Sales of hybrids have yet to break beyond about 3 percent of new car sales in the United States. But the mildest form of gas-electric technology that prevents a car from using any gasoline when idling—known as micro-hybrid, stop-start or idle-stop—could be the cost-effective breakthrough fuel-saving technology in the hybrid age, according to a new study by Pike Research.
Pike researchers forecast that global sales of idle-stop vehicles will rise from 3 million units in 2011 to 37.3 million units per year by 2020. That means more than one-third of all light-duty vehicle sales will have a stop-start feature.
The idle-stop feature doesn’t use an electric motor and batteries to move the car down the road and is not considered a hybrid by many standards—but it’s nonetheless a relatively low-cost feature that can increase fuel efficiency by as much as 10 – 15 percent. “Stop-start vehicles strike an attractive balance between cost and fuel efficiency improvement,” said John Gartner, Pike senior analyst.
Pike’s forecast is sanguine at the global level, but most of that activity will continue to take place in Europe where more than two dozen stop-start models are currently available. The EPA and NHTSA project that around 42 percent of vehicles in the U.S. will have stop-start by 2016. Yet, progress in that direction is slow. There are currently only three non-hybrids offering the feature in the United States: the BMW M3, and the Porsche Cayenne and Panamera models.
Pike believes that Europe’s faster uptake on idle-stop is due to more stringent emissions regulations there. As we reported last month, another factor could be the efficiency test cycle used in the United States. The three 2011 models using idle-stop do not get a boost in MPG on window stickers, or for CAFE standards, compared to 2010 models without idle-stop.
The lack of [regulation] incentives for automakers to add idle-stop technology here will keep sales in North America well below Europe and Asia, according Gartner. “American consumers would embrace vehicles that don’t burn fuel when stopped if they had [model] options,” Gartner said.