TO IDLE OR NOT TO IDLE
Should be a no brainer one would think, but with the temperatures getting colder, at least here, I see more and more cars idling...in front of stores while the owner is shopping....at schools or at bus stops when parents wait for their children...in drive-through lanes....
After heated debates with friends and family about the topic, I thought a bit of research was in order...
I found four topics to be the most important in connection with idling:
Health, Environment, Money and Car Maintenance.
Let's see what I found in regards to idling and health:
The NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Commission) writes: "Exhaust from idling vehicles can accumulate and pose a health risk to employees, drivers, and the community at large. Exposure to exhaust can cause lung damage and respiratory problems. Exhaust also exacerbates asthma and existing allergies, and long-term exposure is thought to increase the risk of lung cancer"
The EDN (Earth Day Network )states in it's school kit: " Idling harms our health. Vehicle exhaust is harmful to everyone's health, but especially affects children who breathe more and at a faster rate than adults." and
"Asthma is the most common chronic illness in children and the cause of most school absences. Children's asthma symptoms increase from exposure to car exhaust. Children breathe, on average, 50% more air per pound of body weight than adults"
The California Energy Commission: "Idling is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer."
Puh, that stinks....how about the environment?
Natural Resources Canada has a very good write up about all the effects of idling towards climate change, which I would highly recommend reading, but summed up they come to the following conclusion: "In fact, if Canadian motorists avoided idling for just three minutes every day of the year, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 1.4 million tonnes annually. This would be equal to saving 630 million litres of fuel and equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off of the road for the entire year. Eliminating unnecessary idling is one easy action that Canadians can take to reduce their green house gas emissions that are contributing to climate change."
This is just for Canada, if one considers that California alone has more licensed drivers then Canada, just imagine the impact of idling cars in the US...
OK, what about money??
NRDC:" Less idling means less wasted fuel, which can save your company money. A six-cylinder diesel vehicle that idles for one hour a day wastes more than $1600 worth of fuel over the course of a year, with gas at $2.50/gallon." I hope nobody idles quite that long, but considering that gas price are way higher now then $ 2.50/gallon the amount of money wasted could come close.
EDN: "A popular misconception is that idling your car uses less gas than turning it off and restarting. The truth is, if you are going to be sitting more than 30 seconds, it is more fuel efficient to turn your engine off."
Natural Resources Canada: " In fact, one of the most powerful arguments in favour of reduced idling is an economic one. For the average vehicle with a 3-litre engine, every 10 minutes of idling costs 300 millilitres (over 1 cup) in wasted fuel – and one half of a litre (over 2 cups) if your vehicle has a 5-litre engine. Unnecessary idling wastes fuel – and wasted fuel is wasted money."
I see, I see, the car enthusiasts are raising their fingers.....what about the car when it's cold?? I need to idle to warm it up properly, right?
Hmmm, maybe not....let me again quote some authorities:
California Energy Commission:
"Myth #1: The engine should be warmed up before driving. Reality: Idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive the vehicle. With today's modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.
Myth #2: Idling is good for your engine. Reality: Excessive idling can actually damage your engine components, including cylinders, spark plugs, and exhaust systems. Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption.
Myth #3: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle is hard on the engine and uses more gas than if you leave it running. Reality: Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like the battery and the starter motor. Component wear caused by restarting the engine is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money that will likely be recovered several times over in fuel savings from reduced idling. The bottom line is that more than ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine."
Natural Resources Canada again has a informative website about that, the short version being:
"Contrary to popular belief, excessive idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to warm it up is to drive it. [ ] What's often forgotten is that idling warms only 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 drive the vehicle."
BTW, I also saw a lot of people idle here in summer, to keep the inside of their car cool...no car related excuse here...
Next time you are tempted to idle, think twice!