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Unconventional Ways to Improve Fuel Economy (Part 5)

As fuel prices remain at all time highs at $3.81/gallon or $1.27/liter in Canada, the push from manufacturers to provide the most fuel efficient vehicles without compromising North American vehicle standards is on. The standard of vehicles we have grown accustomed to include SUV’s and high horsepower engines while the rest of the world has adopted smaller and more fuel efficient models.

2013 Ford Fusion

There are many different ways to improve fuel economy but one of these methods is one that can be applied to any vehicle – stop/start technology. In essence, the vehicle turns its self off when idling and re-starts when ready to move. By simply turning an idling engine off fuel efficiency can improve by 5-10%. Think about the time spent waiting for a green light. During this wait, the engine would shut its self off and when the brake pedal or clutch is released the engine restarts with the driver almost unable to detect the transition. This system has been commonly used in Europe since 2007 and is slowly making its way into more and more models in North America including the 2013 Ford Fusion and Escape hybrids.

Ford’s recent media release discusses the cost of the feature and its benefits on the Fusion. The great thing about this type of system, is it can be easily duplicated by the fuel conscious consumer by simply turning the engine off at idle. Doing this on a non stop/start designed vehicle does come at a compromise of certain mechanical aspects of the car.

The starter, designed to start the engine, may require servicing sooner rather than later due to the number of increased starts. As well, the battery may require servicing due to the load placed on it when in accessory mode when the engine is switched off. These should not be barriers but rather cautions to one who wants to attempt this practice. A great way to implement this type of fuel saving is to turn the engine off when idling in a parking spot. Most vehicles tend to use more gas idling for 10 seconds than they would have if the engine was stopped and re-started in the same period of time!

In colder climates, the tendency to idle engines to defrost windows and warm the cabin is a practice that manufacturer’s do not recommend. Modern engines do not need to be “warmed” up idling, rather they can reach operating temperature quicker when driven at a constant speed. So driving the vehicle on a cold day after starting will help to deforest windows quicker!

Although this type of fuel efficiency is not necessarily re-inventing the wheel it does help every driver participate in fuel savings by simply turning an idling engine off.

Article first published as Stop/Start Tech: Ford’s Unconventional Way to Improve Fuel Economy on Technorati.

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