“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything,” Irish polemicist George Bernard Shaw famously said.
While it may be a pompous means of introducing this column, this farsighted call neatly summarises my position on automotive stop-start (or idle-stop) systems.
As someone privileged to drive as many new cars as possible, it's essential that I’m not tied to old ideologies and ideas of what constitutes ‘good’ technology.
Nevertheless, for the longest time I was an idle-stop hater. ‘Why the hell are these clunky systems opt-out, rather than opt in?’, I’d bemoan to nobody in particular — neatly sidestepping the role played here by regulatory power.
Idle-stop systems would colour my perceptions of a car, the clunky way they shuddered cars to a stop and jerked the engine back to life while shaking the car’s body like a post-swim dog gave me a case of the proverbial irrits.
‘It’s all academic, these systems have bugger-all effect on CO2 emissions and economy, and it’s a cheap way to hit stretch targets,’ I would proclaim with portentous zeal to anyone game to listen — usually nobody.
But modern iterations of stop-start are a different story. Progress has done what progress does, and smoothed out the operation to the point of non-intrusiveness. Or at least, where it does intrude, it does so in a welcome way.
I was sitting in gridlock on Melbourne’s dystopian Punt Road last week in our Skoda Superb long-termer. The sun was shining and — presumably — the birds where chirping in Olympic Park.
If only every car shut itself off gracefully with an idle-stop system when stopped, so I could listen to them, or happily lower my window because the hypothetically under-serviced HiLux ahead of me would pause its rattling.
The key to embracing idle-stop for me has next to nothing to do with emissions from a policy perspective. It’s a drop in the ocean, or a single molecule in an atmosphere.
The joy of a well-damped, quiet and properly engineered idle-stop system lies rather in the quietude it affords us during the lull between the death of internal combustion and the rise of electrification.
The key is that the idle-stop system is done right. VW has nailed it. So has Mazda. Fiat and Jaguar not so much.
But imagine if every car gracefully shut up when its engine wasn’t needed, and let us sit in peace. I’d arrive at work happier and less stressed every morning. Not all silences are awkward.
Does you car have stop-start, and do you use it? Tell us below.