When diesel prices climbed to record highs this spring, some truck operators parked their vehicles to protest. In Washington State, independent loggers put on the brakes to demonstrate in favor of fuel surcharges for timber companies, while in California a group of drivers stopped their vehicles on the freeway to protest the cost of diesel. Turning off truck engines can do much more for fleets and owner-operators than lodge a strong complaint, however.
Today, reducing engine idle time can very dramatically cut fuel consumption and attendant costs. Best of all, there are more on-board auxiliary power solutions available than ever before, from diesel-powered generators and fully integrated APUs (auxiliary power units) to new battery-driven solutions, so fleets don't have to sacrifice driver comfort for lower operating costs.
“The idle reduction (IR) business is poised to explode,” says Rex Greer, president of Pony Pack and one of the founding members of the newly created Idle Elimination Manufacturers' Assn., formed to help disseminate information about IR benefits and options. “The recent National Idling Reduction Planning Conference in Albany, NY, this May was extremely well attended by suppliers, fleets, government agencies and others,” Greer says. “There seems to be a new commitment to working together to do what it takes to reduce long-term idling.”
The Pony Pack system, an aftermarket integrated APU, is now also available as an option from Volvo Trucks North America. It utilizes a Kubota 2-cyl., 10.8-hp. engine and a compressor to operate a truck's existing HVAC system and provide 12-volt DC electricity (and a 110-volt AC inverter) to operate truck accessories when the truck's engine is off.
Auxiliary Power Dynamics also makes an integrated APU that incorporates the truck's own fan and condenser into the system. Like Pony Pack, the company has been watching the demand for auxiliary power grow. “We were already sold out through July by mid-May,” notes Will Watson, vp-sales and marketing. “Recently, we added a no-dollars-down lease option to make it easier for small fleets and owner-operators to use our system.”
Business is booming as well at Energy & Engine Technology Corp., manufacturer of the AXP 1000 auxiliary power generator, according to CEO Will McAndrew III. “We get 10 or 20 calls a day now from people who are trying to decide which auxiliary power system will best meet their needs,” he says. “They are no longer talking about whether or not to install auxiliary power; instead it is a question of which system and when.”
In part to meet growing demand for their AXP 1000, the company recently signed the paperwork to acquire BMZ Generators, Pompano, FL. “BMZ generators have been around for many years,” McAndrew notes. “Buying the company not only gives us access to these high-quality generators, but also the ability to expand our AXP production capacity to about 500 units per month.”
Teleflex Canada, maker of the Proheat Gen-4 auxiliary power and climate control system and the Proheat X-45 heater, is likewise reporting increased sales activity and has added two new products to its lineup, according to Mengo McCall, manager of western regional sales. A new Shore Power Manager is designed to permit their no-idle Climate Control Unit, which supplies heating and cooling to the sleeper, to also be powered with grid electricity (AC power) when it is available.
“The Proheat Shore Power kit includes a receptacle for receiving an extension cord, a switching box that knows whether power is coming from the Proheat generator system or from a shore power alternating current (AC) electricity source, and a 12-volt battery charger,” McCall explains. “We have also introduced a new multi-function control panel to automatically start the Proheat Gen-4 to charge low-voltage truck batteries when the system detects the need for it.”
Engine maker Cummins recently added a new integrated generator system to its idle reduction product offerings, which also include an engine idle management system and Onan brand generators. The new Cummins ComfortGuard system uses a 2-cyl. diesel-fueled engine and an Onan generator to power HVAC, lighting and electrical systems (12V DC and 120V AC). According to the company, the fuel lines, HVAC unit, exhaust system and electrical package that comprise ComfortGuard will be factory-installed by truck manufacturers beginning in 2005.
Two new battery-based auxiliary power solutions will also be available for purchase this summer, according to the developers of the systems: Thermo Fan and Idling Solutions‥ While each solution utilizes batteries, they are distinctly different in their approach.
Thermo Fan's Rest Assure Sleeper System (RASS) features a patented, thermostat-controlled, solid-state heat pump (SSHP) of the type used by NASA on the space shuttle, says Eric Barger, vp-operations. “It allows the RASS to operate without the use of a compressor or Freon,” he explains. “The only moving part is the fan.
“The RASS is powered from the truck's batteries,” Barger continues. “A 25-pound, vibration-free, 12 to 15 horsepower ‘Rotogen’ rotary engine, developed in conjunction with Freedom Motors, is connected to the batteries. It incorporates an auto-start voltage detection unit designed to start the Rotogen when the batteries drop to a preset voltage, which permits the batteries to be used to power other auxiliary systems, as well. Once the batteries reach full charge again, the detection unit shuts the Rotogen engine down.”
According to Barger, the system is currently in beta testing and will be available for purchase this summer. “The engine has a four-year or 10,000-mile warranty. Our SSHP has a mean time between failure (MTBF) of 200,000 hours or approximately 20 years,” he adds. “The fans average a MTBF of ten years. We plan to guarantee our heating and cooling system for as long as the purchaser owns the truck it was installed on.”
Idling Solutions is bringing an all-battery IR solution to the market this summer, according to David Han, vp-marketing and sales. “Conventional battery technology has been a limiting factor in the past because the batteries require charging after four to six hours. Our new proprietary battery was originally developed for the aerospace industry. It can operate continuously for eight to fifteen or more hours without recharging by the truck's engine and it has a very quick recharge time, two to five hours depending upon the size of the alternator.
“The complete Idling Solutions system includes a battery pack that takes the place of the truck's regular batteries (creating a significant weight reduction advantage), an HVAC unit produced for us by one of the largest HVAC system suppliers and an inverter for AC electrical power to run onboard appliances and other ‘hotel load’ devices,” he adds. “The system does not require an auxiliary motor so it is absolutely quiet and does not require regular maintenance. Installation can be done as an aftermarket solution and takes about four hours.
“We are already in production and plan to have about 400 units in real-world operation within the next three months,” Han says. “Systems are available for purchase now, and we are prepared to gear up as quickly as market demand requires. There is a full, two-year warranty on the system and extended warranty coverage is also available.”
The chief benefit of onboard auxiliary power solutions of all types is their portability. Because the systems are truck-mounted, they can be used virtually anywhere. To find out more about the onboard auxiliary power options available, see the listing of suppliers included with this report. For information about other idle reduction technologies, including fuel-fired and other no-idle heating and/or HVAC systems, engine idle management technologies plus on- and off-board electrical power solutions, go to Fleet Owner's web site at www.fleetowner.com and click on the link to a special report, “Turn idle time into cash: a how-to handbook on trading engine idle time for profit.”
The ABCs of APUs and Gensets
APUs and auxiliary power generators (gensets) are not really the same, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Auxiliary power units (APUs) typically include an internal combustion engine, compressor and alternator and are fully integrated into the truck's own HVAC system to provide climate control, battery charging and engine heating. The addition of an inverter/charger allows APUs to work as a source of AC power, as well.
Generators, on the other hand, are powered by 1-, 2-, 3- or 4-cyl. diesel engines and actually produce 110- to 220-volt electricity to run AC-powered devices, from heaters and air conditioners to microwaves. Many suppliers also offer a single-source, AC power plus climate-control package to customers, comprised entirely of their own equipment or a mix of their generator system plus a heater and/or air-conditioner unit from other suppliers. DC battery charger functionality is also sometimes available. The Cummins ComfortGuard system combines APU integration with a genset to create a new hybrid approach.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CIRCLE NUMBER ON REPLY CARD:
Integrated Power Units:
Auxiliary Power Dynamics 310
Double Eagle Industries 311
Pony Pack 312
Self-contained Power Generators:
AUX Generators 313
Cummins Commercial Power
Energy & Engine Technology 315
SCS/Frigette Truck Climate
Teleflex Canada 317
Integrated Power Generators:
Battery-based Power Systems:
Idling Solutions 320
Thermo Fan 322