WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (News4Utah) Each day, a fleet of 2,400 yellow school buses add to Utah’s bad air across the state.
A Utah inventor created technology that stops school buses from needing to idle to create heat while saving money and air quality.
The inventor lives in Utah and admits “Idle Free Heat” started as just a crazy idea. Now it’s in 40 school buses in the Granite School District.
During student drop-offs, bus driver Vicky Yeates had to choose to idle her bus to stay warm or freeze during the winter months.
“Sitting on the bus cold is very miserable,” Yeates said.
One idling school bus emits 81 grams of harmful pollutants an hour. Take in all the school buses into the state: 429 pounds of unnecessary pollution.
“I thought there’s got to be a better way to be able to do this without polluting, harming the engine and wasting fuel,” Joel Ewell said.
Idling the car while his wife shopped inspired Joel Ewell to make “Idle Free Heat.” The technology harnesses heat generated by the engine and re-circulates it through the vehicle for up to an hour.
“It’s great to see something you worked so hard on actually get out there and make a difference,” Ewell said.
Installation of the technology was paid for by a UCAIR grant program. “Idle Free Heat” was awarded a similar grant in 2017.
The Granite School District expects to eliminate hundreds of pounds of pollution by using the technology.
“Every gallon of gas we can save, while making a bus driver more happy on the job, is money we can spend on other things in the district,” Granite School District Director of Transportation David Gatti said.
Yeates got a sneak peak in March of last year.
“These heaters are awesome,” Yeates said.
Ewell says other districts and UTA expressed interest in the technology.
The cost is less than $1,000 per bus. “Idle Free Heat” is working with manufacturers to offer a system that would be available to the general public.