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How good are automatic Start/Stop systems and how do they work?

Snapshot: Start/Stop systems are increasingly becoming common in the vehicles these days. We bring a special report on how good they are and how they work

Recently, many car manufacturers have starting fitting almost every new car with this small feature, which is rather endorsed and often highlighted in many cars and of course, the customers get divulged by the marketing surrounded to these little technologies and get attracted to them as a geek would get attracted to some future technology in his hands. We are talking here about the start/stop feature that companies sell as marketing terms as “Micro Hybrids” and the likes.

How good a small start/stop system is in car? How do they work and how much fuel do they save? We bring an extensive report on the start/stop systems, and their usability in real world conditions.

Start/Systems basically shuts down the engine when the vehicle is idling and then immediately restarts it when the accelerator is pressed or in some cases when the foot is removed from the brake or the clutch pedal. This is a common feature found in every hybrid vehicle, but with as new cars are getting launched, these features are also becoming more evident in the conventionally powered cars.

Start/Stop systems can cut a great amount of fuel consumption when driven around the cities, some studies claims that the start/stop feature can save as much as 3-10 percent of fuel and also reduces the emissions, which may not matter to every person, but then it matters a lot to the environment.

In city conditions, where a lot of start/stops are needed is the best situation for using this feature, but then comes the massive jams and rush hour bumper-to-bumper traffic, where the feature starts to annoy the driver more than aiding them.

How they work?

Well, computers has taken over most of the part of driving cars and the start/stop system also has a brain of its own. The computer relies on sensors that continuously detects the speed, accelerator depression, brake depression and clutch engagement. When the sensors detects that the car has come to complete halt, the engine switches off – some controllers work by detecting the accelerator pedal, while the others detects the brakes and the clutch use.

The controller then pre-positions the starter model and restarts the engine instantaneously as soon as the accelerator is depressed or the foot is removed from the brake pedal. Most of the engine start-ups happen in less than half a second, but the Ford Fusion’s start/stop takes only quarter of a second make the engine lively after the start/stop is in position.

Many electronic devices like the air-conditioning and heating systems stop functioning when the start/stop system turns the engine off. These devices draws a lot of electricity and a switched off engine would only mean a drained battery if these systems stay on. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius uses advanced electric systems which aren’t dependent on the car’s internal combustion engine.

The time when the engine stays turned off for elongated times, the temperature inside the cabin might get affected severely, during such times, certain system switches the engine back for some time, which in turn switches the Air conditioning system on and helps in maintaining the cabin temperature.

Such systems require extended battery to keep running. A conventional battery can get vey strained during the start/stop operations which demand a lot of battery support. Beside taking the stress of starting the engine several times in a short notice, the battery also takes the load of car audio system and lights when the engine is not on.

Conventional cars with start/stop system gets the power from Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) battery, which consists of thin woven glass mats instead of liquid in typical “wet” batteries. The AGM batteries are also pressurized to the power density at a greater level than the regular batteries.

The AGM batteries can be charged 5-times faster than the conventional batteries and also they can be completely discharged without any grave effect on the battery.

The down-side? All Start/Stop systems are not smooth and they might give you sudden jerk when the engine restarts. Many systems come with an option of turning the start/stop off and many drivers switch it off because it becomes uncomfortable to see the car restarting after every stop.

The dealers should go out and reach to the customers to make them aware of the start/stop systems and their pros.

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