- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

An inventor and his financial backers yesterday showed off a truck battery that allows drivers to take their mandated rest with no idling and no emissions.

The battery took two decades and $75 million worth of private funding to develop. Inventor Benny Jay expects it to save companies and independent drivers millions of gallons of fuel each day.

An idling truck engine burns 1 gallons of diesel fuel each hour, he said, meaning if the engine is idling 12 hours a day, it burns 18 gallons. “That’s 18 gallons of diesel that [a trucker with the battery] doesn’t have to buy,” he said.

With 2 million trucks on the road, he said, that means 20 million to 36 million gallons of fuel is saved each day. At an average diesel fuel price of $1.76 per gallon, that amounts to a daily savings of of $35 million to more than $60 million industrywide.

Once the technology is adopted, Mr. Jay said, it will mean safer highways because, with temperature-controlled cabs and without the noise and fumes of an idling engine, truck drivers will be able to sleep better.

“Most of the accidents occur because of fatigue,” he said, “because the drivers drive too long and they don’t get adequate sleep, even when they’re not driving.”

Under Department of Transportation rules, truckers may drive 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off the road.

Trucking companies aren’t sold on the battery, though.

“If they’re going to save money, it’s going to be a good deal. If they’re not, they’re not going to purchase it,” said Jim Tutton, vice president of the Washington Trucking Associations in Federal Way, Wash.

He said the battery would probably enable drivers to get better rest, but he didn’t know whether that meant it would necessarily make the roads safer.

The cost of the system, including a heating and cooling unit, is about $8,500. Replacing the battery pack, which lasts three to five years, costs about $3,200.

The battery is made of a fiberglass composite that gives it a longer life than a conventional battery.

It has enough energy to run the truck’s environmental control system and supply power to its electronics. “It’s just like a big bucket of energy,” Mr. Jay said.

The batteries are being produced in Beijing, which sought to clean up its air for the 2008 Olympics.

But Mr. Jay said, “It turns out we could make the batteries cheaper in the U.S.” A factory is under construction in Grove, Okla.

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