In case you're not familiar with the fuel-saving tech, we're basically just talking about automatically shutting off the engine when it's not needed, which requires little more than some computer controls along with a slightly more powerful battery and starter motor (though some systems are admittedly more complex). Not exactly rocket science, but at an estimated cost of $500 per vehicle, it does cost a rather substantial amount. Still, why don't we see more of these cars in the States?
You can add head Mazda engineer Robert Davis to the list of those who think stop/start should spread throughout the States. According to Automotive News, he's got a theory as to why it hasn't: the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy testing procedures. Naturally, an engine needs a chance to idle for the stop/start-equipped car's computer to switch it off, and the EPA's current test cycle only allows that to happen a single time.
We don't know about you... but our city driving patterns usually include way more than one single stop. By way of comparison, the Japanese city cycle is programmed to allow the engine to idle much more and cars with stop/start technology boast a significant mileage improvement – from seven to nine percent, according to Davis. Besides, most of the start/stop systems we've sampled on foreign-market cars include an override button for those who find the technology objectionable.
So, if there's a problem with the way the technology jibes with the government's testing methodology, what's the solution? The EPA is currently accepting public comment and is seeking input on how to modify its fuel mileage testing procedures. Davis is calling for an "industry wide" agreement on a procedure that would help highlight the benefits of stop/start technology. Is that the right direction to go? Feel free to sound off in the comments.
[Source: Automotive News - sub. req.]