The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that vehicles burn approximately six billion gallons of fuel every year while idling.
A recent opinion piece by Lisa Frusztajer in Cape Cod Times focused on vehicle idling nationwide and its effects. According to Frusztajer, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDE) estimates that the U.S. wastes six billion gallons of fuel annually by idling with. USDE has reported that about half of these statistics are for personal vehicles such as cars and trucks. Frusztajer reported that these types of vehicles consume “12 gallons of fuel per vehicle per year from idling – enough to fill most gas tanks.” The Cape Cod Times piece also posted that idling costs $8 billion a year nationwide “and spews an extra 30 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air.” With USDE reporting that long-haul truck idling costs $3 billion a year annually, that leaves approximately $5 billion of annual costs associated with personal vehicle idling.
This excessive amount of fuel usage is not only costly but also damaging to vehicle engines. According to Popular Mechanics, idling a car “does not prolong the life of your engine; in fact, it decreases it by stripping oil away from the engine’s cylinders and pistons.” Additionally, Idle-Free California reports that as the engine runs during vehicle idling, “ghost miles” accumulate. “Ghost miles” is a term used to describe the accumulated wear of an engine when the vehicle is idling. This type of wear and tear is similar to the type of erosion experienced when the vehicle is in drive, but the vehicle’s mileage meter doesn’t reflect it. “Ghost miles” are problematic, because a vehicle which doesn’t travel very far but idles for long periods of time would have the engine wear of a vehicle that has driven farther. Vehicles that tally up “Ghost miles” run the risk of experiencing a “shortened life of motor oil, spark plugs and exhaust systems, plus decreased fuel mileage” according to Idle-Free California.
This estimated annual waste of fuel isn’t only costly in terms of vehicle maintenance and repair. Multiple states have established laws making it illegal to idle an engine for more than a certain amount of time. According to CDL Life, at least 25 states have idling laws for long-haul trucks, but many of them have rules in place for personal vehicles as well. If vehicles are caught disobeying these laws, drivers could receive a fine from the government.
This additional idling is also hazardous to people’s health. The 30 million tons of carbon dioxide released every year by idling vehicles increase the amount of nationwide air pollution. Stealth Power’s most recent blog post, “What Effects Does Air Pollution Have on Your Body?” covered some of the many health problems which are more prevalent in an area with high amounts of air pollution. From increased levels of dementia and Alzheimers to higher chances of allergies and preterm births, high levels of CO2 leave the local population’s health at risk.
With so many negative outcomes to idling, it is important to employ idle-reducing methods and technologies in order to decrease its effects. Frusztajer explains that “eliminating unnecessary idling would be the equivalent of taking…5 million personal vehicles off of the U.S. roads.” A reduction of this magnitude would make a real improvement in national air quality. It would also drastically reduce the national financial costs of idling every year. Idle-reducing technologies such as Stealth Power’s mobile battery systems can help reduce vehicle idling’s negative costs and bring about a better quality of air nationwide.