Thursday, December 18, 2008
Ordinarily, under this topic, I would encourage the use of public transit, or cycling as means of getting around. However, because of the current OC Transpo strike, and the winter weather, neither of those options are possible during the winter (although my hat goes off to any who continue to cycle year-round).
With cycling not an option for many in the winter, and public transit off the table for now, most are using cars to get around. Carpooling can help, and is an excellent way of getting to and from work, but during the Christmas season, many of us have errands to run, shopping to do, and relatives to visit – carpooling may not be possible in these cases. What can be done to easily reduce the environmental impact of car use?
Reduce Idling, Reduce Emissions
Idling your vehicle literally gets you nowhere – and costs money. A 1998 study on Canadian driving habits suggests that on average, we idle our vehicles for 3 minutes per day. According to Natural Resources Canada, If we were to eliminate just that 3 minutes per day, that would save each driver 33 liters per year, and abate about 76kg of carbon dioxide emissions. To put that in perspective, on a national scale, that represents an annual emissions reduction of 1.4 million tons, and a savings of around $550 million per year (at current fuel prices).
Any more than ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than is required to start a fuel-injected engine. However, factoring in wear on the starter motor and battery, that jumps to about one minute. So, as a guideline, if you are going to be stopped for more than a minute (except in traffic), turn off the engine.
But I Need to Warm Up My Car Before I Drive…
Contrary to popular belief, excessive idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. Warming up the vehicle means more than warming the engine. The tires, transmission, wheel bearings and other moving parts also need to be warmed up for the vehicle to perform well. The best way to warm it up is to drive it.
What Else Can I Do?
A poorly-tuned engine uses up to 15 percent more energy when idling than a well-tuned engine. Keeping your vehicle properly maintained according to the manufacturer's suggested maintenance schedule is a key to fuel efficiency and reduced GHG emissions.
To minimize idle times in traffic, try running errands in the off-hours – most retail stores have Christmas season hours in effect, meaning they’re open earlier, and later. Take advantage of this to avoid busy parking lots.
Here in Ottawa, with the transit strike still in effect, long waits in traffic are almost unavoidable. However, by carpooling, changing your commute time to a little earlier or a little later, and telecommuting, you can still reduce emissions and idling time.
Posted by Alex Monk