Turn Off Your Engine! (studies & links within article)

Turn Off Your Engine! (studies & links within article)

December 19, 2007 | Posted by Mel Peffers in Automobiles & Fuels

This post is by Mel Peffers, Air Quality Project Manager at Environmental Defense.

Many people idle their car engine in winter because they think it needs time to warm up. Not true! Today’s fuel-injected engines don’t need a warm-up period, and idling for long periods can lead to excessive engine wear.

Worse, cars idling for over 10 seconds use more gas and create more global warming pollution than simply restarting the engine. Surprised? It’s true. The 10-second rule has been proven empirically.

The 10-second rule was originally published by the Canadian Office of Energy Efficiency – Idle-Free Zone. Their results were replicated by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which found that restarting uses the same amount of fuel as idling with the air conditioner on for 6 seconds.

Besides contributing to global warming, diesel engine emissions can cause a whole host of health problems – asthma attacks, impaired lung function, heart problems, and even death. (See this CARB report on health effects for details.)

Idling is a significant problem in large cities like New York and Los Angeles where people are often stuck in traffic. A car in gridlock emits up to three times the pollution as one in free-flowing driving conditions.

Environmental Defense is working with the City of New York on reducing traffic congestion (see allchokedup.org). We’re also working with Mayor Bloomberg on tougher enforcement of the existing idling law, which has been in effect for five years. Plus we are working on a no-idling policy for school buses in Texas, and Truck Stop Electrification (TSE) expansion so truckers won’t need to idle overnight while sleeping. Our GreenFleet initiative helps fleet owners reduce emissions.

Avoiding pollution and engine wear aren’t the only benefits to not idling. You also can save gas and money. Here are some studies that demonstrate it:

Edmonds.com – “…you can drastically improve your gas mileage.”

Homemade Hybrids – “I kicked the idling habit and saved a gallon of gas per tank.”

With this Cost of Idling worksheet [PDF] from Argonne National Laboratories, you can calculate the savings for your own vehicle. For more tips on clean driving, visit Car Talk’s “Driving Tips for Tree-huggers“.

Not idling is good for the environment, good for your wallet, good for engines, and good for health. Everyone wins by simply shutting off an idling engine.


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