Before & after

After getting a fast payback when he installed an APU on one of his four trucks, Keddy Haines, with his wife and driving partner Sonya, installed the devices on the rest.

Brian Mack says he wouldn’t be caught owning a truck without an auxiliary power unit. That’s why, when he bought his new Kenworth T660, aiming to get better fuel economy than he was getting with his W900, which had a Willis APU, he spec’d the truck maker’s optional Clean Power no-idle system.

“I haven’t idled a truck [while on break] for years,” says Mack, an owner-operator from Wilmot, N.H. “I wouldn’t have a truck without an APU on it.”

New-truck buyers, like Mack, have a wider choice of APUs than ever now that truck manufacturers have jumped into the business of offering no-idle heating and cooling systems. While aftermarket APU systems have been available for decades, truck original equipment manufacturers only recently started offering their own integrated products.

Kenworth and Peterbilt, for example, began offering proprietary battery-powered heating and cooling systems in 2007. Navistar is planning its own diesel-fired MaxxPower APU for this spring. Others have formed partnerships with existing HVAC and APU makers to install versions of their products at the factory or at post-delivery locations. International and Freightliner are installing versions of Bergstrom’s NITE battery-based systems, while Mack Trucks offers the Idle Free Hybrid system that uses batteries.

After months of research, owner-operator Mike Woodyard of Jacksonville, Ill., went the traditional APU route, opting for an aftermarket solution. Like Mack on his W900, Woodyard chose the Willis integrated APU, which ties directly into the truck’s existing HVAC system and doesn’t depend on a generator for electrical power. The owner-operator’s 2005 International has a built-in inverter for that, and the APU monitors his batteries and recharges them if they get low. With the battery-monitoring feature, he was able to drop to three batteries from four when he replaced them recently, saving money and weight. He’s financing the $9,600 purchase on a three-year lease through Lease Corporation of America.

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“What I’ve seen in the APU market is the generators are going to give you more trouble than anything,” says Woodyard, who’s leased to Mercer Transportation of Louisville, Ky. “When the generator goes bad, they’re very expensive to replace. So, I’ve eliminated some maintenance expense down the road” with Willis’s integrated system.

As the anti-idling wave grows, truck and engine makers “are going to be designing their own APUs,” predicts Mark Felker, Tridako marketing manager. Even so, he thinks that aftermarket firms “will have the more robust systems. We had one owner-operator who said he ran his APU for almost 28,000 hours.”

OEMs have an advantage of offering factory installation when the truck is being built, which means no additional labor, expense or waiting compared with aftermarket installation, says Jan Penrow, aftermarket products manager of the Navistar Parts Group. “The cost of the APU can be rolled into the cost of the truck and can be financed with the vehicle,” she says.

Aftermarket models also can be financed. The Environmental Protection Agency SmartWay program offers financing through its Clean Diesel Finance program; it points to other funding sources at its website. Nonprofit organizations such as Cascade Sierra Solutions on the West Coast also offer low-interest financing.

Another advantage of the factory-installed unit is the likelihood of a high-quality installation, compared with the uncertainty of a mechanic’s skills in the aftermarket, says Bill Gordon, Bergstrom’s national director of aftermarket and director of global marketing.

When you install an aftermarket APU, you’re essentially getting redundant capabilities, Gordon says. “The aftermarket unit is an additional unit, while the factory-installed unit is incorporated into the existing truck system,” he says.

For aftermarket systems, that often adds up to 500 pounds for more batteries and other components. If installed at the factory, most of the additional weight for a battery-based system comes from the extra batteries, which weigh about 75 pounds each. That means trucks equipped with a NITE anti-idling system, such as Freightliner and International, will have eight batteries. In International’s case, each of the eight batteries can be used for the APU and truck starting.

Most of the components of the aftermarket and factory-installed units of similar design are similar, Gordon says. Plus, the cost of APUs installed at the factory or afterward qualifies for an exemption from the heavy-vehicle excise tax.

Owner-operator Mack says each has its strengths and drawbacks. He says he’s generally satisfied with the factory-installed Clean Power system, enjoying the ability to plug into shore power and not use the batteries. But finding IdleAire or a similar system at truck stops in California is almost impossible for Mack, who hauls frozen food for Midwest Continental of Sioux City, Iowa. Also, other than a bent hose, he’s not experienced any maintenance problems with the system since he bought the truck in February.

The Willis APU on his W900 was integrated into the truck’s system, sharing the truck’s Freon and radiator fluid. Mack says the unit was quiet and the three-cylinder Kubota engine ran well, although some of the components failed and had to be replaced. “Sometimes it would give out blue smoke when it wasn’t working properly, and I didn’t want to subject my neighbors to that in the truck stop,” Mack says.

The unit also wasn’t approved for running in California, where Mack often delivers. His 2009 T660 is cleared to run under California Air Resources Board regulations.

For cooling, very important for Mack since he hauls often in the Southwest, he says the Willis APU did the better job. When he needs cooling, he sets the temperature as high as he can bear to sleep, and Clean Power is designed to run for 10 hours or more when outside temperatures are up to 95 degrees. When temperatures soar above that and he has to dial up the thermostat and fan speed, Mack says he’ll get cool air for six to eight hours before the system’s batteries have to be recharged, which takes up to eight hours.

“I can pull into Las Vegas when it’s 99 degrees and run it for eight hours,” he says. “But if I’m sitting the next day waiting for a load, I’m going to have to idle the truck.” Mack figures his Clean Power system adds 900 pounds to his truck weight, or about 400 pounds more than his previous APU. The extra weight convinced him to spec a smaller sleeper.

For some owner-operators, neither a battery-powered system nor an integrated APU is the solution. Michael Fields, an owner-operator from Shullsburg, Wis., decided he wanted an APU for his 1993 Kenworth T600 when fuel prices surged last spring. He didn’t want to deal with more batteries, and he didn’t want a system that ran through the truck engine. That’s when he came across the Tridako PowerCube and an introductory price of $5,900.

“This one is self-contained,” says Fields. “If you have truck problems, your APU isn’t down.” Fields, a former diesel mechanic school attendee, installed the unit himself in eight hours.

Although Fields is a conservative APU user – after six months, he had run it less than 200 hours – it has made a world of difference in his fuel mileage. When he computed his third-quarter fuel tax amount, he found his mileage had increased to 7.2 mpg from 6.7 mpg on his runs pulling a 50-foot reefer, mostly between Wisconsin and Michigan.

For new trucks, a factory APU approach
Truck manufacturers have taken different paths to meeting demands for anti-idling devices:
FREIGHTLINER. The company offers a version of the battery-powered Bergstrom NITE (No-Idle Thermal Environment) system on its Columbia and Century models. It’s also testing a battery-powered ParkSmart system for the Cascadia, says Ben Smith, product strategy manager for Freightliner heavy duty. For customers who want a diesel-fired system, Freightliner will prepare trucks at the factory and install Thermo King’s TriPac integrated APU or RigMaster’s genset.

“We’re just getting started with the battery-powered system,” Smith says. “Battery-powered isn’t as powerful as the diesel-fired on the cooling side.”

KENWORTH. The Clean Power system relies on four dedicated absorbed glass mat, deep-cycle batteries for electricity. When the engine’s off, the batteries power air-conditioning, heating and 120-volt cab and sleeper electrical loads. Cooling takes place through a thermal storage cooler about the size of a microwave that fits under the bunk, says Andy Zehnder, Kenworth on-highway marketing manager. An Espar diesel-fired heater, also under the bunk, takes care of heating.

MACK TRUCKS. Also going the battery-powered route, Mack offers the Idle Free system, designed by Overdrive 2006 Trucker of the Year Robert Jordan. Mack chose battery-powered because several states and municipalities already had anti-idling laws in place, says Jerry Warmkessel, highway products marketing manager.

The system contains five AGM batteries, positioned under the bunk, that are recharged by the alternator when the vehicle is running. Included in the system are a Webasto diesel-fired heater, a Dometic air-conditioning unit and an inverter/charger to provide shore power. The system weighs a relatively light 370 pounds and costs about $9,500 installed, Warmkessel says.

NAVISTAR. For 2009, Navistar is planning on a NITE battery-run system and the proprietary diesel-fired MaxxPower APU as factory-installed options. The MaxxPower APU will cost about $8,000, or about $300 more for an add-on version outfitted with a diesel particulate filter that’s compliant with the new California Air Resources Board regulations.

In 2008, Navistar introduced its Fleetrite APU for retrofit installations of all Class 8 truck models. The 60-amp DC alternator charges the truck’s batteries, and a 6-kw generator powers electrical appliances and the engine-block heater. The Caterpillar two-cylinder, 14-hp engine helps provide driver comforts.

PETERBILT. Its ComfortClass, similar to the system offered by sister company Kenworth, is an option on Class 8 vehicles equipped with 63-inch or 70-inch sleepers. As with Clean Power, ComfortClass features a 185-amp alternator that charges the four AGM batteries and two additional batteries dedicated to truck starting.

Peterbilt accommodates aftermarket installation of APUs by providing heavy-duty 12-volt APU starter cables, routed from the truck’s battery bank to a panel located on the inside of the right frame rail, and fuel lines from the fuel tank to the APU. The company also provides coolant lines from the truck’s cooling system for aftermarket APU installation, says David Giroux, Peterbilt spokesman.

VOLVO. Factory-installed options include the Dometic HVAC system and Dometic and Cummins ComfortGuard gensets. The company also offers the Xantrex inverter that converts battery power into 120-volt AC or hotel power in the vehicle cab. Also offered are shore power plug-ins. The installed prices range from $4,133 to $13,295.

Volvo also is a partner in a demonstration project that aims to develop an APU that would run on diesel or alternative fuels such as methanol and natural gas.


Cascade Sierra Solutions

EPA Smartway


International (Navistar)