Idling Your Car Could Cost You Money In The UK

Idling is bad for the environment and bad for your wallet. You’re sitting in place, burning fuel, without going anywhere. And it doesn’t take much effort to turn the key off, yet most people still refuse to do so. I’m as guilty of this as most people.

Sometimes, to get something done, you gotta hit ’em in the wallet. Thats why the town of North Lincolnshire in the UK is considering levying a £20 fine against drivers who, for no reason, leave their cars idling. Is this a case of good intentions gone too far?

Idling your car while you run into the store, even just for a minute, is lazy (and makes you a target for thieves). It also isn’t any good for the environment. The North Lincolnshire Council, in a bid to improve air quality, wants people to stop idling their vehicles. That is all well and good, but levying a fine against offenders doesn’t seem like the best way to go about it. The bill also is without teeth; being the polite Brits that they are, it would make exceptions for the elderly in cold weather or defrosting a windscreen. They’ll even first politely ask you to turn off your car before writing the fine. Should the law pass, you’d only get a fine if you flat-out refused to shut your car when asked by an officer.

As Ford pointed out (in a bid to promote their automatic car starters) letting your car warm up before you drive it actually reduces the emissions coming from your tailpipe. So idling isn’t always bad, even though anti-idling legislation is spreading throughout both the UK and this country. But turning your car off, then back on, doesn’t use any more fuel than letting it idle. In fact, if you’re at an excessively long stoplight, it could even save you a few drops of fuel. In fact, turning off your car at stop lights is a core component of hypermiling. And many new cars are even coming equipped with automatic stop/start engines (especially in Europe).

I’m on the fence about this little law, even though it’ll have no effect on me one way or another. My biggest concern… how do you enforce it? Do you post an idling cop at every stoplight? It isn’t a practical, enforceable law. Passenger cars aren’t even the biggest problem when it comes to idling… big rigs are. The EPA estimates that 960 million gallons of diesel fuel are wasted through trucks idling every year, and the average truck wastes almost a gallon an hour idling. That translates into 11 million tons of CO2 annually. Some states have passed laws against big trucks idling. Mack introduced an anti-idling battery (back in 2007!) that keeps the cab heated and trailers (if need be) refrigerated and allows the engine to be turned off. Spreading that technology, or even making it mandatory, would likely have a much more profound effect then a silly fine. It would also save truckers money, and in time, pay for itself.

Just sayin’.

Source: Belfast Telegraph | Green Car Congress


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.