From Smart to Maserati, European Carmakers Going Green with Stop-Start

According to new research from the Yano Research Institute, more than 10 million cars worldwide will be equipped with stop-start systems by 2015—up from 900,000 in 2009. Start-stop systems, while sometimes referred to as micro-hybrids, are not really gas-electric hybrid vehicles. Cars using stop-start do not provide propulsion to the wheels. Instead, cars with stop-start use regenerative braking and battery storage to not burn fuel while at a stop.

Europe’s increasingly strict emissions laws are forcing global automakers to adopt a range of greener technologies—and stop-start is a relatively cost-effective approach to increasing efficiency and reducing emissions. In fact, last month, Maserati CEO Harald Wester promised that the next-generation Maserati Quattroporte would use a stop-start system, as well as downsized engines.

As we reported last year, European carmakers see stop-start technology as a key strategy for reaching stricter emission standards—but the technology has not yet taken hold in the United States. Although all hybrids can shut down the engine when coming to a stop, currently there’s not a single conventional vehicle available in the U.S. with stop-start. That could change when tougher U.S. fuel-economy standards are implemented beginning in 2012.

The Push for Stop-Start

Manufacturers of advanced auto batteries are primarily focused on the growing market for hybrid and electric cars. Yet, they are eyeing the stop-start market, because it’s likely to greatly contribute to the overall growth of vehicle energy storage.

Last year, supplier Valeo—which estimates that in cities cars spend up to one-third of their time idling at a standstill—agreed to supply 1 million systems to PSA Peugeot-Citroën by 2011. Since its introduction of stop-start systems, Valeo has booked orders to equip 50 vehicle models from more than 10 different automakers.

The list of other carmakers producing vehicles with stop-start systems includes BMW, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, and Volkswagen. In addition, the upscale Smart ForTwo Edition Highstyle, not available in the U.S., offers an automatic start-stop system as standard equipment in the 71-horsepower version. Smart calls the system, “micro hybrid drive.”

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  • simon@syd

    stop-start with diesel might be competitive with a hybrid… except for the Nox, of course.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Stop-start = greenwash

  • Nelson Lu

    Stop-start is helpful, but calling it “micro-hybrid” is false advertising.

  • Rich S

    An Ecoboost Ford Focus with start-stop could approach hybrid MPG territory and cost much less up front..

  • Dom

    “An Ecoboost Ford Focus with start-stop could approach hybrid MPG territory and cost much less up front.”

    Exactly. And as the first poster said, a diesel with stop-start would also be nice. Though diesels are pretty efficient at idling I hear. I agree though… don’t call this technology hybrid, that just muddies the waters.

  • Csaba

    “Stop-start = greenwash” – Yes don’t do anything, especially not anything right now that is simple, fast and doesn’t really cost anything, and gives clear improvements. Keep on dreaming and drive Hummer!

  • sri

    Whether “stop-start=greenwash” will depend on how much it adds to the cost. If it gives a 10% improvement at something like 200-300$, in other words, something that can be added to pretty much all new vehicles then it will be a big boost to fuel consumption. On the other hand if it costs in the 1500-2000$ range it will end up being a greenwash. Remember the chevy malibu so-called “hybrid”?

  • BMW Fan

    I am under the impression that the EPA mileage rating test for the city cycle only has a few short stops. This gives little credit to start/stop technology – thusly there is no incentive for auto manufacturers to put stop/stop technology only on US bound automobiles. It simply does not improve fleet CAFE numbers/reduce fines.

    I could be wrong about this, but I’ve not heard any clear contradictions.

    Any technology that helps reduce oil consumption is good!!


  • Dom

    To me it’s not a big deal, but simply another incremental improvement. (though I don’t think it’s all that new in Europe). I believe the VW Bluemotion models are using this now as well. With a small clean diesel engine, properly geared manual transmission, and things like start-stop enabling some of their cars to achieve 60-70mpg (think Polo), it’s no wonder Europeans aren’t swooning over hybrids like Americans do.

  • veek

    So … what is the big deal about stop-start? It’s easy enough to do right now, just by reaching up and shutting off the engine while stopped. I’ve done this fairly consistently for years, and although I certainly lower my vehicle’s pollution and C02, I never noticed the slightest difference in fuel mileage (we have 25 stop lights on the way to work). I can’t see how regenerative battery storage would make any difference unless it was connected to a propulsive electric motor, and even then, I assume regenerative batteries are far more expensive that a conventional battery (the conventional battery and starter in my Ranger are now 12 years old, so my shutting off the engine at stoplights has not been an issue in my battery or starter life either). Oh, well, whatever the government tells us to do!