Letter: Idling engines bad for environment
December 20, 2013
In my letter about auto emissions (Aspen Daily News, Dec. 18), I wanted to raise awareness of health issues related to idling for the purpose of warming the car and defrosting the windshield. Mr. Norman (letters, Dec. 20, The Aspen Times) asks about the merit of my suggestion to use a small, electric space heater to do this.
In terms of energy use, a 1,500 watt space heater uses about 2 horsepower, or somewhere around 2, of the energy available in a small-automobile engine.
At idle, of course, the engine is not working that hard, but when it is cold a gasoline engine uses much more gasoline to stay running. Any way you look at it, using your car's engine to warm the car up is a very inefficient use of energy. It is a waste of fuel and money on top of being terrible for the environment and your health. The emissions from electricity-generating power plants are not healthy either, but they are not as much of an immediate risk of poisoning you and your friends as what comes out of your car's tailpipe.
The current theory among automobile engineers is that it is best for the engine to get it up to operating temperature as quickly as possible and that the best way to do that is to put a load on it by driving conservatively for the first few miles.
In the dinosaur days of carburetors and leaded gasoline, it made some sense to let the car warm up on its own as it was difficult to drive it when cold. Computer-controlled fuel-injection technology has overcome this problem.
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