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I am a daily activist in the market. I hold a few great stocks for a long time and trade non great stocks daily. I believe one should only act in the market on information that they Know. Not what one Hopes will happen or what they Think will happen. This simple philosophy has saved me from many... More
  • Test Driving An Automatic Start/Stop Automobile- The Wave Of The Future 35 comments
    May 7, 2012 3:14 PM | about stocks: AXPW

    I am not a car buff. In fact I don't even like to drive. It is very unusual for me to care about anything automotive. However, I have owned stock in Axion Power International(NASDAQ:AXPW) since January, 2009. Axion makes a device called the PbC battery. Technically its not a battery but everyone refers to it as such. It is actually a battery/capacitor combination. Anyone interested can read about it at axionpower.com. It appears that the PbC will be the best battery for start/stop systems. Therefore, my interest in something automotive.

    WHAT IS A START/STOP SYSTEM

    The point is that the learning about Axion Power and the PbC has taught me about the automatic start/stop systems being placed on automobiles today. It is estimated that 17 million of these systems will be sold each year in America by 2017. 30 million will be sold each year in Europe and America by that time. Since these systems require a different battery than the old 12 volt lead acid battery it is a very interesting investment thesis.

    Today I was invited to my local Kia dealership for a test drive of a Kia brand automobile with the new system. It was the 2013 Kia Rio. The first subcompact car under any nameplate to have a start/stop system. The system works like this:

    The start/stop system is completely automatic. When the key is turned and the engine starts the system is automatically on. The car is then put in motion. When the brake is applied and the car is completely stopped the engine turns off. No gasoline is wasted at idle. Nothing else changes. The air conditioner works. The radio works. the car simply does not use any gas when off. As soon as you release the brake pedal the engine starts. In every case the engine was started before I could get my foot over to the gas pedal. That is how a start/system works. It is called a micro hybrid by some writers but there is nothing hybrid about it. It is simply saving gas by not burning fuel at idle.

    MY TEST DRIVE

    One of the Salesmen at our local dealership, here in Florida, knows of my interest in the new Kia Rio w/ start/stop. Kia calls their system idle stop and go ( ISG). The first 2013 Kia Rio came in yesterday and we scheduled a drive for today. I was the first person to drive the vehicle except for the mechanic that prepped the car upon arrival. We jumped in and drove it over to the gas station since it had little fuel. On the way over we read the three pages of the manual devoted to the system. After fueling I left the gas pump and drove to the end of the driveway. The car stopped running when I stopped. When traffic cleared I released the brake and the engine quietly and immediately engaged allowing me to move into traffic. No shakes, shudders, or involuntary movements. Nothing dramatic. It operated as a normal car. The engine again stopped at the next stoplight. It was flat terrain ( all of Florida) so I took my foot off the brake for just a second. The engine started and we sat with the car at idle until the light turned green. I felt like I just wasted precious gas. All because I released the brake. We then drove the car several miles stopping often if possible.

    The system does not allow the car to shut off, if the battery is at a low state of charge. It will simply idle, just like your car. This happened several times during my drive and would happen often in congested city driving I'm sure. The funny thing is that after a few minutes of assuring yourself that the car will restart, you want it to stop using gas when your stopped.

    The one problem we experienced was the air conditioning. It is summer here already. It was 82 degrees by 10:00AM. We simply leave our car air conditioners to MAX AIR all year long. In that way the sealed up auto can cool down the quickest. We then turn the air down after the car cools off. With the air conditioner at MAX AIR the start/stop system quit working. With the fan speed set on #4 (highest) the system will not work. I set the air at the highest setting that was not MAX and put the fan at #3. The system worked fine.

    COST OF THE SYSTEM

    Kia adds the Economy Package ( idle stop and go) on the Rio for $400.

    One study has shown that most Americans will pay up to $300 for every mpg they can save when purchasing an automobile. Even with the stingy test the EPA uses to measure gas mileage this car is rated at saving 1 mpg. That is 3% savings in town and 2% savings on the highway. Which is funny because when I drive on the highway I rarely stop.

    TYPE OF BATTERY

    The Kia Rio uses a single 12 volt 70Ah (20HR) AGM ( absorbed glass mat) battery. I read somewhere that the manufacturer is a South Korean battery company. The use of a single AGM battery in Europe the last couple of years has had problems. After the first several months of use, the batteries dynamic charge acceptance capabilities are severely diminished. This means that the start/stop systems quit shutting the car off. The car companies don't want to admit this and simply charge up the customers batteries in order to make their Start/stop systems work again. But that is not a fix. The batteries will never have the charge acceptance they need, ever again. The real solution is a better battery. Several solutions are trying to win favor with the auto companies right now.

    This link will take you to a white paper on Charge Acceptance Issues published by Axion Power after joint research with BMW was released in 2010.

    www.axionpower.com/Profiles/Investor/Inv...=

    CONCLUSION

    Neither I or anyone at the dealership had ever driven a start/stop automobile. Everyone wanted to know my impressions when I returned. My biggest impression was that the system was indeed seamless. No driving habits had to change. But I really did feel like I was saving gas. Saving gas money for me. Saving on imported oil and reducing emissions. But I didn't have to do anything to do it. Just drive normally. I was very impressed with the car and the start/stop system.

    They were not as happy with my knowledge of the battery issues customers in Europe have experienced with start/stop. But I assured them that this is the wave of the future and that Kia should be very proud of putting out such a fine subcompact with this feature. Since I just purchased a Kia Soul a month ago I was not in the market to buy a Rio. Now I find out that the 2013 Soul will also have this feature available. Rats.

    Disclosure: I am long AXPW.

    Stocks: AXPW
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Comments (35)
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  • jveal
    , contributor
    Comments (644) | Send Message
     
    Good article. Thanks for the first hand education of what it will be like to drive a Start Stop vehicle.
    7 May 2012, 03:33 PM Reply Like
  • alsobirdman
    , contributor
    Comments (433) | Send Message
     
    Thanks for the write-up, Future. Seems like the A/C is the biggest issue with the KIA's S/S version, although the state of charge of the battery would also worry me. Perhaps that was caused because you were purposely trying to invoke the S/S system as often as you could and it would be fine under normal driving habits.

     

    Both perfect reasons for using a two-battery system, with a Pbc as one of them.
    7 May 2012, 03:36 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Also,
    I believe all current S/S systems have the charge acceptance problems caused by deficiencies in the AGM battery. I hope the PbC can keep the S/S system working even with numerous stops in a busy city.
    I sure can see why the manufacturers are looking for something better. If I were the salesperson I would not over hype this particular feature if I intended to keep a long term customer happy.
    7 May 2012, 04:11 PM Reply Like
  • bangwhiz
    , contributor
    Comments (2240) | Send Message
     
    Really nice report Futurist. Sounds like the implementation was really well done. All the system really needs is a PbC to be a dream machine. Then you could leave the AC on MAX also.
    7 May 2012, 03:36 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The operating manual stated that the S/S system will not work if the outside temperature is below 32 degrees F or above 89 degrees F. It will be a problem as a Florida car. From what I have read all current S/S systems have that flaw.
    It is my hope that a PbC system can be strong enough to overcome the intense power needed by an AC unit on a really hot day.
    7 May 2012, 04:05 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30629) | Send Message
     
    Thanks for taking the time to test drive a stop-start vehicle and tell us how it feels. Stop-start may just be a baby step, but it makes a lot more sense than burning fuel while you're stuck at a stop light.
    7 May 2012, 04:08 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (10233) | Send Message
     
    Interesting, Since the blower motor uses less energy than the wiper motor I bet that the SS system would not have worked if the wipers were also on with the air and blower at more modest settings. This only being true if the system stopped due to vehicle current draw or battery SOC.

     

    Thanks for the first hand report Futurist.
    7 May 2012, 04:23 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30629) | Send Message
     
    YAY!!!

     

    iindelco has finally come over to the good side of the force.

     

    I was really worried that I'd lose access to your incredible ability to find links to relevant information. Welcome aboard. The latest Concentrator is here – http://seekingalpha.co...?
    7 May 2012, 04:27 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » iindelco,
    Let me echo JPs thoughts on welcoming you also. I tried to help in the battle on brand X board ( TheycallmeMrfootball) but could not keep my patience as you have.
    I did not realize wipers were such an electrical draw. What about headlamps? I forgot to test those.
    I think the PbC might be way better than the competition than I ever expected. JP refers to the three classes as good (AGM), better ( ultrabattery), and best (PbC). It will be interesting to see how much better the PbC really is in side by side comparisons.
    7 May 2012, 04:46 PM Reply Like
  • carlosgaviria
    , contributor
    Comments (791) | Send Message
     
    iindelco:
    Thank you for your presence here, your comments have been invaluable in Yahoo Finance and now they are here.
    Gracias: Carlos.
    7 May 2012, 06:29 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (10233) | Send Message
     
    Guys, Thanks for the warm welcome. Sorry as I am having some computer issues and the former post is the only one out of about 10 that went through on my laptop. Joined S.A. on Sunday and spent about 2 hours trying to post on the concentrator to no avail. Now on another computer. Bear with me while I work through the issue I'm having.

     

    Darn new fangled communications devices. Only reason I gave up smoke signals was global warming! Still didn't get a Thank You card from Al Gore.
    8 May 2012, 01:32 AM Reply Like
  • Tampa Ted
    , contributor
    Comments (2652) | Send Message
     
    Nice first piece, I appreciate your thoughts and observations.

     

    Yesterday, you commented about another article in which JCI discussed the life of their battery as being 4-5 years. In response to my comment concerning the discrepancy, JP stated -

     

    "The statement actually does square with reality because all stop-start systems are smart enough to disable themselves when the battery isn't ready for another engine off event. That means nobody ever has an outright battery failure. Instead, the interval between engine off events just keeps getting longer and longer until users like my buddy Graham observe "I can't remember the last time the engine turned off at a light, but it's not worth the trouble of taking it in for repairs."

     

    In light of the Honda small claims cases moving forward on false advertising claim, I thought this observation was pertinent to your article.

     

    Looking forward to the next one!
    7 May 2012, 04:46 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Stefan,
    Thanks for the kind words.
    I thought of John's comments as I was driving and the engine would not shut off. I am a value shopper. I am price conscious about everything. John's European friends might ignore the effectiveness of the S/S system but I can't believe Americans with a long term warranty won't be complaining like crazy.

     

    I will try and find out the warranty on the Kia S/S system tomorrow. I forgot to ask about it or look it up.
    7 May 2012, 04:52 PM Reply Like
  • metroneanderthal
    , contributor
    Comments (1425) | Send Message
     
    Futurist,
    Thanks for providing your impressions.
    7 May 2012, 05:23 PM Reply Like
  • H. T. Love
    , contributor
    Comments (19441) | Send Message
     
    Thanks Futurist! Good to have first-hand impressions from trustworthy folks.

     

    HardToLove
    7 May 2012, 05:36 PM Reply Like
  • carlosgaviria
    , contributor
    Comments (791) | Send Message
     
    Futurist:
    Thanks for your information, I appreciate you taking the time to tell us about your test drive Stop-Start.
    Thanks again.
    7 May 2012, 06:26 PM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2268) | Send Message
     
    Thanks for telling us about the experience, Futurist.

     

    I too am curious what happens with the ISG system when added loads of lights, wipers, heater/defroster on high on a wintry day, or a plugged in iPad charger are involved.

     

    And it seems odd that the ISG system could add mileage on the highway. How does that work? Is that assuming stop and go LA freeway traffic? Or is it wishful hype from the EPA?
    7 May 2012, 08:01 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Not sure how the EPA measures mileage. But I'm sure there is a statistical reason mileage went up. Just struck me funny.

     

    Since the air conditioner alone stopped the system from working I'm sure that nightime driving in a rainstorm while charging my cell would also cause my car to keep idling. The good news is that this is the fault of a one battery 12 volt AGM system.
    The good news is that the BMW protocol actually was designed to allow the accessories work.
    7 May 2012, 08:18 PM Reply Like
  • SMaturin
    , contributor
    Comments (2268) | Send Message
     
    Next question.... How many miles per year of city driving are needed to break even on the $400 up front cost of the ISG system, assuming fuel is $4.00/gal and total ownership life of the car is ten years? Also assume the AGM battery always works perfectly and never needs to be replaced. ;-)

     

    It seems to me that a subcompact that already gets high mileage may not be the most cost effective implementation of this technology.

     

    Edit: Even on my not very efficient SUV, My annual fuel costs for mostly suburban driving are less than $3000, so it wild take at least 8 years to break even at 3% improved mileage, assuming the AGM battery never needed to be replaced.
    7 May 2012, 08:24 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » When you drive 100,000 miles in a car that gets 30 mpg city a 3% gas savings will equal $400.

     

    If gas goes up you win
    If the environment is a concern you win
    If foriegn oil is a concern you win.

     

    If the economics work out as equal in this car, how good will it be for all the others? I suspect that Kia chose this car because it is a young persons car. They are idealist, not mathematicians.
    But I like the economics.
    7 May 2012, 08:32 PM Reply Like
  • Mr Investor
    , contributor
    Comments (3220) | Send Message
     
    Great job, Futurist. Nice to see that the only thing missing is an adequate battery for full, long-term s/s function. Things are falling into place for Axion's PbC really, really well, IMO.
    7 May 2012, 08:38 PM Reply Like
  • bazooooka
    , contributor
    Comments (3684) | Send Message
     
    I bet many S/S car applications will not even average 30mpg in the real world (ex. compact SUVs) when put in the hands of the end user. Heck, I have never even gotten better than 25mpg on average and I have driven many a fuel efficient vehicle (supposed).

     

    Those of us that do tons of city driving will do better than break even over the life of the vehicle I'd bet and the environment wins as well. Not to mention a S/S vehicle will likely have a higher resale value if we do trade-up in 5-7 years like many people do despite proclaiming that they'll keep their cars till the tires fall off.
    7 May 2012, 09:15 PM Reply Like
  • Tim Enright
    , contributor
    Comments (1345) | Send Message
     
    Futurist. I am envious! what a great experience for us to be able to share your test drive. Your local dealership is fortunate to have someone on the leading edge of SS to educate them. You must schedule another visit (or two) for some clean up items (wipers,lights). If you spend enough time there they make make you a deal to swap your Kia Soul for one that has SS...

     

    PS Welcome iidelco, your fame/reputation precedes you!
    7 May 2012, 09:18 PM Reply Like
  • D. McHattie
    , contributor
    Comments (1844) | Send Message
     
    I also want to say 'thanks', Fut. Well done.

     

    I would also be interested to see how the s/s is disabled by cold weather. Is it disablec by ambient exterior temperature or is it disablec like the A/C, if you turn the fan up all the way with the heat at max?

     

    Regardless, without a PbC, s/s is only functional half the year, at best, in Canada.

     

    My only fear is that these limitations give the public a negative impression of s/s whereas the problem is really with the battery.

     

    Thanks again,

     

    D
    7 May 2012, 09:39 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The ambient temperature automatically disables the system when the outside temperature is outside the range.

     

    The fan at the highest setting automatically disables the system according to the manual.

     

    The headlight thing is an interesting question. I drive with my headlamps on all the time for safety purposes. What does that mean to a S/S system?
    8 May 2012, 08:08 AM Reply Like
  • Mayascribe
    , contributor
    Comments (11197) | Send Message
     
    Futurist: I receive a small insurance premium reduction for having running lights, which obviously would have a constant yet small drain on a s/s AGM.

     

    Though I'm late to the party, thanks so much for taking us on your test drive.
    8 May 2012, 03:05 PM Reply Like
  • iindelco
    , contributor
    Comments (10233) | Send Message
     
    Sorry guys but I'm having some kind of computer issues and have only gotten one post through since Sunday. Bear with me while I try to figure this out.
    8 May 2012, 01:34 AM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30629) | Send Message
     
    Take all the time you need Iindelco. Your thoughts have always been worth waiting for.
    8 May 2012, 01:49 AM Reply Like
  • magounsq
    , contributor
    Comments (957) | Send Message
     
    Futurist

     

    Let me add my thanks as well.
    Good to have the "common man", consumer perspective from actual experience.
    Good add to the big picture, technical picture analysis and now hands on!
    8 May 2012, 10:12 AM Reply Like
  • LabTech
    , contributor
    Comments (1778) | Send Message
     
    Futurist,
    Very nice article. I'm curious. Does the KIA Rio use regenerative braking to charge the battery or just the alternator? Considering the abilities of the PbC vs AGM battery for charging, one might assume over time that the system would lose function more quickly if the AGM couldn't handle the higher energy rates from regenerative braking.
    8 May 2012, 02:24 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Not sure of the answer but I don't believe regenerative braking is involved. Good question.
    8 May 2012, 05:37 PM Reply Like
  • Al Marshall
    , contributor
    Comments (631) | Send Message
     
    I drive a Honda Insight in Dallas. That stop-start system does work in hot temperatures although it is diminished somewhat presumably by the energy drain associated with the AC. The car uses an NiMH battery rather than AGM. Could the temperature issue be solely due to the AGM battery? I believe JP recently reported that it does not handle heat as well as a standard lead-acid battery (or the PbC for that matter). Please correct me if my memory is faulty. If the 89 degree issue is an AGM thing then this would be a huge factor relative to PbC in the U.S. market, much of China, and Southern Europe.

     

    One last comment about driving a car with stop-start. Impatient drivers (like me) tend to inch forward as traffic compresses while waiting at a light. If you do this, you could end up having two or three stop-start events at a single traffic light. Of course, that doesn't save fuel, and presumably it puts a lot of extra strain on the car itself. So, it does help to teach patience to the impatient.
    8 May 2012, 02:55 PM Reply Like
  • Futurist
    , contributor
    Comments (2109) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » In the Rio if you remove your fot to inch forward the engine restarts and will not shut off until the car gets above 5 mph for the next cycle to occur. Patience does need to be learned.
    8 May 2012, 05:45 PM Reply Like
  • LabTech
    , contributor
    Comments (1778) | Send Message
     
    Apmarshall62,
    From what I've read about SS systems I think it has less to do with the AGM battery's ability to handle the heat and more to do with the BMS for the SS system and the charge acceptance of the AGM battery. In other words, the NiMH probably holds more energy and can withstand a deeper discharge without damaging the battery so the system allows it to be used at a lower SOC than an AGM battery. Also the NiMH's chemistry probably allows it to recharge faster.
    8 May 2012, 10:20 PM Reply Like
  • John Petersen
    , contributor
    Comments (30629) | Send Message
     
    I don't recall ever reading anything about NiMH batteries having problems with warm weather, but no battery likes cold weather. Once the temperature falls below freezing, most stop-start systems will disable themselves to protect the battery and keep the cabin more comfortable.

     

    When the outside temperature is high, turning off the engine for a minute or two can make for a big difference in driver comfort and most of us will choose a little waste over being too hot.
    8 May 2012, 11:50 PM Reply Like
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