skip to main content

→ Top Stories:
Fracking
Safe Chemicals
Defending the Clean Air Act

Peter Lehner’s Blog

Stop-Start Engines Stop Waste, Start Jobs

Peter Lehner

Posted December 12, 2012

Tags:
, , , , , , ,
Share | | |

The average American idles his or her engine about 16 minutes a day. That means we burn about 10.6 billion gallons of gas each year--nearly a month's supply--to go absolutely nowhere. That gas is wasted.

According to the automotive experts at Edmunds.com, "You can make a Corolla get the same gas mileage as an 18-wheeler by sitting in the car with the air-conditioner running while waiting in an elementary-school pickup line."

Experts concur that if you're waiting for more than 30 seconds, you'll save gas by stopping and restarting your engine. You'll keep the air cleaner, too. Some cities and states even have anti-idling laws to prevent air pollution. When I was at the New York Attorney General's Office, we brought a series of anti-idling cases that resulted in mandatory driver training for most of the public school bus fleet, protecting kids from breathing in polluted air outside schools.

However, a recent survey from Vanderbilt University shows that many people are unaware that most engine idling is unnecessary, wasteful, or even dangerous. We have our own calculus as to when to cut the engine--depending on how hot or cold it is, how long the line is, or who we're waiting for. What we don't think about is how much gas we're wasting.

An improved engine technology, already widespread in Europe, takes the guesswork out of when to stop idling--and will save drivers hundreds of dollars each year in gas costs. It's also helping drive job growth in the Midwest, the heart of the automotive manufacturing industry.

Stop-start technology automatically shuts off your engine when your car is stopped, but leaves your radio, air conditioning, and other electronics running off the battery. When you release the brakes or engage the clutch, the engine seamlessly restarts. The technology can boost fuel efficiency by 5 to 10 percent.

This feature has actually been around since the 1980s, but improved batteries, such as absorbent glass mat, or AGM batteries, have made the system a lot smoother. Reviewers test driving the 2013 Ford Fusion say "you barely feel the transition" (Autoweek), and that the technology is "smoother than that of the 3 series BMW" (Road and Track).

Start-stop technology is already standard in some vehicles, or adds an incremental cost of about $300 as an option--a cost that's recouped in less than 2 years, according to the American Automobile Association.

As automakers continue to improve fuel efficiency to meet the new federal mileage standards, more cars will be equipped with stop-start technology. Researchers predict 8 million cars will have it by 2017; the EPA estimates that one out of four cars will use stop-start technology by 2025.

Equipping more cars with stop-start technology does more than save gas and money--it also drives job growth. Battery maker Johnson Controls recently invested $138 million in its Holland, Ohio plant, to ramp up production of AGM batteries. The company, which employs 400 people, recently hired 50 new workers to meet its new North American production targets. They aim to sell 6 million a year.

Mike Placzkiewicz, an operator at Johnson Controls and member of UAW Local 12, says,“I see a good future as the AGM battery takes off with the new vehicles. It should work out for us, and keep more people employed here.”

[This post is part of our Wasteland series, featuring people, towns, businesses and industries that are finding innovative ways to cut waste, boost efficiency and save money, time and valuable resources.]

Share | | |

Comments

Battery GeekDec 12 2012 05:11 PM

I have to say that your article brings to light for the US a solution Europeans have been embracing for a couple years. Saving gas and emissions by not ideling away the resources is simple and effective.

I also have to add that the commentator above (The Truth) is spot on about the problems Europeans have experienced. BMW decide in 2010 to test the Axion Power PbC battery concept. It has surpassed all of their testing regimen. Hopefully soon to be adopted. Congratulations to Axion Power of New Castle, Penn.

MichaelDec 12 2012 05:29 PM

One other thing to keep in mind. The carbon electrode that Axion Power has developed can easily be swapped for the negative electrode in all those AGM batteries that Johnson Controls is expanding to make. So it will be easy for JCI to transition from making standard AGM batteries to making more advanced PbC batteries for vehicles with stop-start.

stranger thingsDec 12 2012 06:09 PM

I appreciated the article and have posted about this before.

I looked at the California Energy link and found the following quotes:

"SHOULD I SHUT OFF THE MOTOR WHEN I'M IDLING MY CAR"

" For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel
it takes to go about one mile. "

OK, so, if you pay $ 4.00 a gallon, and your car gets 30 mpg, that's about .133 per mile saved for every two minutes a car is idling. If you get 25 mpg, thats .16. Lets go with .16.

You save .16 for every 2 minutes of idling, at least according to California Energy Commission.

What else do they have to say.

" Research indicates that the average person idles their car five to 10 minutes a day. People usually idle their cars more in the winter than in the summer. "

OK Lets again take the greater number 10 minutes a day.
Lets take the Higher Gas Price $ 4.
And lets take the Lower Fuel Economy 25 mpg.
You save .16 per day per 2 minutes,
so you save about .80 (less than a $ 1. a day)
with start stop.

(of course in California your probably paying $ 7. a day for your coffee)

According to the California Energy Commission, Consumer Energy Center,
the average driver would therefore be projected to save,
at $ 4.00 per gallon, 25 mpg vehicle, save $ 146. - $ 292. a year.

You've now probably figured out why Ford and others want to bring the system in
at under $ 300 per vehicle.

For those chiming in about Axion you are also probably aware the projected cost or estimated cost of the
Axion PbC battery based on the Norfolk Southern order was an estimated $ 400 - $ 450 per battery.

Obviously with Axion the battery alone estimated ($ 400) as significantly more than
the entire system desired cost ($ 300);
do you think that is why even if the Axion battery worked, it is not in any cars ?

Now you are probably also aware too, that no driver wants to put themselves or an infant in a
car that is 30 degrees farenheit in the winter, so I think it fair to say they purposefully idle to warm the
car up, and I imagine don't want the start stop system functioning,

as well you likely realize
no one or very few desire to place an infant in a car that is 90 or 100 degree farenheit so they idle too
purposefully in the summer, to have the AC on and cool the car down. of course I imagine they
turn the start stop off then too.

The article also reports: " Experts concur that if you're waiting for more than 30 seconds, you'll save gas by stopping and restarting your engine. "

What happens when you wait 10 seconds ?

You are probably aware, that many times, you may stop for a stop sign or in traffic

, less than say 10 seconds.
Or less than say 30 seconds. And again, you only save fuel on the amount of time OVER 30 seconds ?

I know I timed my stops and in a majority of stops at stop signs and in traffic, I did not come
to a full stop for more than 30 seconds.

Give it a try at home. Next time you stop in traffic,
count to 30, did you move or inch forward during that time ?

If your like me you probably
inched up or someone else would cut in line.

Next time you stop at a stop sign,
did you wait more than 30 seconds before inching up or driving ?
Me, no, even with a few cars ahead of me, as they turned, I moved up.

So what is then being ignored ? What if you stop LESS than 30 seconds ?


So what happens to the fuel all the times you stop LESS than 30 seconds and the car
has turned off and then on ? Well if you are SAVING fuel AFTER 30 seconds, you
are possibly LOSING fuel for the 30 second or less stop and restart ? Is that true ?
Hopefully the author would address it.

And when you stop and then start there is also wear and tear on the systems themselves, like
your starter !

Now you probably realize why you are reading that many
consumers in the US often turn the system off. Well I know I have been
reading way more complaints about the system itself and have read no
complaints on how it did work.

Meaning, I have read no one that said the
battery failed, but many that said they did not like the system at all and turned it off.

I don't hold much hope out here, unless the
system is really really cheap.

I have read many blogs on why they driver hates it and turned it off, I have not read any saying it is great and good savings.
If the author has any, please post them !

stranger thingsDec 13 2012 01:00 AM

" Experts concur that if you're waiting for more than 30 seconds, you'll save gas by stopping and restarting your engine. "


What do the Experts say happens if the car is only stopped in traffic for say 1 - 20 seconds, then starts back up and inches forward ? and this is repeated over and over.


Do each of those stops lose gas ?

Do each of those stops and restarts mean more wear and tear on the starter and other engine parts ?


Well this seems like pretty darn "Common Sense" questions to me.

Want to take a question ?

Or should we just ignore common sense questions ?

DaveDec 13 2012 01:55 PM

stranger things

The more the starter is used the more wear and tear it will endure. I find that point indisputable.

Additional wear and tear on the engine is not so clear as seconds spent not running equate to no wear and tear that would otherwise occur. Whether starting an engine induces more wear than running an engine at idle speed, and if so the extent to which it occurs, likely varies with the engine ignition system. Fuel requirements to start engines certainly depends on engine ignition systems and one designed to minimize start up fuel requirements quite likely reduces the minimum amount of time needed for an engine off episode to yield fuel savings. That is, California's "experts", how ever they are defined, likely reached their conclusion on engine off time based on typical technology deployed and in use at the time of their evaluation.

Earlier, you remarked,
"You've now probably figured out why Ford and others want to bring the system in
at under $ 300 per vehicle.

For those chiming in about Axion you are also probably aware the projected cost or estimated cost of the
Axion PbC battery based on the Norfolk Southern order was an estimated $ 400 - $ 450 per battery."

It would also be useful to note that the $300 per vehicle includes cost of AGM battery that will not only need to be charged for longer periods between uses within a few months (and deliver declining fuel savings) but will need replacement within a few years at a cost approximating the initial OEM cost of the start/stop system. Further, it would be useful to note that Axion PbC battery pricing reflects current production volumes of its' batteries which is less than 10,000 per year versus millions of AGM batteries produced annually. One can reasonably expect cost of Axion batteries to decline as production ramps to 5X or 10X present levels. So will the price of AGM batteries as the cost of new AGM manufacturing facilities of large, well established battery producers such as JCI, Exide, etc. is amortized. But cost of PbC batteries will decline faster as scale of PbC electrode production ramps in response to recognition of longer life cycle and wider temperature operating range of PbC batteries (AGMs with PbC electrodes) is recognized.

And, as Michael observed, PbC electrodes are designed as virtual drop in replacements for lead electrodes used in conventional AGM batteries.

Switchboard editorDec 13 2012 03:26 PM

Several comments were posted here using different names but originating from the same IP address. Not okay, and they have been removed.

Dave FateDec 14 2012 06:20 PM

"So what is then being ignored ? What if you stop LESS than 30 seconds ?
So what happens to the fuel all the times you stop LESS than 30 seconds and the car
has turned off and then on ? Well if you are SAVING fuel AFTER 30 seconds, you
are possibly LOSING fuel for the 30 second or less stop and restart ? Is that true ?
Hopefully the author would address it.
And when you stop and then start there is also wear and tear on the systems themselves, like
your starter !"

Starting an engine that is both warm and still has oil in it takes very little energy.
Wear and tear would be nearly nonexistent.
The 10 second start would not be an issue.

I expect the Europeans did consider the idea .and decided it was a non-issue.

I do encourage the author to write again on the subject as it sounds interesting..

Comments are closed for this post.

About

Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

Send Me Updates About: Peter Lehner

As new content on your chosen topic gets posted, you'll receive an automated email via FeedBurner. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Feeds: Peter Lehner’s blog

Feeds: Stay Plugged In