As winter settles in across Canada, dealerships are working overtime on oil, filter and tire changes, and doing brisk business selling and installing remote vehicle starters that afford customers the convenience of getting into a warm vehicle no matter the temperature outside.
It’s an option Canadian drivers have embraced in growing numbers in recent years, but one that seems completely incongruous with global auto- makers’ goal to develop electrified and reduced greenhouse gas-emitting vehicles.
Who doesn’t know that an idling vehicle, unable to adequately heat its catalytic converter, pollutes at its worst as it sits in the driveway or street-side, warming up for the morning commute? Many people, evidently. Perhaps the real question should be: Does anyone care?
The fact is, remote starters have become part of an important revenue stream for dealerships across Canada, and a popular Christmas gift for many drivers. They won’t be going away anytime soon. Used wisely, they can bring both convenience and comfort in summer and winter, but the simple fact is that they are used by many to wild excess.
Some starters, though by no means all, shut themselves off after 10 or so minutes of operation. Some drivers strictly monitor the idling they do and keep it to a minimum, though they clearly are in the minority.
Public education is the key to reducing the damage caused by these vehicular conveniences. Automakers and dealerships are uniquely positioned to widen people’s understanding of the cost — to the environment, to their vehicles and to their pocketbooks — by excessive idling.
Natural Resources Canada says for the aver- age vehicle with a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine, “every 10 minutes of idling uses over one-quarter of a litre in wasted fuel, and up to one half of a litre if [the] vehicle has a 5.0-litre engine.” Multiplied by millions of idling vehicles, that’s a lot of fuel burned, and cost and pollution generated.
But automakers and dealerships can help cut such unnecessary pollution by taking the initiative to educate their customers about excessive idling.
Information can be given to customers at the time of purchase or installation, or when buyers order the devices installed on their new vehicles. It could be as simple as including a fact sheet outlin- ing the problem and how to minimize it.
For despite the idling epidemic, many people made aware of the problems caused by it will choose to idle less if they know the facts and are made aware of ways to lessen the impact.
That won’t solve the problem, of course, but it might help alleviate it.