Print 57 comment(s) - last by lelias2k.. on Jan 3 at 1:40 PM

The 2000 Volkswagen Lupo used start-stop to achieve a fuel economy of 75 mpg in Europe on a diesel engine. Manufacturers haven't brought the tech to non-hybrids in the U.S., due to flaws in the EPA's fuel economy testing.  (Source: Cars Plus Plus)
EPA is finally considering looking at the real value of stop start

Fuel economy ratings are supposed to provide an estimate of the vehicles' real-world performance, helping customers determine how efficient the vehicle is.  Unfortunately, the ratings are only as good as the tests that determine them, and in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's case, those tests aren't very good.

One significant oversight is stop start technology.  Overseas stop-start technology is featured on a host of models, including the Audi A3 TDI, BMW 1-Series, BMW 3-Series, Mazda 2, Mini Cooper, Toyota Yaris.  The technology is somewhat expensive -- it's about $500 extra to install -- however, it's more than worth it, providing fuel economy gains of around 7 percent.

The EPA's flawed test cycle, though, currently only includes one stop so the tech only earns automakers a 0.1 or 0.2 mpg increase in the official EPA mileage estimates, despite much larger real world gains.  Without the extra rating to justify the extra costs, manufacturers simply haven't been importing the tech on U.S. models. 

Currently, the only vehicles to feature the tech are hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid and BMW ActiveHybrid X6, as their electric systems allow the tech to be implemented at a much lower costs.  The net result is that at the end of the day, the U.S. is trailing the rest of the world in fuel economy.

Still the allure of models like the Volkswagen Lupo, which received an estimated 75 mpg, keep customers demanding that the EPA reconsider stop-start.  Robert Davis, Mazda's top product-development executive in North America, comments, "In Japan, we're seeing anywhere from 7 to 9 percent fuel economy gains from it. That's a jump from 33 to 37 miles per gallon in a metro environment."

Audi of America spokesman Christian Bokich complains, "We did not realize any savings in U.S. EPA estimates based on required testing cycles."

The EPA may finally be coming around and may try to fix its flawed test procedure.  It's taking public comment on stop-start technologies, currently, and will look to announce new procedures in April.  Those procedures could finally include a test with more stops.  Mazda is urging automakers to join together to lobby the EPA to give stop-start its just rewards.  While this is obviously a matter of personal interest to the company, it's also important industry wide, and to U.S. consumers.

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RE: How is $500 expensive?
By microslice on 12/30/2009 6:48:16 PM , Rating: 2
The car may be better, and you may get another few miles per gallon (what, 3 or 4?) with the hybrid...but if you were really all that concerned with gas mileage, you probably wouldn't be driving an SUV...and if you were concerned with both costs and mileage, you sure wouldn't have bought a hybrid SUV.

Again, completely disagree.

I drive an SUV (technically, the Highlander is a crossover since it's built on the Camry chassis) because I like the size/space and safety it provides. I routinely carry 2 or more bicycles and don't want to carry them on a rack because they are very high-end bicycles. So, I need the space of an SUV to carry bicycles, trainers, spare wheels, ice chest, pump, uniforms, helmets, shoes, tools, etc.

With a Highlander hybrid, I get 5-6 MPG more than the non-hybrid, the space I need, the power I want, and the quality of a Toyota.

A hatchback sedan may have worked, but I couldn't find anything in a Honda/Toyota that I liked at the time. The Fit was too small. The CRV/Rav4 too small and underpowered. The Prius too ugly (this was pre-2010), etc.

RE: How is $500 expensive?
By mdogs444 on 12/31/2009 8:13:25 AM , Rating: 2
Again, you're misplacing the point. You don't have to justify your purchase to me or the reasons you like the car. My point is merely stemming from a cost and return factor, thats all. I drive a full size SUV and a full size truck, both new and both get crap mileage. I got them because thats what I wanted, and thats all. But the increase in price for a hybrid crossover still does not justify the price from an increased mpg perspective is all.

RE: How is $500 expensive?
By lelias2k on 1/3/2010 1:40:06 PM , Rating: 2
It is always funny to me how shallow our ROI calculations can be.
First of all, I understand that cars are - most of the time, an emotional purchase.
But what amazes me is how much the "feel good" factor is underestimated. Especially because this "feel good" has much deeper consequences. We are improving our air quality (do you seriously think cigarettes are the ONLY cause of lung cancer?), we're reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we're trying to reduce the overall impact that we have on this planet - which I will admit we have a long way to go, but it's a start.
But when somebody says that they're buying a car because of these factors they are often mocked for overpaying for something that under performs.
We all want to live better in a better planet, but it's never our responsibility to make this happen...

PS: Sorry if the rant is misplaced. It wasn't directed at anyone in particular.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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