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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 Keeir on 12/31/2009 12:29:23 AM , Rating: 2
Sigh... the Toyota site is live you know?

The problem with looking at Hybrids is that its often hard to find a comparable model of non-hybrid.

Different packages and capabilities make the Highlander especially difficult.

Two things stand out to me though...

#1. "Electric 4 wheel drive" is alot different than permanent 4 wheel drive

#2. Towing capacity of 3,500 lbs for the Hybrid is the same as the 4 cylinder Highlander and not the 6 cylinder Higlander (at 5,000 lbs)

Since Towing and "Ruggedness" are two reasons to get an SUV, the Highlander Hybrid is more like a slightly upgraded in terms of power 4-cylinder Highlander rather than a compeditor to a 4WD 6 cylinder model.

When I equip the standard Highlander to a level very close to the Standard Higlander Hybrid I get a premium of more than 6,000 dollars and an EPA estimated difference of 3 MPG or ~ 0.5 gal per 100 miles.

Over 150,000 miles, thats around 750 gallons or a premium (upfrount) of approx 8 dollars a gallon saved.

Now, I am fully aware that doesn't project the full story. And "limited" 4 wheel drive that doesn't work well in the cold may have significant value to a specific consumer. Or a slightly higher level of performance/comfort while driving... but its hard to argue that the the Highlander Hybrid makes sense economically if your primarly interested in on-road driving with space.

As to the Start/Stop system... its only going to make sense for some drivers. Truth is that in the US, outside of a few cities with very bad traffic, start and stop may not make economic sense. Start/Stop only helps if you can turn the engine off for a certain length of time. The average US driving in extremely cold or hot weather will have a significant length of "shut-off" time (due to high accessory loads) which will likely not be met more than once or twice a driving instance. (Remember, the majority of drivers live in the suburbs where short stop lights and stop signs are the most common type of traffic stop)

Changing an EPA test to make a technology look better seems stupid. First prove that most drivers actually do stop longer periods of time and incorporate -that- into the test.

RE: How is $500 expensive?
By Spuke on 12/31/2009 12:17:23 PM , Rating: 2
When I equip the standard Highlander to a level very close to the Standard Higlander Hybrid I get a premium of more than 6,000 dollars and an EPA estimated difference of 3 MPG or ~ 0.5 gal per 100 miles.
Thanks, you explained it very well.

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