Good technology, they say, is technology that improves your life without intruding upon it.

If that's the case, then the ability of hybrid cars to shut off their engines at speed to save gas can be judged a success.

And it's a technology that could even be seen in regular cars soon, says Wards Auto.

German technology supplier Hella is developing a stop-start system for regular gasoline and diesel vehicles which can shut off the engine below 60 mph, if it determines vehicle torque is not needed.

Stop-start systems are uncommon in regular vehicles in the U.S. While the systems can work quite well in practice, shutting down the engine when standing still to save gas, these benefits are rarely replicated in EPA city mileage testing. And a benefit the consumer can't see is a benefit most consumers don't want.

Five things you need to know about stop-start systems

The systems are much more common in Europe however, and have been used for many years in hybrid vehicles.

Many hybrids also have the ability to cut the engine entirely at high speeds, re-starting it instantly if the driver needs to accelerate.

Hella's system does exactly that--but on non-hybrid vehicles. The system cuts the engine and disengages the gearbox, and could boost gas mileage by 10 percent. It would kill power in similar driving situations as hybrids--when coasting to a halt, or when backing off the gas down hills.

A twin-battery system ensures that braking and steering systems are still supplied with power while the engine is off. Backup energy storage could be handled by batteries, or by capacitors.

Hella says the main issue is getting consumers to accept the technology, and reassure them that it's safe. Testing has shown the technology to be effective, so customer perception is the only real barrier to its use.

That, and educating customers that the technology is beneficial, even if official fuel economy testing doesn't reflect the gas savings...


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