The High Cost to Society of Idling

Problems caused by idling

There are a number of problems associated with idling:


It’s expensive

Even if the vehicle isn’t moving, if the engine is running, gas and oil are being consumed. With fuel prices as high as they are, few of us can afford to be wasteful. But we are – and to a startling extent! A recent study suggests that during the winter, Canadians idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than 75 million minutes a day, the same as one vehicle idling for 144 years. If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada avoided idling for just 5 minutes we would save 1.9 million litres of fuel worth more than $1.9 million.

Vehicle idling is a great concern to for many businesses and industries, particularly those that have fleets of vehicles for moving goods or people. The average long-haul truck idles away up to $1,790 in profits a year.

It’s bad for breathing

Burning fossil fuels like gas and oil produce emissions that aggravate existing heart and lung diseases, and cause respiratory illnesses. For example, two common tailpipe emissions – hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides – react to form ground-level ozone. Ozone irritates and inflames the respiratory tract.

Do you know anyone with asthma? They’ll thank you for not uselessly idling your car. Ground-level ozone has been implicated as a bronchoconstrictor, causing airways to shrink or close, precipitating deadly asthma attacks. According to Health Canada, more than 16,000 Canadians die prematurely every year because of air pollution.

It’s bad for children

Children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality – they breathe faster than adults and inhale more air per pound of body weight. Air pollution tends to be worse in the late afternoon, precisely when driving parents gather to pick up their children, who excitedly rush from school into clouds of exhaust from idling vehicles. Idling vehicles are also a safety issue.  Children are unaware of a vehicles intent when it sits idling.

It’s ineffective

Contrary to popular belief, idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive. In fact, with today’s modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.

Idling only warms the engine, not the wheel bearings, steering, suspension, transmission, and tires. These parts also need to be warmed up, and the only way to do that is to get the vehicle moving.

It’s damaging

Idling isn’t good for your vehicle. Here’s why: an idling engine is not operating at its peak temperature, which means fuel combustion is incomplete. This leaves fuel residues that can condense on cylinder walls, where they contaminate oil and damage engine components such as spark plugs. When spark plugs are fouled, fuel consumption increases by 4 to 5 percent. Finally, idling can allow water to condense in the vehicle’s exhaust, causing rust in the exhaust system. As if the mean, salty winter roads weren’t enough to corrode your muffler to flaky brown bits.

20 Things you should know about idling

  1. Idling gets you nowhere – and it can be costly. Excessive idling wastes over $100 a year per vehicle, and generates needless greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. Idling produces more emissions per minute than driving.
  3. Engine exhaust (diesel and gas) contains more than 40 hazardous air pollutants.
  4. Traffic areas around schools – where vehicles are often left idling – show significantly higher pollution levels outside (and inside) their buildings.
  5. Contaminants in vehicle emissions have been directly related to significant respiratory health effects. A recent report by Health Canada states 5,900 Canadians die every year from air pollution.
  6. Children are more sensitive to air pollution than adults. In part because they are exposed to more emissions with every breath – children inhale more air per pound of body weight than grown-ups.
  7. Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than turning off the engine and restarting it. If you’re stopping for more than 10 seconds – except in traffic – turn off your engine.
  8. If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada stopped idling for just five minutes, we would save 1.8 million litres of fuel. We would also prevent more than 4,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
  9. Idle-Free Zones are an effective way to increase awareness about idling and to reduce harmful vehicle emissions.
  10. Once a vehicle is running, the best way to warm it up is to drive it. With computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away. The tires, transmission, wheel bearings and other moving parts also need to be warm for the vehicle to perform well. Most of these parts don’t begin to warm up until you drive the vehicle.
  11. Natural Resource Canada estimates Canadian motorists idle 5 – 10 minutes per day, depending on the season.
  12. Driving a vehicle cuts warm-up time in half. It reduces fuel consumption too.
  13. Every 10 minutes of idling costs you at least one-tenth of a litre in wasted fuel – and up to two-fifths of a litre if your vehicle has an eight-cylinder engine. Every litre of gasoline burned produces 2.4 kg of carbon dioxide.
  14. Excessive idling can be hard on your engine. Because the engine isn’t working at peak operating temperature, fuel doesn’t undergo complete combustion. This leaves fuel residues that contaminate engine oil and make spark plugs dirty.
  15. Restarting a car many times has little impact on engine components such as the battery and the starter motor. The wear on parts that restarting the engine causes adds about $10 a year to the cost of driving – money that you’ll likely recover several times over in fuel savings.
  16. If your vehicle has a diesel engine, idling actually lowers the coolant temperature faster than shutting off the engine. In other words, switching off the engine keeps the engine warm longer.
  17. A poorly tuned engine uses up to 15 percent more energy when idling than a well-tuned vehicle.
  18. Using a block heater is a more efficient and effective way to warm the engine than idling. A block heater warms the engine block and lubricants, which makes the engine start more easily and reach its peak operating temperature faster. You don’t need to leave a block heater plugged in overnight to warm the engine – two hours is more than enough.
  19. Idling your vehicle with the air conditioner on can increase emissions by 13 percent.
  20. Many schools have already reduced harmful vehicle emissions around schools, through programs such as “Turn Your Key – This School is Idle-Free” developed by Climate Change Connection and Resource Conservations Manitoba.

Tailpipe Emissions | These are the chemicals produced by a vehicle as it runs

Tailpipe emissions

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These are the chemicals produced by a vehicle as it runs (1):

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Hydrocarbons (HC)
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Particulate matter (PM10)
  • Ozone (O3)

Carbon dioxide (CO2)

Sources:

The combustion of fossil fuels (oil, gasoline, coal, etc.); deforestation.

Every litre of gasoline that is burned produces about 2.3 kg of CO2.(2)

Impacts: Responsible for over 60% of the enhanced greenhouse effect, causing climate change.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Sources: Residential and agricultural fertilizers; high temperature combustion of fossil fuels; incinerators.
Impacts: NOx is 200-300 times more effective than CO2 in greenhouse warming, a major compenent of smog, suppresses vegetation growth.

Hydrocarbons (HC)

Sources: Incomplete combustion of fossil fuel.
Impacts: Reacts with NOx and sunlight to form photochemical pollution (smog), mainly ground-level ozone.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2)

Sources: Combustion of fossil fuels, especially in locomotives, large ships, and construction equipment; mineral extraction from ore, gasoline from oil.
Impacts: Forms acid rain; forms atmospheric particles, reducing visibility and aggravafting existing heart and lung diseases.

Particulate matter (PM10)

Sources: Combustion of fossil fuels, forest and stubble fires, mechanical wear of vehicles parts (break lining, tires, etc.).
Impacts: Particles enter deeply into lungs, adhere to tissue; aggravates asthma, causes respiratory illness, causes premature death.

Ozone (O3)

Sources: Ozone is not produced directly by vehicles. Ground-level ozone is produced when nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide (CO) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as xylene, react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. NOx and VOCs are called ozone precursors.
Impacts: Respiratory illness and distress, ozone makes people more sensitive to allergens, which in turn trigger asthma attacks

http://www.climatechangeconnection.org/Emissions/Tailpipeemissions.htm

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