Cleantech Company Showcase — IdleAir (Transportation)

image of IdleAir Stations

IdleAir electrification stations for truck drivers. Image courtesy of www.idleair.com.

Clean Air From a Good Night’s Sleep?

IdleAir is an innovative company that provides long-haul truck drivers an alternative to idling their engines during rest periods. Through nationwide truck stops, IdleAir provides heating, AC, internet, and TV services to truckers – allowing them to get a good night’s sleep without emitting the diesel exhaust from an idling engine. In addition, IdleAir users save a gallon of diesel fuel per truck per hour and prevent wear and tear to their vehicles, lowering truck maintenance and repair costs for an entire fleet.

The company made headlines recently for its new partnership with GM subsidiary Chevrolet. On January 31, 2013 the car company announced its intentions to invest in the IdleAir technology and expand its availability across the nation. This initiative is part of Chevrolet’s broader carbon-reduction campaign to reduce carbon emissions. Launched in November 2010, Chevrolet seeks to invest up to $40 million in various carbon-reducing projects with a goal of reducing eight million tons of CO2.

Bouncing Back from Recession

Founded in 2000 in Knoxville, Tennessee, IdleAir once had more than 130 sites in 34 states. Unfortunately, recessionary pressures got the best of the company, and IdleAir filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008.

Luckily for IdleAir, and truck drivers, a group of cleantech-minded investors and businessmen bought the rights to IdleAir’s core intellectual property and technology in 2010. The new investment group, Convoy Solutions, LLC set out to restore IdleAir’s business and ramp up locations across the United States. Since the relaunch in 2010, IdleAir has secured over $15 million, in addition to the as yet undisclosed investment dollars from Chevrolet.

IdleAir Technology

IdleAire, Inc., IdleAire Technologies Corporation, and parent company, Convoy Solutions LLC, currently own five pending patent applications, and four issued patents.

 Application Database: Assignee IdleAire or Convoy

PAT. NO.

Title

20120060975     Apparatus For Providing Convenience Services To Vehicles
20060154591     Apparatus for controlling the environment of a parked vehicle
20030199242     APPARATUS FOR CONTROLLING THE ENVIRONMENT OF A PARKED VEHICLE
20030036346     Apparatus for providing convenience services to stationary vehicles
20020197950     Apparatus for providing convenience services to stationary vehicles

Patent Database: Assignee IdleAire or Convoy

PAT. NO.

Title

7,811,159     Apparatus for providing convenience services to stationary vehicles
7,753,765     Apparatus for providing convenience services to stationary vehicles
6,705,938     Apparatus for controlling the environment of a parked vehicle
6,482,080     Apparatus for providing convenience services to stationary vehicles

IdleAir’s patents relate to two core features – a conduit, containing air ducts and cables, connected to a supply panel/ ventilation head. Unlike many patent documents, the images in the IdleAir patents correlate pretty fairly with how the product currently looks.

The conduit, pictured below, looks like a giant bendy-straw. Truck drivers install a removable window adapter, that forms an airtight seal between the truck window and the conduit.

IdleAir Patent Image

IdleAir electrification station technology. Image from US Patent 6,482,080.

The supply panel/ ventilation head, pictured below, includes a HVAC unit, interactive touch screen display, and credit card reader. After inputting payment information, truck drivers can access the touch screen display to adjust the temperature, charge their phones, or access internet/TV services.

US6705938 IdleAir Service Module

IdleAir’s service module, featuring an HVAC unit and interactive touch screen. Image from US patent 6705938.

IdleAir Service Module

IdleAir’s service module, as featured on its website. Image courtesy of www.idleair.com.

What’s Next?

For IdleAir to be successful, it will need to ensure that the costs of using IdleAir stations can compete with the costs of idling. Chevrolet’s investment will help on this end. If IdleAir stations are ubiquituous, truckers will not have to make costly decisions to change their routes or stop early to take advantage of its services.

Of course, in the long term, alternative technologies may make diesel truck engines obsolete – electrification of trucks perhaps? In this case, we hope IdleAir continues to push the boundaries of innovation, and maybe, just maybe, become the rest stop and battery charging station for the fleet of the future.

About Lily Li

Lily Li joined IP Checkups in 2011 to co-manage the development, marketing and sales of the CleanTech PatentEdge solution. She also contributes her business and legal expertise to IP Checkups’ boutique patent analytic and research services team, helping companies align their IP strategies with their business objectives.

View all posts by Lily Li →

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