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Old 11-17-2009, 08:13 PM
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Desert Rat Desert Rat is offline
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Default Automobile solar charger

Boise company's solar charger may save car battery, gas consumption

Treasure Valley Solar is marketing a way to keep electronic devices revved up in the car without turning on the engine.

Drive by an auto accident and you're likely to see a lot of police cars nearby.

But what is not so obvious is that those patrol cars are often idling their engines - consuming gas and putting exhaust into the air.

The reason: Police cars are loaded with electronic equipment - computers, flashing lights - that rely on the engine running to keep their equipment charged without risking draining the battery.

Treasure Valley Solar, a Boise company, may have a way to keep those electronic devices running without burning gasoline or idling a car.

The company has put together an integrated system that uses a solar panel on the car's roof that connects to the battery and can keep electrical systems going without draining the battery or running the engine.

Cost: About $1,200 to $1,500 per vehicle. The system can recoup its costs in about three to six months, company officials estimate.

The system is designed for companies that have fleets of vehicles operating out in the field where employees are using battery-operated equipment such as cell phones or laptops with a limited amount of power. It also is useful for construction companies, which could use the devices to ensure that battery-operated power tools don't run out of juice.

"Keeping tools charged can be a big deal," said Wayne Whitt, Treasure Valley Solar's director of customer solutions.

Treasure Valley Solar has signed an agreement with Zenware Inc, an Eagle company that sells business technology used in the field. The agreement gives Zenware an opportunity to provide customers with another channel for powering their equipment without using a generator or burning gas, said Rod Puzey, Zenware's VP of Operations and Director of Business Development.

Treasure Valley Solar's product has caught the attention of the Canyon County Sheriff's office, which outfitted one of its patrol cars with the solar device beginning Monday for $500.

The price was agreed on for a pilot program, county officials said.

Patrol cars can idle for two to three hours at an accident site, said Mark Tolman, fleet manager for Canyon County vehicles. Every hour of idling is the equivalent of putting 36 miles on the car's engine, he said.

There also is the problem of pollution from idling. "We want to be able to cut back on emissions," Tolman said.

Company officials are still gathering data on how much businesses can save by using the solar charging system over running the engine. So is Tolman. The county put the device on a single car. But that could change.

"If things start looking good (we'll) put another online," he said.

Bill Roberts: 377-6408

Treasure Valley Solar
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