November 16, 2009 By Elaine Rundle
With all the technology, like laptops and radios and other equipment, that police and law enforcement vehicles are required to run, it's no surprise that dead car batteries are constantly plaguing officers. When Energy Xtreme presented its anti-idling technology to the Dallas Police Department as a way to reduce vehicles' carbon dioxide emissions, Fleet Manager Lt. Dale Barnard thought it could also help eliminate the problem of dead batteries in police cars.
Barnard said police officers are constantly faced with the dilemma of what to do with their cars when working in the field. Should they leave the car's lights on, but take the keys and lock the door? Should they leave the car running, but have to worry about it being stolen? Should they sit idling to power the technology, but waste gas in the process?
The anti-idling technology is a power management solution that operates a car's electrical system while it's turned off. Barnard said it consists of two solid state power storage devices that are installed in a car's trunk. "You could leave the headlights on, the spotlight on, the red lights on, the radio on, and we've gone to full-sized laptops in all the cars -- so it's an enormous amount of power drain -- and you could leave all that equipment on for up to 5 hours with the engine off," he said.
The department installed the company's power management system -- called the Independence Package -- in a Dodge Charger in March. It was the first time the company installed the device in that car model, so the engineers designed a custom box to fit the car. Barnard said it took the company about three weeks to outfit the car, but going forward it will be a quicker process. "It's literally two wires. It just bolts into the car and then you connect two wires, and then you're done," he said. "It's an extremely simple connection."
Two computer tracking devices are connected to the system to track usage. Every 30 days Barnard sends the tracking devices back to the company where the information is downloaded into its proprietary software. Barnard said he is then sent a report that outlines the average number of hours per day that the system operated. Therefore, the amount of eliminated idling -- and the estimated fuel and carbon dioxide emissions savings based on the eliminated idling time -- is calculated.
"It was telling me, according to that computer, that 4.87 hours a day I was running my equipment from that solid state device," he said. "So that's almost five hours a day that my engine wasn't idling, and any mechanic could tell you that the worst thing you could do to a car is idle the engine."
Barnard said that for every hour a car idles, one gallon of gas is wasted. Idling also creates "ghost miles." "They've done several studies nationally over the years that say that every hour you idle the engine it's equivalent to 33 to 35 miles of engine driving time wear and tear," he said. "Ghost miles never appear on your odometer, but they cause extra damage."
The Dallas Police Department replaces police cars at 100,000 miles, according to Barnard. He has started the process to re-examine if the device would extend cars' lifespan on the police force.
Barnard said the system cost about $3,900, and he has a pending grant to purchase 125 more devices.
Another benefit to police officers is the system can jump-start other vehicles. Since it's located in the trunk, police officers don't have to park the vehicles engine to engine, which can be dangerous on a highway or other busy roadway.
It also ensures that police officers are never stranded. Barnard said there's an emergency button on the solid state device that when pushed powers the car's engine. This could be especially beneficial to officers who work in rural areas.
"It provides the officers the ability to have constant, never-ending power. Whether or not the engine's running doesn't make any difference," he said. "They can power anything they want to power; they can jump-start anything they want to jump-start; they're never left stranded."