A new-generation microhybrid starter motor-alternator developed by Europe’s Eureka research network will make it to the market beginning next year, officials say.

The i-StARS project, coordinated by France’s Valeo Electrical Systems, spent €9.85 million ($12.9 million) to develop the second-generation stop-start technology, whose aim is to create significant environmental improvements to vehicle performance without forcing auto makers to radically change engine design.

Valeo says the equipment will be used in more than a million cars by France’s PSA Peugeot Citroen from 2010-2011. A note from Eureka forecasts suggest a 4% penetration rate worldwide in the automotive market for such microhybrid applications by 2015.

“Not only will it be possible to reduce (fuel)-consumption emissions…but this translates into a 6% saving in fuel use for the car driver,” says Derek de Bono, Valeo’s marketing director.

In addition to the PSA applications, he says discussion are under way with “all the other car makers in Europe. There is interest in Asia, particularly from China, which is keen to reduce energy needs, and in the U.S.A.,” where a 35 mpg (6.7 L/100 km) fleet fuel economy is targeted for 2020.

Working through Eureka, which formalizes collaborative research ventures in Europe, Valeo teamed up with two microelectronics firms, ON Semiconductors (formerly AMI Semiconductors) in Belgium, which developed the application-specific integrated circuits controlling and driving the system, and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. operations in France, which created the power-switching transistors.

In starter mode, the engine fires up immediately and silently via a belt that links the system to the crankshaft, a Valeo technical briefing note says. The belt also can drive other accessories, such as the air conditioning compressor, the water pump or the power steering.

“A reversible tensioner allows power to be transmitted in both directions, depending on whether the i-StARS starter alternator is working as a starter or a generator,” the technical paper says.

The system’s battery is designed to deal with high charge/discharge cycles. It has a sensor that prompts the system to inhibit the stop-start function if the charge level is too low and restart the engine if the charge level drops below a critical threshold.

Valeo says i-StARS system is “the ideal product to achieve fuel savings and to improve comfort by doing away with the vibrations and noise made by the engine when it stops and restarts.”