Ford brings stop-start system to U.S. cars in 2012

Ford will equip many of its U.S. cars and SUVs with stop-start technology, beginning in 2012, that automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop, cutting down on fuel use and emissions.

The technology, which Ford calls Auto Start-Stop, will be available with either manual or automatic transmissions. A Ford spokesman says engineers are still developing the technology so it will keep the pressure up in the automatic transmission fluid when the engine is stopped. The fluid pressure is needed for the transmission to operate properly.

Ford also has not yet made a final decision whether to roll the cost of Auto Start-Stop into the vehicle's base price or make it an extra-cost option, the spokesman said.

The automaker's new generation of direct-injection four-cylinder engines will be the first to get the stop-start technology. Ford plans to spread it among its four-, six- and eight-cylinder engine families. But the technology can't be used on all models, such as the F-series Super Duty pickups, the spokesman said.

A direct-injection fuel system and electric-powered water pump are two technologies needed for Auto Start-Stop. Direct injection, which squirts fuel directly into each cylinder, enables the engine to start quicker. The electric water pump circulates coolant even when the engine is stopped, which keeps heat flowing to the passenger compartment.

Other parts of Auto Start-Stop are a beefed up starter motor that is engineered to last for more start cycles, an upgraded ring gear on the engine's flywheel and an 12-volt battery engineered for deeper discharge and charge cycles.

The stop-start system automatically shuts down the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop, such as at a traffic light. The engine automatically restarts when it senses the driver releasing the brake pedal.

Ford says the system can cut fuel use by as much as 10 percent.

It has already rolled the technology out in Europe, on ECOnetic versions of the Ka small car and Mondeo sedan. Ford is adding Auto Start-Stop to the Ford Focus, C-Max and Grand C-Max models–vehicles that are likely to be the first U.S. Fords to use the technology. And Ford's hybrid vehicles in the United States already use stop-start technology. AutoWeek

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