the AC takes about 2 mpg at 60 mph. With the same AC but a car that consume 50 mpg w/o AC, you’ll only get 42 mpg with the AC on, looking like the AC costs you 8 mpg. Likewise a car that gets 1000 mpg w/o AC will only get 200 mpg with AC, looking like the AC uses 800 mpg. In reality, the AC consumes just as much and costs you just as much gas in all of the examples above.
    At the other extreme a car that gets 5 mpg w/o AC would look like the AC only costs you 0.1 mpg because it’s wasting so much gas and money that you barely even notice the AC.

  • uofsc93

    2014 – I love Fords, and am in the market to trade in for one, but can’t fathom why their so behind everyone when it comes to mini hybrids and other technological advances across their model lines.