It is finally getting colder here in Jersey-land, which means that the folks down the street who own a diesel truck will be letting it idle more in the mornings before they buzz off to work.
Aside from being terribly annoying, especially in the predawn hour, diesel vehicle idling is one of those icky habits that coughs up a lot of dirty emissions. And yet, you'll see everyone doing it because they've been told to—from school bus drivers to commercial truckers. Now, however, the Environmental Protection Agency and states including California are hoping to change this habit. Here's some information from the EPA about idling that is part of its campaign to reduce the practice.
Now, California is poised to enact a law on Jan. 1, 2008, that limits the amount of time that trucks are allowed to idle. Other states, including my own New Jersey, are enforcing existing laws more rigorously. (Here's a blog with all sorts of great resource links if you're looking for more information on the impact of idling.)
Myths aside, there is one big reason that drivers of heavy trucks and diesel vehicles need to idle their engines and that's because the auxiliary systems (like heat or air-conditioning) can't run when they're off. So, if you're a trucker taking a designated rest stop and you happen to be in the desert, clearly you'd be inclined to keep the vehicle running.
Firefly Energy, which develops battery technology, hopes it has the answer in Oasis, a BCI (Battery Council International) Group 31 truck battery that it is making available for review and testing in the first quarter of next year. (I blogged about Firefly a couple of months ago, for background.) According to Firefly, the battery is designed to provide up to 50 percent longer run times when it's used with the truck turned off.
What makes the Oasis battery design different from traditional lead-acid batteries is the addition of non-corridible carbon foam material. The design reduces the lead content of the battery, making it smaller and lighter in weight, and it extends battery life, allowing for more charges and discharges. The company has tested the battery in extreme cold weather to study the impact of cold weather starts and believes it can provide up to 65 percent of its capacity in those conditions vs. 20 percent of capability for traditional batteries.
A commercial edition of the Oasis battery is scheduled to ship next summer, with full production planned for the fourth quarter of 2008.
We're bound to hear more about idling with the winter months approaching. Any ideas or news on this front to share? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.