Because it's about 40 percent lighter than a conventional starter, not only is it easier to install, but also the reduction in weight will help increase the car's fuel efficiency. The Suzuki MR Wagon, which launched in Japan earlier this month, is the first car to have the new starter.
The starter can be used for compact cars powered by gasoline engines of 660 to 1,200 cc displacement, but no word yet on when it will appear in North American vehicles.
Instead of just shrinking down the size of the starter, Denso re-engineered the way it works. The company said in a press release that it "developed a pinion shift mechanism that separates the clutch and pinion so only the pinion needs to engage with the engine ring gear, whereas in conventional starters the integrated clutch and pinion needed to be shifted toward the ring gear to engage."
Denso also has a starter, which is about 30 percent lighter than existing ones, for vehicle engines of 1,200 to 2,500 cc. Denso plans to produce 5 million units of both models per year for markets in China, Thailand, Brazil, and India.
"Since early in its inception, Denso's challenge has been to make its products smaller and lighter. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Because starters operate only when the engine is cranked, the greatest technical challenge has been to reduce their size and weight," said Masahiko Miyaki, senior executive director responsible for Denso's Electric Systems Business Group. "Denso has overcome this challenge and dramatically reduced the weight of this new starter by using an innovative pinion shift mechanism that separates the pinion and overrunning clutch."