Be an idol, don't idle!

We’ve provided articles about alternatives to driving and using an electric vehicle rather than a fossil fuel-powered one, but do you know about the implications of something as simple as idling?

Idling is when you leave a vehicle running while it is not in motion. Sometimes you’re forced to idle in traffic, like at a stop light, but luckily there are new technologies available that can prevent this. Most newer vehicles boast an auto start/stop technology that automatically shuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a full stop. A win for technology and the environment! And then, there are the other times… 

Most of the time idling is nothing more than a bad habit: waiting to pick up a child from school, pre-heating your vehicle, or sitting in your driveway listening to the end of your favourite song before you get out of the car. An average vehicle with a 3L engine idling for 10 minutes burns over 1 cup of fuel and produces 690g of CO2. The emissions from vehicle exhaust are toxic to both the environment and our collective personal health.

Health Concerns

The pollutants contained in exhaust have been linked to asthma and other lung diseases, allergies, heart disease, increased risk of infections and cancer, and other health problems. The concerns of which are more prevalent in children as their lungs are still developing — did you know they breathe 50% more than adults?

Environmental Concerns

Vehicle exhaust is a large contributor to smog (low-level ozone), acid rain, and climate change. Transportation alone emits more than half of the nitrogen oxide in our air, the gases that contribute to smog and acid rain. While this concern does apply to both moving and idling vehicles, we know that we still need to get around our vast regional landscape, so we might as well try to do it as cleanly as possible and cut back on idling.

Vehicle Concerns

To rebuttal some common questions, here are some fun facts!

  • It doesn’t matter how good your vehicle is on gas, it still gets zero kilometres per litre while you’re idling.
  • Modern engines require less fuel to start. Idling for 30 seconds wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.
  • This one is a bit more daunting — even personally it is hard to break this habit — you don’t need to pre-heat your vehicle unless it is below -15°C (0°F). The engine takes about 30 seconds to circulate the oil and become fully lubricated, and from there the best way to warm up the engine is to just drive slowly for the first few minutes. Of course, this is only if you can see through the windshield!

What actions can you take to be an idol?

The general rule of thumb is to turn your vehicle off if you will be idling for more than 30 seconds (except in traffic). Not only will this cut pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but it can also even save a few dollars, and we know we need that with today’s gas prices! Keep in mind this applies to locations like drive-throughs as well. Whether you’re rolling by the bank or cruising to get your favourite burger, consider parking and going inside instead.

To learn more about idling and alternatives to fossil fuel powered vehicles, check out the following articles and resources: