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TORONTO, Ont. - Idling is so pass. Most owner/operators and fleet managers no longer need convincing that the single most effective way they can reduce operating costs is to eliminate unnecessary idl...

TORONTO, Ont. – Idling is so pass. Most owner/operators and fleet managers no longer need convincing that the single most effective way they can reduce operating costs is to eliminate unnecessary idling. However, choosing an idle-reduction system that meets their heating, cooling and power requirements has never been more complicated thanks to an influx of new technologies and impending emissions requirements that will add cost and complexity to some anti-idling solutions.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has placed stringent new emissions standards on manufacturers of anti-idling devices such as auxiliary power units (APUs) and diesel-fired cab heaters. As of Jan. 1, 2008, all new trucks operating these devices within California must adhere to strict particulate matter emissions limits.

The impending CARB requirements should be of concern for all truckers, even if they don’t operate within California, noted Reid Landis, marketing project specialist with Webasto.

“When organizations and authorities as influential as CARB begin enforcing restrictions, the remainder of environmentally-friendly states and provinces take notice and at times, follow the leader,” Landis says. However, he adds California has the worst particulate matter problems in all of North America and as such “they tend to be first to act on health-related issues.”

John Dennehy, vice-president of marketing and communications with Espar, adds the ‘C’ has been dropped from CARB for all intents and purposes and that California’s standards are already being eyed by other regions, particularly in the northeastern US. It may only be a matter of time before CARB’s stringent emissions limits become the industry standard.

“There’s a lot of anti-idling enforcement going on out there,” says Dennehy.

For the most part, diesel-fired heaters are already CARB-compliant. However, most manufacturers are still wading through the cumbersome approval process.

Espar’s system has already been CARB-certified while Webasto, Teleflex Power Systems and others eagerly await approval from CARB, with expectations their systems already meet the impending emissions standards.

For APU manufacturers, the challenges involved in becoming CARB-compliant are more complex. Most APUs will require the addition of a separate diesel particulate filter (DPF), which will add cost and complexity to current systems.

“We are taking the DPF route to address the emissions that are going to be restricted by CARB,” confirms Irfan Rehmanji, product manager for APUs for Teleflex Power Systems, which manufactures the Carrier ComfortPro APU. “We are working with a DPF developer, we have units on test and will be doing extensive field testing as required by the CARB verification process.”

An APU particulate filter will operate much like the DPFs found on trucks with EPA07 engines. For the most part, the filter will regenerate passively, burning off particulate matter with no driver input required. Periodically, the filter will need to be removed and cleaned. Teleflex is targetting a 1,000-hour cleaning interval – in line with existing preventive maintenance requirements.

“It’s self-cleaning, but there does come a point where they will have to lay hand on it,” says Rehmanji.

“We looked at that option really closely,” Rehmanji says. “But it was not feasible for many reasons.”

He warns tampering with the main DPF may void warranty coverage. Adding a DPF to an APU is inevitably going to increase the purchase price, Rehmanji admits.

“There’s definitely a price associated with this, but it’s an essential thing,” he says.

So will the escalating price point for APUs drive customers towards cheaper alternatives such as diesel-fired heaters? Or have truckers become too dependent on the added versatility and power options afforded by APUs?

Webasto’s Landis is confident there will be a renewed interest in the more economical diesel-fired heaters.

“Owner/operators are businesses too and they are just as conscience of return-on-investment as any huge fleet,” he says. “Getting into a no-idle device that is less expensive and does more than it’s asked to is the answer for every business owner.”

But Espar’s Dennehy adds “It’s really what you can afford and where you travel that will dictate what kind of system you need.”

If an owner/operator or fleet operates strictly in Canada and is only concerned about heating, the diesel-fired heater is a no-brainer, according to Teleflex Power System’s director of marketing, Derek Pettingale.

“An air heater can be paid for in less than a season of use under fairly liberal conditions,” Pettingale points out. “Air conditioning is more power-intensive, so that really starts to move you towards a gen-based APU system. They are more expensive so the payback takes longer than an air heater would.”

Bob Causton of Etobicoke, Ont.-based Tuff Trux, offers a wide variety of anti-idling technologies. He says new customers should evaluate their heating, cooling and power requirements before deciding on which solution is right for them.

“In the end, it gets down to how many hours per day you idle,” he explains. “Calculate how much fuel that represents and then take that amount of fuel burnt in a month and spin it back into revenue miles. If you saved 300 gallons of fuel, at 6 mpg that’s 1,800 miles of revenue you could have driven with the same amount of fuel you blew up the stack.”

Causton says there isn’t a whole lot separating the various brands of APUs when it comes to fuel consumption.

“The fuel consumption of the engine at average load is about the same across the board,” he says. “Where there’s a huge difference is between the one litre per hour burned by a 5 kW gen-set and the four to five litres the truck engine would have burned.”

Causton said if power for items such as a fridge, microwave or laptop computer is important, an APU is generally the best option since a diesel-fired heater for warmth coupled with a 3 kW inverter for power begins driving the price point closer to that of an APU.

“You’re three-quarters of the way to a low-end gen-set in dollars and you still don’t have a way to charge your batteries while stationary and you haven’t accomplished the A/C component of it,” Causton points out.

If you do opt for an APU, there are a wide range of considerations involved in finding the right one. Cooling capacity, frame rail space requirements, weight, electrical load requirements and of course price will all impact your decision. To find out what solution is best for your individual application, it’s best to talk to a knowledgeable dealer.

Causton does attempt to steer customers away from systems that are fully-integrated with the truck’s own HVAC system. Integrated APUs are often said to deliver improved heating and cooling for large sleepers or those with dual bunks.

However, Causton points out it takes 22-28 hours to install an integrated APU whereas a stand-alone system can be completely installed within 10 hours.

“The more you integrate into a vehicle’s system the more complicated it is to install, remove and maintain,” he says. “Some of these systems are so independent they do everything completely on their own – the only connection they have to the truck is the fuel tank and battery. Everything else is done within the realms of the APU and they’re simple.”

They also allow an owner to easily switch the APU to their next vehicle.

Customers also have a new option to consider when it comes to anti-idling technology.

Some OEMs such as Kenworth and Peterbilt have rolled out their own battery-powered cab comfort systems. Kenworth’s Clean Power, for instance, charges up while the truck is in operation and then provides heating, cooling and hotel-load power for up to 10 hours in ambient temperatures of up to 35 C or as low as -7 C.

The Clean Power system is completely noise- and emissions-free and uses no fuel (except for the 0.12-0.24 litres per hour required to rec
harge the system as it runs down the road).

“It’s going to be a lot lower maintenance than an APU and the system will be CARB-compliant,” says John Duffy, manager of advanced technology with Kenworth.

The system is powered by “off-the-shelf” 12-volt deep-cycle batteries that have a life expectancy of three to five years. They will lose power gradually, as batteries tend to do, Duffy admits. However, he points out replacing the batteries will be the only maintenance required. The jury is still out on the new OEM cab comfort systems. The first of these systems are just now being rolled out. However, even those self-professed APU guys are taking notice.

“That’s the future,” Causton admits of battery-powered systems. “The 12-volt battery technology is going to take over.”

Espar’s Dennehy also feels the industry will lean towards battery-powered solutions – eventually.

“In five to 10 years I think that’s where the market is going to be driven,” he says. “But I think the research and development is still needed on the battery systems themselves. I think it is the future, but there’s a lot of work to be done on these systems. They can’t just provide power for eight to 10 hours, they need to last for 16-20 hours.”

Not everyone is as convinced.

“Battery-based systems add weight and expense,” Webasto’s Landis is quick to point out.

And Teleflex’s Rehmanji adds “Battery systems provide a finite supply of energy. There will be a segment that will be fine with that but there’s a large segment where it’s not going to meet their needs. Batteries don’t last forever and batteries don’t work well in extreme conditions.”

The bottom line is that battery-powered cab comfort systems offer customers one more way to eliminate idling – and that’s pretty cool.

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