In the ‘70s cars would sometimes stall out in traffic – but not on purpose. You’d push on the gas – but the car wouldn’t go. Horn honking frustration would ensue as the driver of the conked out car tried to get it going again.
Today – undoing decades of refinement – cars conk out on purpose at every red light and even in traffic. The moment they stop moving, the engine stops running. And it’s not just the engine that cuts off. Engine-driven accessories such as the air conditioning also cut off.
And it’s becoming de facto standard equipment in new cars – not an option you can skip.
The feature is something called automatic engine stop/start, which can be handily acronymized as ASS. Its stated purpose is to “save gas” (and reduce the emissions of gas – carbon dioxide) by killing the engine whenever the car isn’t actually moving . . . along with every engine-driven accessory, like AC.
When the driver takes his foot off the brake, the engine automatically chuffs back to life – with a noticeable “paint shaker” effect. But at least the AC – and cool air – comes back on.
This on-off cycling can happen a dozen or more times during each drive – as many times as the car stops, so does the engine – unless the driver turns the ASS off. But in most cars, the ASS is default on – meaning the driver has to remember to turn it off each time he goes for a drive.
The aggravation is compounded when the driver stops on purpose – to park. He rolls into the spot, the engine automatically cuts off – and the driver reflexively pushes the engine stop/start button (most new cars no longer have keyed ignition switches) to kill the engine, which is already off because of ASS.
And the engine comes back on.
Or – more dangerously – the driver forgets to push the stop/start button – because ASS killed the engine. In a rush – or just not paying close attention – the driver leaves the parked car with the ignition on. After awhile, ASS automatically restarts the engine – and fills the garage (and house) with carbon monoxide, permanently turning off people.
At least two dozen deaths associated with push-button ignition and ASS have been reported.
It’s not something most buyers would willingly opt for – and pay extra for. The fuel “savings” are slight – on average less than 1 MPG overall vs. a car without ASS – and the costs go beyond mere annoyance. The “paint shaker” effect of all that stopping and re-starting adds stress and distraction while the slight but perceptible delay moment it takes for the engine to restart when the light goes green or traffic starts moving adds delay.
Plus the aggravation of having to remember to turn the ASS off every time you go for a drive in order to avoid all of that.
There is also the cost of reduced battery life. And more expensive, higher-capacity batteries.
Even though it’s 2020, most cars still use the same basic 12 volt lead-acid batteries used to start cars back in the ‘60s. These batteries weren’t designed to re-start an engine a dozen or more times in one day. This subjects the battery to repetitive discharge/charge cycling, which is the key factor determining how long any battery will last before it begins to lose its ability to accept and retain a charge – the same problem electric car batteries have.
A standard 12V car battery that would normally last six years wears out in five – because of ASS. The replacement cost – about $100 on average – eats up a lot of the “savings” achieved by ASS – leaving aside the increased cost of the car, because of ASS; the extra equipment that ASS involves, including a high-speed/heavy-duty starter motor and the higher-output alternator necessary to keep the battery charged so it can keep restarting the engine.
To avoid this – or rather, to hide this – some ASS-equipped cars are equipped from the factory with higher-performance batteries, including “mild hybrid” set-ups in which the battery doesn’t propel the car but has the capacity to keep accessories running when the engine isn’t – and to repetitively restart the engine.
You pay extra for that, too. When you buy the car – and when the higher-performance, higher-cost battery dies. Which it will, as happens to every battery ever made.
An average new car has a 12 gallon tank; if the car averages 30 miles-per-gallon, it can go about 360 miles on a full tank. If ASS increases the car’s mileage by 1 MPG – to 31 MPG – it can travel 372 miles on a tankful.
The difference is 12 miles – which works out to a savings of about 55 cents per tankful (about a third of the cost of one gallon of regular unleaded at the current national average of about $1.70 per gallon).
Not counting the costs of potential asphyxiation.
Because it helps improve a car manufacturer’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) numbers. CAFE is another bureaucratic acronym, this time standing for the mandatory MPG minimums imposed on new cars by the federal government. Failure to “achieve compliance” with the “fleet average” minimums – currently about 36 MPG on deck to rise to 38 by 2025 – triggers “gas guzzler” taxes, which are passed on to car buyers.
Instead, the costs of ASS are passed on to buyers.
Because a 1 MPG or so improvement is almost meaningless on a per-car basis, to the car’s owner. But it means a lot to the car’s manufacturer when factored over tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of new cars built – which is how the CAFE “math” is calculated.
There is another aspect of ASS to consider. A more sinister one.
ASS is another of the several slow-motion chokeholds being applied under the pretext of regulatory compliance that are actually meant to kill all cars that are not electric cars. Things like ASS make cars with engines rather than motors less and less pleasant to drive and more and more expensive to buy and own, the latter intended to push non-electric cars toward price-parity with EVs; the former meant to make EVs seem more pleasant to drive than ASS-hobbled non-EVs.
No paint shaker effect in a car without an engine – and a motor that’s always on whenever the car is.
ASS is ludicrous when gas costs less than it did in 1965 – which is what it costs right now. But ASS is about “saving” another gas – C02 – and there’s no end to saving that. Which is how they’ll end cars that run on gas.
The engines will be turned off – permanently.
Just as they are turning off everything else, Because Corona – another gas job.
But that’s another rant.
. . .
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