Every other weekend my neighbor engages in the practice of idling his pickup truck in front of his house for what appears to be about 20-30 minutes. This vehicle I have never seen him drive anywhere, as he has a new pickup and some other vehicles for daily driving. The idled pickup is a Chevy longbed from the 1990s. He has another Chevy pickup of about the same vintage which is also idled, but less than the other one. Another neighbor has a Mercury Merkur which he idles for about 30 minutes at a time but never seems to drive it anywhere. He idles it once every 1-2 months.
None of this periodic idling may seems all that problematic. Of course, it’s not only two guys in my neighborhood who are doing it though. It happens all over the country in various forms, and the consequences are considerable, “By one estimate, the annual US fuel consumption that can be attributed to idling due to warming and waiting could be as high as 1.8 billion gallons.”
Idling a vehicle every day for a year could cost as much as $950 in wasted fuel, according to a document published by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
For large diesel trucks or ‘big rigs’ the costs may be much higher. A study published on Energy.gov stated that, “A typical truck consumes 1800 gallons diesel fuel per year in idling. At today’s market price idle fuel consumption costs $4300 per year.”
The fuel costs are the least of the problems. Each year, diesel emissions contribute to many premature human deaths and human illnesses. In a single year, 2015, well over 150,000 premature deaths were linked to diesel emissions.
On its website, the California Air Resources Board, concisely explained what the hazardous components of this type of air pollution, diesel particulate matter, is: “DPM is typically composed of carbon particles (“soot”, also called black carbon, or BC) and numerous organic compounds, including over 40 known cancer-causing organic substances. Examples of these chemicals include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, and 1,3-butadiene. Diesel exhaust also contains gaseous pollutants, including volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen (NOx).”
Diesel air pollution has also been linked to heart disease.
Some diesel truck drivers may idle their big rigs for hours every night when they are sleeping in the rear cabins. If electric semis, like the Tesla, are made available eventually such idling emissions may be reduced or eliminated. Most vehicles used for everyday driving are smaller gas-powered vehicles, not huge diesel trucks, but they also emit toxic air pollution. Switching to electric vehicles will eliminate idling and the toxic air pollution it produces.
If you are not going to make the switch, trying to reduce or eliminate excessive idling could save you some money, reduce harmful air pollution, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.