Up to 10% of a city vehicle's fuel is burned while idling and thus pretty much wasted. Some newer vehicles, particularly hybrids and the Toyota Vitz have intelligent idling systems that turn off the engine when it's not needed and start it back up quickly and efficiently when it's time to move.
A small Japanese volunteer organization has created the iStart, a device that will, I think, retrofit any existing vehicle with an intelligent idling system. Unfortunately, it is entirely unclear how the device works, how it is installed, and what it actually does because I cannot speak Japanese. Their English translation is linguistically fascinating, but it's not much technical use.
I'm fairly certain that the device shuts off the engine upon idling and then immediately turns back on when the foot is lifted from the brake. In terms of the efficiency of the restart, I can say nothing, but it probably averages out to be more efficient than it would be without the device. The iStart costs $490 and can be installed in under an hour. The people at the site are confident that you'll get your money back in gas savings within the year.
To end, I'd like to share a note from the end of the iStart FAQ:
It is and becomes a present to the descendant because the small consideration that it is made who to be is you.
I couldn't agree more.
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