South Africa lags behind the rest of the world in adopting Stop-Start technology, which can cut fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent, a leading local battery manufacturer says. It’s expected that, by 2020, almos all vehicles in Europe will feature this technology, says First National Battery, South Africa’s leading producer of lead acid batteries.

Under pressure to conform to tough environmental standards, vehicle manufacturers have turned to a variety of ways to improve efficiency and limit emissions. One of the more obvious ways to do this is simply to switch off the engine when it’s not needed for driving – for example, when stopped at a traffic light or railway crossing.

But it’s a little more complicated. Although Stop-Start systems very good at limiting a vehicle’s carbon footprint, they do impose extra strain on the powertrain and ancillaries such as battery and starter, which are typically reinforced for this kind of application.

For instance, the enhanced flooded batteries used for Stop-Start systems last longer than conventional lead acid batteries and therefore require less frequent replacement – saving energy and resources, says First National Battery Managing Director, Andrew Webb. “First National Battery’s start-stop technology knowledge comes from years of designing and manufacturing battery packs for cap lamps used in underground mining. This expertise was refined in collaboration with German car manufacturers, and today, we supply all the start-stop batteries fitted in BMW 3-series and Mercedes Benz C-Class models.”

First National Battery, the largest supplier of lead acid batteries in South Africa, and a subsidiary of JSE listed Metair, produces batteries with start-stop technology as original equipment for manufacturers such as BMW, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen manufacture cleaner running vehicles. Metair has centralised its research and development division in Turkey and up-scaled production. The company hopes to bolster current start-stop battery manufacturing from 11 million to 50 million batteries a year by 2020. The company predicts that, by 2020, start-stop systems should be standard in most vehicles in the European market, though this transition may take a little longer to reach South Africa.

How does Stop-Start work?

Start-stop vehicles conserve energy by temporarily switching off the engine when the vehicle is idling at a traffic light or in traffic, and automatically re-starts the moment the driver applies the clutch. Start-stop batteries outperform traditional lead acid batteries, with the ability to self-regulate operating pressure and discharge rate, all while powering lights, electronics and power-hungry air conditioners while the engine is off.  Example: spill-proof Raylite Ultimate AGM batteries, distributed by Battery Centre, are designed for start-stop technology. These batteries are larger than traditional lead-acid batteries, to increase the stored charge necessary to power vehicles for extended periods when the engine is not running.  Start-stop batteries are also fully recyclable, via Battery Centres nationwide.