Achieving Fuel-Efficient Transport With Start-Stop Systems

Some might say energy efficiency and greener transportation is top-of-mind among governments and consumers alike as states like New York and Vermont begin to offer incentives for drivers of electric cars. While these incentives are a step in the right direction, states should also consider giving rebates to those who purchase alternative eco-friendly and energy efficient vehicles, writes Jens Keiser, senior manager of corporate development for Maxwell Industries, on the MAXPower Weekly blog.

Cars that are better for the environment don’t begin and end with pure electric vehicles. Drivers can choose from efficient transportation options such as internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles with start-stop systems like micro-hybrids, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), which all help benefit the environment and reduce drivers’ costs at the same time.

In micro-hybrids specifically, these eco-friendly benefits are achieved through start-stop technology that shuts off the engine when the car is stopped, preventing fuel waste and eliminating emissions. If a driver gets stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, the engine turns off. When he sits at a long red light, it does the same. Start-stop systems are based on a combination of intelligent engine, brake and energy management, so once the driver removes pressure from the clutch or brake, the system knows to instantaneously restart the engine.

There has been a greater move toward vehicle electrification as automakers are increasingly under pressure to keep up with changing emission standards. Many developers are swapping out energy storage components like traditional lead-acid batteries with ultracapacitors because they offer near immediate power bursts during periods of peak power demand. In start-stop applications, ultracapacitors are used for fast restarts and to maintain the vehicle’s supply voltage.

While batteries can store large amounts of energy, they must be charged and discharged at low power levels to prevent the need for premature replacement. In comparison, ultracapacitors can store and discharge energy with high power quickly and effectively. Plus, they have a longer total lifetime than batteries and operate more reliably under extreme temperatures. The high power density of ultracapacitors ensures energy is delivered quickly, allowing cars to restart without a lag in vehicle operation. Compared to battery-powered start-stop systems, the restart powered by ultracapacitors is faster and smoother, allowing more power and torque to be delivered to the starter.

Improved fuel efficiency is a major trend in the automotive industry. It allows automakers to comply with stricter emissions requirements and enables drivers to spend less money on fuel, while also doing their part to help the environment. As a result, global sales of light-duty start-stop vehicles are predicted to make up nearly 60% of all light-duty vehicle sales in less than 10 years, according to Keiser. In this time, more automakers will look to ultracapacitor technology to meet vehicle electrification needs and ensure seamless operation of eco-friendly cars. As both consumers and automakers look to improve efficiency and reduce emissions, it is clear alternative vehicle options will continue to grow in popularity across the globe.

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