Clean Transport Quallion and the U.S. Department of Energy collaborate on new technology to reduce truck idling

Published on October 10th, 2010 | by Tina Casey

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What is The MATRIX? Hint: It’s a New Battery that Will Stop Trucks from Idling

October 10th, 2010 by  

Quallion and the U.S. Department of Energy collaborate on new technology to reduce truck idlingIf I was Morpheus I could just say “Well, we can’t tell you what it is, you’d have to see it for yourself,” and this post would be over, but that would be lame, so here goes. The MATRIX is a new lithium-ion battery that will help reduce the need for truck idling, thereby making a huge dent in the amount of greenhouse gas, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions spewed forth by parked trucks.  The technology was developed by California-based Quallion with an assist from the U.S. Department of Energy – thanks to Recovery Act funding, of course.

The MATRIX

MATRIX is Quallion’s proprietary lithium-ion battery. It’s based on a modular design, which lowers costs by reducing the need to customize new units for different uses. A typical unit consists of masses of small cells linked in a way that keeps the system operating even if some of the cells fail. The small size of the cells also enables the system to dissipate heat more quickly, which helps reduce safety risks related to high temperatures.

Truck Idling

The Department of Energy estimates that the nation’s fleet of 460,000  long-haul trucks averaging six hours of idling per day account for about 838 million gallons of diesel fuel annually. The MATRIX battery is part of a new anti-idling system for class 6-8 heavy duty trucks, which Quallion unveiled at the San Jose Battery Show last week. The system was designed to provide up to ten hours of battery power for cooling. Along with saving fuel, the use of a battery prolongs the life of an engine, and the MATRIX battery is far lighter than conventional lead-acid batteries, saving additional fuel and engine wear.

Recovery Act Funds and Green Jobs

Quallion built its new MATRIX battery factory right here in the U.S.A., in California, with the help of Recovery Act funds through the Department of Energy. The company is currently working with DOE on further testing that will lead to a commercially viable system. DOE has been pumping significant Recovery Act resources into domestic next-generation battery production in the U.S., including funds for new factories in rust belt states like Michigan that could sure use a boost from new green jobs.

More Anti-Idling Technology Coming Soon

Truck stop electrification can be used to funnel electricity from the grid to parked trucks, and it could also leave the door open for installing solar panels at truck stops.  Onboard solar panels for buses and fire trucks are also being tested as a means of reducing idling, and this could be adapted for heavy duty truck use. The maritime industry is being targeted for anti-idling programs relating to tugboats, which spend a significant amount of time idling or performing tasks with low energy requirements. Many of these programs would not be advancing without the help of federal and state clean energy and anti-pollution funds, both of which could be in jeopardy if obstructionists carry the day in the upcoming election. So, stay tuned (or better yet, don’t forget to vote).


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Retirefund

    What a relief it will be to have “all” trucks with this ability. With all the new lithium battery technology being developed, it stands to reason that companies in this business will benefit from lower cost, while we benefit with cleaner air.

  • This solution seems to offer more promise than the IdleAire systems. It could potentially appeal to the actual decision makers in the process. For most truck drivers (everyone except owner operators), fuel is reimbursed while other expenses are not. For those who can write off the IdleAire expenses, it can take weeks for them to be reimbursed by their company.

    The real issue is that truck drivers aren’t the primary decision maker when it comes to how long they have to idle. The Refer drivers need to idle out of necessity. Others idle because that’s company policy. Until a solution comes along that saves companies significant money, without adding a potentially onerous burden of verifying and reimbursing driver claims, not too much will be done.

    IdleAire could contract with fleets (if they’re offering a cost effective alternative to idling). But a new onboard alternative, if cost effective, could drive change much quicker, without the additional downsides of IdleAire type systems.

    I think the success or failure of this comes down to cost and how well they’re able to train service mechanics on the new system. These trucks drive a lot of miles every week and often require service. How easy that maintenance is for the new battery will play a big role in wide spread adoption in the industry.

    It’s great to see companies out there looking for solutions like this. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on to see how it plays out.

    • Tina Casey

      Kevin: Thank you for your insightful comment. Some forms of sustainable energy, either stand-alone or combined with conservation and storage technologies, provide the end-user with far more flexibility to collect and use energy independent of cost per unit, as is the case with diesel fuel and other conventional sources. Gosh I don’t like to say “empower” but that’s pretty much what it comes down to in terms of individuals having access to future energy technology.

  • Chris G

    My hope is that most/all OTR long haul trucking eventually ends up on a train.

    But the facts remain that there will be some use of trucks. And if these systems can help reduce fuel charges and pollution, it is better for us all.

    And of course better battery design will eventually allow cheap storage for renewable energy.

  • Jon_K

    Truckers love to idle their trucks. Last spring we stayed a couple of places near truck stops with “IdleAire” systems, fancy air conditioning, power, and cable hook-ups designed so truckers can turn off their engines and use these systems. Almost nobody was, though. The Idle Air systems were idle and all those trucks, dozens of them, idled the whole night long.

    http://www.idleaire.com/

    • Tina Casey

      Jon_K: I can’t imagine anyone passing up a noiseless, odorless power source in favor of an onboard diesel engine, unless the economics don’t work out. It’s also possible that the “IdleAire” system you describe was designed only for energy needs in the cab, so for example a refrigerated truck would still need to run its engine. Anyone out there have any info on this?

    • Jon_K

      I Googled “Idleaire review” to see what I could find out. The complaints are that it’s not cheap, maybe cheaper than idling your truck all night but not by a whole lot and if the last guy to use it was a smoker it smells like it. There are also issues with reimbursement from the trucking companies.

      What truckers like about it is the quiet, no noisy engines all night, but it does nothing for refrigeration trucks so if you’re parked next to one of them, you’re still in for a noisy night.

      The makers are pushing forward with more installations and better air filtering.

      • Tina Casey

        Jon_K: Thanks for the extra info!

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