New technology allows for better fuel economy
Helping the environment always involves either starting something or stopping something. But what if you could help the environment—and increase fuel economy—by both starting and stopping something?
That’s the idea behind micro-hybrid automobiles. With this type of hybrid, the engine shuts down once the car comes to a complete stop—and starts up again when the driver depresses the accelerator or engages the clutch.
In its simplest form, a micro-hybrid would replace the standard car alternator with an integrated motor-generator (IMG). But increasingly, automakers are adding regenerative braking systems to the IMG, which allows for energy capture when the brakes are applied.
This energy then is transferred to a battery system that is used to assist the start-stop process. For example, such a system can start the engine before the driver steps on the accelerator pedal—it senses when the driver takes his or her foot off the brake and starts the engine before the driver actually depresses the accelerator or clutch, allowing for a seamless driving experience.
On the Go
Micro-hybrids are ideal for drivers in stop-and-go traffic—and drivers who spend a considerable time on the road, like cabdrivers, couriers and truckers. And there’s a significant environmental impact, with increased fuel economy and less CO2 emitted. Makes sense: Because the engine is off, there’s no combustion fumes to consider.
It’s an idea that’s really taking off in practice. In fact, Johnson Controls has put more than 400,000 VARTA batteries on the road to help power micro-hybrid vehicles—400,000 that have helped drivers see an 8 to 12 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. Johnson Controls is ramping up to meet even more demand in the coming year, with an edict to get 700,000 batteries out on the road in 2008. So maybe getting stuck in stop-and-go gridlock won’t be such a bad thing in the future.