Counting The Cost Of Engine Idling

Wed 23rd Nov 2022

Motorists who leave their engine running while parked to keep their car warm have been warned that they face a triple cost of wasting fuel, killing the planet and a potential fine.

According to a recent study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), 64 percent of drivers idle their engines during the colder months. More than 40% confessed to doing it at least three times a week.

Every winter, over one million motorists idle, producing a carbon footprint over a lifetime of 825kg.

Most people leave their cars running for at least 10 minutes during winter to ensure everything is warm, but 4.79 minutes is the average time their cars are idle.

Despite electric vehicles being viewed as a way to decrease emissions, 67% of motorists believe it is highly improbable that they will be driving one before the Government's ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles takes effect in 2030.

Car idling is noted in  Rule 123 of the Highway Code, which describes how motorists should behave. An unattended vehicle with an engine running is prohibited on a public road, unless the vehicle is stationary for a specified reason.

In general, drivers should use the parking brake and turn off the engine if the vehicle is likely to remain stationary for more than a few minutes to reduce emissions and noise pollution.

However, it is okay to leave the vehicle's engine running if the vehicle is stuck in traffic or to diagnose problems.

The total £188 million cost of keeping vehicles idling would buy enough fuel to keep 75,000 homes heated throughout the year.

Farooq Yaqub, Member of the IET’s Council and EV expert, said: “It only typically takes less than 30 seconds to lubricate your engine once running and when driving, your engine should quickly reach full operating temperature. 

“Excessive idling can also actually damage your engine’s components, including spark plugs, cylinders and exhaust systems – and an idling engine can produce up to twice the emissions of a car in motion.”