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Going nowhere fast

June 14, 2009

ScreenHunter_02 Jun. 14 17.14I’ve noticed that many people sit in the parking lot, idling their car engines.  Today, I went to Target and the same car parked next to me when I entered the store was still sitting there idling when I returned to my car.

So, let’s say you idle your engine just 10 minutes a day which is easy to do:  2 minutes in front of the Dunkin Donuts to pick up your Coolata and chocolate glazed donut, 3 minutes at the McDonald’s drive in window to pick up your #2 with a diet coke and 5 minutes while you wait for your kid to finish dance class.  Over the course of a week, you will have idled 70 minutes.  Over a year it amounts to just over SIXTY hours!

Don’t care about the noxious witch’s brew your car is emitting?  Maybe the cost will make you think twice.  Driving a 4 cylinder car and paying $2.50 a gallon for gas, you’ll be spending $182.50 to go no where.  Drive an 8 cylinder and the price is just shy of $640.

Every 10 minutes of idling costs you at least 2/10 (0.2) of a gallon of gas – and up about 7/10 (0.7) of a gallon for an 8-cylinder engine. Keep in mind that every gallon of gas you use you produce about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide (ref 1).

From Car Talk’s experts Ray and Tommy:

What’s your MPG when you’re idling? It’s negative! You’re actually burning gas… and going nowhere.

If you’re sitting outside a tattoo parlor waiting for your grandmother, and you know it’s going to take her a good 15 minutes to get that new Komodo dragon tattooed on her left butt cheek, turn off your engine. You’re just burning money. Some people have heard a myth that it takes more gas to start a car than to run it. So they use that as an excuse to leave a car idling. It’s complete B.S. If you’re stationary for more than a couple of minutes, shut it off, and save gas (ref 2).

Imagine if ALL vehicles in the US shut down automatically at idle, we could cut our fuel consumption by 10 percent. Or about 40 MILLION gallons a day!  (ref 3)

Some interesting facts (ref 4)

  • Modern, fuel injected cars start so quickly and meter gasoline so carefully, that practically none is wasted on starting.
  • Excessive idling can be hard on your engine. Because an engine is not working at its peak operating temperature, fuel does not undergo complete combustion. This leaves fuel residue that contaminates engine oil and makes spark plugs dirty.
  • A poorly tuned engine uses up to 15 percent more energy when idling than a well-tuned vehicle. Keeping your vehicle in good condition is a key to fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Idling your vehicle with the air conditioner on (to keep the interior cool) can increase emissions by 13 percent.
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