Idling your vehicle wastes money, pollutes the air we breathe

Your lungs keep working even in the winter, so remember to turn off your car when you’re not in traffic. To protect the air we all breathe, Minneapolis ordinance limits most vehicle idling to three minutes. Reducing vehicle idling in Minneapolis translates into substantially less air pollution. Reducing air pollution protects the public health and the environment.

Exhaust from an idling car carries a higher load of pollutants than exhaust from a moving car, so reducing unnecessary idling is one easy thing we can all do to improve air quality. Vehicle exhaust releases nitrous oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (tiny particles that lodge in our lungs and release chemicals into our bloodstream) into the air. These pollutants are linked to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease and asthma and are the major source of human-caused global warming. Children are especially vulnerable to vehicle air pollution because their lungs are still developing, and they inhale more pounds of pollution per pound of body weight than adults do.

While most folks are already turning off their cars when they’re not on the move, they sometimes let their cars idle by habit, especially when waiting to pick someone up or dropping something off. But besides helping us breathe cleaner air, reducing idling saves money in fuel. On average a car will burn more than half a gallon of fuel for every hour spent idling. In general, 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel then restarting the car does. All vehicles get zero miles to the gallon when idling.

Another cause of excessive idling this time of year is warming up a car. Warming up a car’s engine in winter needs no more than 30 seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Driving a vehicle cuts warm-up time in half. Idling a cold engine actually pollutes more than driving it does, and idling is harder on the engine.

When the outside air temperature is less than zero degrees, the ordinance allows vehicles to idle up to 15 minutes per hour.

Cutting down on vehicle idling is as easy as turning the key. It will save you money on wasted fuel, it is better for the environment and your health, and it’s the law.

Published Dec 18, 2009