EPA methods keep automakers from bringing fuel-saving stop-start tech to U.S.

Start Stop Tech

Mazda and other automakers are hoping for a revamp of EPA rules that are keeping them from introducing the fuel-saving stop-start technology in vehicles. According to Robert Davis, Mazda’s product-development executive in North America, testing regulations prevent automakers from bringing fuel-saving technologies, like the stop-start feature, to the U.S. market.

Stop-start, which has become widely popular throughout the world, shuts the car’s engine off when the vehicle is stopped and the driver applies the brakes. Releasing the break kicks the engine back on. According to Automotive News, the U.S. fuel-economy testing cycle doesn’t allow stop-start, since the mpg benefits are not reflected in the official rating.

The main issue is that EPA’s city-mode test includes only one complete vehicle stop, so the improvement comes in at a modest .1 or .2 mpg, Davis said.

“In Japan, we’re seeing anywhere from 7 to 9 percent fuel economy gains from it,” Davis said. “That’s a jump from 33 to 37 miles per gallon in a metro environment.”

Since it costs Mazda to install the fuel-saving technology in its vehicles, there is no marketing strategy to persuade car shoppers to cash out an extra $500 for the feature.

Don’t jump down EPA’s throat just yet. Automotive News says that EPA is looking to make some rule changes that could give vehicles with stop-start a higher rating. A final decision is expected in April 2010.

– By: Stephen Calogera

Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)