Ford’s Big Plans for Auto Start-Stop Technology

ford auto start stop

Last week, I made a very quick trip to Detroit to attend Ford’s North American International Auto Show press preview (disclaimer: Ford paid for my trip). A number of exciting announcements made, including the revelation of its automated Fusion hybrid research vehicleΒ (which was very cool to see), and plans for new plants (and jobs). On the fuel efficiency front, the company announced its plans to add auto start-stop technology to 70% of its fleet by 2017.

If you’re not a hybrid driver or enthusiast, you may be scratching your head a bit. Auto start-stop is a pretty simple concept, though: when a vehicle comes to a complete stop (say, at a stop light, or in a traffic jam), the gas motor shuts off. When the driver accelerates to move, it turns back on. An electric engine maintains power to needed systems in order to make this process automatic.According to Ford, this technology “provides a seamless way to increase fuel efficiency as much as 10 percent in city driving.” Here’s the company’s explanation:

I got to sit in on a short Q&A with engineers (including Kirk Pebley from the video) who developed this system for fully gas-powered cars, and also to take a short drive in a car equipped with the system. Stopping the vehicle reminding me just a bit of killing the engine while driving a stick (though without any lurches forward, etc.); starting back up was very smooth. I could see getting used to this feature without too much difficulty.

The one element that did concern me a bit: the system that Ford’s engineers have developed won’t keep climate control systems running when stopped. I asked how often the typical driver doesn’t use one of these systems; I didn’t really get an answer to that question, but rather an explanation of how the driver can choose between using the auto start-stop or maintaining a level of heat/air conditioning (auto start-stop can be disabled by the driver). I’m thinking that the typical Ford customer might need some education on this… or maybe something like a typical hybrid’s display of current fuel efficiency as a challenge to balance out comfort and gas savings. Of course, suppliers may also develop new batteries that make this point moot.

Other initiatives included the release of a 1.0 litre version of the company’s Ecoboost engine line, and research into “dynamic cruise control” that adjusts a driver’s speed based on road and traffic conditions. The company’s “Blueprint for Sustainability” shows how these new features fit into the company’s efforts to lower the footprint of its product line.

Though I’m not a “car guy,” I enjoyed learning more about one of the Big 3’s fuel savings and sustainability plans. If you’ve got more insight into Ford’s programs, please let us know what you think.

Image credit: screen capture from “Ford Auto Start-Stop” video

  1. Mike

    ” Of course, suppliers may also develop new batteries that make this point moot.”
    Actually they did. In 2010 BMW and Ford did a joint presentation with a small battery company called Axion Power International. Axion had developed a lead-carbon battery that was party lead acid battery part carbon ultracapacitor. Ford and BMW both stood up and said at the conference that they needed this battery to make future start-stop systems work. Since then…BMW has tested the battery to death to make sure it works and started to make plans to use it. Ford, on the other hand, has decided that a cheap lead-acid battery was a better choice, because they felt their customers weren’t going to be willing to spend an extra couple hundred dollars on a battery. The result…Ford has a system that doesn’t run the AC when the car is turned off, and their lead acid battery sulfates after 6 months so that the start-stop function doesn’t turn on any more. Why don’t you ask Ford’s engineers about that the next time you talk to them.

  2. Troy Johnson

    I’m very disappointed with Ford’s s/s efforts so far. The batteries they use are not nearly up to the job. As a result, after a short amount of time, the engine in your shiny new car will not go off at every stop light. Then at even less lights. And within several months, hardly ever at all.

    Ford knows that the batteries they use, either traditional lead-acid or somewhat more-advanced lead-acid called AGM, degrade rapidly when asked to recharge rapidly. As in after each s/s engine off event. Ford has done the math, and has concluded that, until s/s systems are required to fully function for the life of the car, like catalytic converters, it is cheaper for them to fix the problem for the low percentage of customers that will complain, vs paying up a bit to install adequate batteries from the get-go.

    Sad state of affairs, actually. The only near-term hope for a good solution is either the government requires minimum useful lives for the s/s systems, or a competitor does so on its own and embarrasses all the other car companies into upgrading. I hope for the latter but expect the former.

      1. troy johnson

        Thanks, Jeff, and good luck in ur digging. There has been public comments by a blogger that had a discussion with a high-level Ford guy at an ELABC annual conference about a yr ago. The Ford guy admitted the obvious—they would rather deal with the consequences of their s/s battery’s fatal flaw than fix the problem by using a better but a little more costly battery.

        If u dig further you’ll find the seeds of a big scandal are being sown. Do some searches of problems w BMW’s s/s system, too. They have the problem that Ford buyers will have, as BMW is ahead of Ford in s/s implementations.

  3. smith4524456

    Such will be good technology for our car technology and i hope every drivers will be happy to get this auto start system. I also have more comfy to use this system.

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