AFVI Show: Diesel anti-idling technologies save money while you sleep

We're not unfamiliar with the trouble with emissions spewing out of idling diesel vehicles here on AutoblogGreen, but I personally don't know much about what's being done on the technological side to halt this oh-so-common pollution source. So yesterday morning I headed over to the Rest Assured: Idle Reduction Technology Saves Money While You Sleep session at the AFVI Show and found out that there's a lot being done to make driving a truck (or school buses) a much cleaner business. A lot of this depends on new ways to power a truck cab when it's stopped, something that in the past have been accomplished by idling the huge diesel engine under the hood. Now, there are other ways to do this. Electricity-generating treadmills for overweight truckers were joked about, but they're not readily available.

Stacy Putnam, from ICF International, spoke about the EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership. SmartWay is a voluntary partnership between freight industry companies and the EPA that was started in February 2004 with 15 charter partners. It now has over 500. When companies (mostly freight carriers but also logistics and shipping companies) join the partnership, they either agree to reduce their fuel use or to ships products with carriers that are trying to reduce fuel use. Through the Freight Logistics Environmental and Energy Tracking (FLEET) performance model, partner companies figure their current fuel use and set goals for future years. The new SmartWay model will incorporate using biodiesel and ethanol.

Read more after the jump.

It's obvious that trucks idle in traffic, but it's the discretionary idling (keeping cab warm or cold when stopped, for example) where a lot of savings can be had. SmartWay engineers test and verify idle reduction technologies to let industry partners know which technologies are for real and seriously reduce fuel use. Lower fuel use means – ta-da – lower fuel costs, and another benefit to the company is the ability to use the SmartWay logo, which tells customers that the company is green (or trying to be more green at the very least). On March 30th, SmartWay launched the SmartWay Truck, a branding system that applies to the cleanest long-haul Class 8 trucks on the road and will be applied to 2007 or later engines with anti-idling technologies.

Jeff Kim, Chief Operating Officer of Shure Power of Portland, Oregon said that trucks idle because a cab is a home on wheels with VCRs, refrigerators, microwaves and more. Since government regulations require 10-hour rest periods, truckers rely on their cab to keep them comfortable a lot of the time. Idle reduction technologies include idle limiting devices, auxiliary power units (APUs), batteries, and automatic start-stop systems that monitor cab temperature and regulate the engine. APU (generators) provide heat and cooling form a small off-road diesel engine. There are also battery-based APUs and fuel-fired heaters are small units that can heat the cab. Kim said that after about 500 idling hours, pretty much any idle-reduction technology will save the operator money. Those options can be used anywhere the truck is parked. When the driver is at your nearby Country Iron Griddle Home Skillet Restaurant truck stop, TSE is an option.

TSE stands for Truck Stop Electrificaion and it provides power, phone, internet and independent heating/air conditioning units to trucks for about $2 an hour at truck stops. Shurepower's Truck Electrified Parking (STEP) is in use in the Northwest. It provides similar features as the standard TSE, but the only connection to local utilities is an extension cord (traditional TSE is a big tube that comes in the cab window). STEP is built into the cab and independent units are also available. EPRI, NEC and SAE are working on electrical standards for cabs and truck stops.

While TSE can save money, Kim said the ability to provide cable TV and internet connectivity might be more important to shipping companies because it keeps drivers happy. And in an industry with a tremendously high turnover rate like the trucking industry, that might be the most important connection of all.

David Chen from CARB then spoke on California's heavy duty diesel vehicle idling regulations, and as well all know, California's automotive regulations have a way of affecting the rest of us. Currently, there is a five minute limit on idling (except sleeping berth vehicles) for vehicles over 10,000 lb. gross weight - like trucks and school buses - when within 100 feet of a home or school. As of Jan. 1, 2008, sleeper trucks will lose their exemption. The exemption was originally included because CARB wasn't sure about the efficacy of idling alternatives, but since these technologies are now more widely available, the exemption is going away. Trucks with a California-certified engine, 2008 model year and later, will have automatic shutdown devices installed. This device shuts the engine down after five minutes, is non-adjustable and tamper-resistant and installed by the engine manufacturer. When the parking break is not on, the timer shuts the engine down after 15 minutes. Bypasses include operating a power take-off device (like a cement mixer), when the engine is below 60 degrees F (so it can warm up without hassle), during service and maintenance and during catalyst regeneration.

Just a few numbers from Kim's presentation to compare idle-reduction technologies: Diesel-fueled APS use about .2 gallons per hour versus about a gallon an hour if you're powering the cab comfort devices from the main engine. Battery-powered APS recharge during four to six hours of driving and provide ten hours of operation. Fuel-fired heaters use between .02 and .16 gallons of fuel per hour to heat the cab.

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