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.
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
Patent Database: Assignee IdleAire or Convoy
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.
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.
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.