The problems are police cars waste millions of dollars of gasoline every year and add thousands of tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This is caused by police cars needlessly idling to maintain power for lights and other equipment when they don’t need it. Police cars use about a half-gallon of gas and generate about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour when idling.
The solution from InterMotive Vehicle Controls is Eco-Lock. This is an automatic engine stop/start system that provides improved fuel economy, lower vehicle emissions, improved engine life, and extended oil changes by shutting off the engine when it isn’t needed.
When enabled by the driver, Eco-Lock allows an officer to remove the keys from the ignition and leave the vehicle unattended, but with all electrical loads left on, i.e., lightbar, computer, radios. Eco-Lock continuously monitors battery voltages (both OEM and auxiliary battery, if equipped), cabin and two-way radio temperatures, while securing the vehicle’s shift lock, trunk/hatch, and gun rack.
The Eco-Lock solution is cost-effective enough to usually pay for itself in less than a year from the savings of gasoline. For the remaining years of the vehicle’s life, that savings is money not used for gasoline, but is still in the department’s general fund or operating budget, money available of other uses.
Actual idle time reduced depends on the settings and temperatures that are programmed into the unit. For example, setting a cabin temp range of 61°F – 78°F would reduce idle time more than settings of 65°F – 75°F. In addition, the more moderate temperatures found in spring and fall will yield greater savings than summer and winter. That is, savings in Phoenix in the winter may be large but not so much in the summer. Of course, just the opposite in Buffalo.
How Does It Work?
The Eco-Lock module monitors the vehicle’s battery voltage via the CAN bus. There are no wires to cut or splice. All connections to the vehicle are with existing harness connectors using T-harnesses in the Eco-Lock kit. When battery voltages or cabin temperatures move outside of a configurable range, Eco-Lock will automatically restart the engine, charging the battery and enabling the air conditioner or heater (as appropriate).
Eco-Lock will cycle the engine over time only as needed to maintain battery voltages and/or cabin/radio temperatures. Eco-Lock can be used on K-9 units to maintain cabin temperatures in a preset, but tighter, configurable range.
When activated, Eco-Lock disables the gun rack and trunk release for safety and security, preventing the vehicle and its contents from being stolen by turning off the engine and locking the shifter in Park if the key is not in the ignition and someone tries to shift out of Park. Eco-Lock is instantly disabled and vehicle operation returns to normal when the keys are inserted and turned to Run. An LED is provided in the kit that lights when Eco-Lock is active.
In addition to the standard thermistor provided to monitor cabin air temperature, there is an optional bimetal thermostat that can be placed on two-way Radio/Equipment as an additional restart trigger. The bimetallic thermostat switch will close when the surface temperature reaches 150°F and will trigger an engine restart with the cabin air conditioner on max. Once the thermostat switch contacts open again (135°F), the air conditioner will turn off and the engine will shut down with all other conditions met.
The engine only idles when needed; the battery voltages and passenger compartment temperature are monitored; and it automatically restarts the car due to voltage or temperature thresholds and shuts off the vehicle again when thresholds are reached. The module is cost-effective, usually paying for itself in less than a year. In addition to reducing idling for police vehicles, InterMotive also has product applications for ambulances, work trucks, and transit vehicles.
Michael Blackmer retired from Ford Motor Company in 2008, where he was the Crown Vic Police Interceptor platform engineer for 12 years. He may be reached at MPBlackmer52@gmail.com.