Reducing GHG emissions could save Ottawa Police Service $2 million a year

NRC is helping the Ottawa Police Service reduce the environmental impact of patrol cars

October 15, 2012— Ottawa, Ontario

The idle reduction system transfers the electrical load that a patrol car engine normally provides to auxiliary batteries in the trunk. /

The idle reduction system transfers the electrical load that a patrol car engine normally provides to auxiliary batteries in the trunk.

Today’s police vehicles are like mobile offices, with engines running almost 24/7. When not on their way to a crime or accident scene, patrol cars continue to operate mission-critical electrical systems such as emergency lights, police radios and laptops.

But this takes a toll on the environment. A previous study by the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) found that in a typical 10-hour shift, the average patrol car idles for 6.7 hours. And for every hour of idling, the police vehicle consumes 1.7 - 3.7 litres of fuel, depending on the load — the equivalent of driving up to 53 kilometres — while generating 4‑9 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.

In 2009, the OPS became one of the first police services in Ontario to initiate an anti-idling program for its fleet. Three years later, with help from NRC engineers, innovative idle reduction technology — currently installed in four Ottawa police cruisers — is decreasing fuel consumption and reducing carbon emissions, while extending the lifespan of these vehicles.

“By the end of this year, we will have 12 systems installed,” says Staff Sergeant Sean McDade, the OPS fleet manager. “Next year, we hope to double that, subject to funding.”

Annual fuel savings

“On an annual basis, if a cruiser was used two shifts per day, 250 days per year, the estimated fuel that it could save is the equivalent of five trips to Vancouver and back,” says Paul Treboutat, General Manager of NRC’s Surface Transportation. “If you multiply that by the 440 cruisers in the Ottawa fleet, the idle reduction system has the potential to save taxpayers more than $2 million worth of fuel per year.”

The Ottawa Police Service began pilot testing NRC’s idle reduction technology in March 2012. “The Gatineau Police Force has also signed up for pilot testing and the Hamilton Police Force is excited about this as well,” says Treboutat. Eventually, this technology may also be suitable for use in other vehicles that idle frequently, such as taxis and ambulances.

“In the coming months, we’re planning to make licensing opportunities widely available to interested Canadian companies,” says Treboutat.

NRC teamed up with the Ottawa Police Service after Treboutat saw a CTV news show in which Staff Sergeant McDade was interviewed about his anti-idling project. “Afterwards, we arranged a meeting with the police force, because I thought NRC could help them refine their solution,” says Treboutat.

Origins of technology

The original system was built “to demonstrate that we’re taking idling seriously and doing what we can to reduce vehicle emissions and save fuel while not compromising our officers’ ability to do their job,” says McDade. The system was based on an auxiliary heater found in a vehicle he had bought, which allowed the cab to be heated when the engine was turned off. “I thought: let’s take the next step and adapt this concept to meet the power demand in a police car.”

Working with City of Ottawa technicians, “we learned we could transfer the electrical load that a patrol car engine normally provides to auxiliary batteries in the trunk,” explains McDade. “To protect the main cranking battery, we added an isolator, which ensures the power demand will only be drawn from the rear batteries when the engine is off.” They also built a monitoring device to see how well the system is working and how often it’s being used by officers.

NRC enhancements

The first prototype required a police officer to manually turn the vehicle off before the idle reduction system would start monitoring and supplying power to the loads. However, since partnering with the Ottawa Police Service, NRC has refined the technology so this is all done automatically. For example, “if the rear auxiliary battery fall below 11.5 volts — a level necessary to operate the police radio — the idle reduction system automatically starts the vehicle engine and the alternator charges the auxiliary battery,” says Treboutat.

NRC researchers have also improved the original system’s wiring and packaging, making it easier to transfer a system from one vehicle to another, at the end of the first car’s lifespan. In addition, they improved on the system’s self-monitoring capabilities, using cellular technology to automatically transfer idling data from police cruisers to an NRC computer. “This will allow us to collect hard data, such as the annual fuel savings and CO2 emissions reductions, to determine our return on investment,” says McDade.

More information

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