Do the benefits of stop-start technology outweigh the irritations?

The principle behind stop-start technology makes sense. Turn off your engine whilst it is not needed, for instance at red traffic lights, and you will save fuel and reduce emissions. However, at EA we wanted to know just how much of a difference it really makes and so we mined our database of 900 real on-road tests to find out.

First we looked at the test results from a VW Golf fitted with stop-start technology, crunched the numbers and found it spent 9% of our test idling, or rather in the off-mode. For this fairly typical diesel vehicle, 0.4g of CO2 is saved per second that the engine is switched off. Extrapolate this and, as the table below shows, drivers of this model do see some benefit from having engines equipped with stop-start technology.

During the official New European Drive Cycle (NEDC) the car spends 24% of the time idle. So when we ran our Golf data through this test the resultant fuel efficiency was supposedly even greater.

Time in idle/off-mode Urban fuel saving Combined fuel saving
EA real on-road test









Admittedly, the analysis above only considers one vehicle and it is still based on a test cycle, albeit our real on-road cycle rather than in the lab. However, earlier this year for Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, EA fitted a data logger to a real driver’s car and tracked it for a week. Data from this real-world experiment showed that this Seat Alhambra spent 8% of its time idling. Very similar to the 9% of time the Golf was in off-mode but a far cry from the 24% anticipated by the official tests.

Interestingly, our data also shows that exhaust temperature drops by about 40% when the engine switches to the off-mode. When the engine re-starts the temperature quickly rises again. However, this can often coincide with a period of acceleration as the vehicle pulls away, which may mean higher NOx emissions. Thus careful thermal management strategies need to be employed by the manufacturers to ensure their exhaust after treatments are still effective against NOx emissions, which is something EA will be studying in more detail in the future.

May 15 graph


Stop-start technology is a particularly attractive proposition for manufacturers looking to achieve a high MPG result and low CO2 rating on the NEDC. Drivers will see some benefits, just not as much as published because the NEDC is flattering the result due to its high proportion of stationary time. So, if you can cope with the annoyance factor of having your engine switch off every time you pull up it is worth having.