An auxiliary power unit (APU) is more commonly a device that is used in aircrafts. However, some large ground vehicles such as delivery vans, commercial trucks, semi-trucks, refrigerated or frozen food trailers, or train cars now have employed the use of these power units for their engines. Having these installed, it allows the warming of these vehicles without any idling time required.
The Department of Transportation in the United States would usually require 10 or more hours of rest for those trucks involved in long driving. This is to be able to provide an idle time for the engine to enable it to provide light, heat, and power. But with an APU installed, the idle time can be eliminated.
APU in Ground Vehicles
An auxiliary power unit is used in ground vehicles on a different purpose. It has other auxiliary functions as compared to how it is primarily needed in aircrafts, although they also do the same in an aircraft. The APU also provides help in the heating, cooling, and the ventilation system of the vehicle. Commonly, an auxiliary power unit for a truck would be a small diesel engine having its own heating and cooling system, generator, air conditioning compressor, and an alternator system-sometimes with an inverter or sometimes none. These are usually housed with an enclosure that is mounted onto one of the frame rails on the truck.
There are also other APUs that are designed to be fully integrated. It has its own auxiliary heating, cooling, and electrical mechanisms attached on the chassis of the truck. These auxiliary power units function to provide climate control and a continuous electrical power. These are the APUs mostly used in a truck sleeper's cab. It also functions as an engine block heater when the vehicle is on the road during its downtime.
Why the Need to Have an APU
Studies by the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that a diesel engine burns up a gallon of fuel for every hour that it is idle. The idling time of the engine is enough reason for the other internal engine parts to wear. In order to avoid these, auxiliary power units were installed on the main engine system of the vehicle.
Advantages of an APU
Other benefits of having an APU include:
- Reduces emissions and truck noise
- Reduces engine running time by as much as 50%
- Reduces cost of fuel idle time by 75%
- Allows the lights to be left on when the vehicle is parked
- Warms the engine and avoids cold starts
- Recharges the vehicle's batteries and increasing its battery life
- Provides heating, electrical, and air conditioning power
- Complies with local idling regulations
- Saves on cost on fuel and maintenance
- Allows easy servicing access because it is fully contained
- Has housing mounts on the frame rail that are weatherproof and shock resistant
- Increases the resale value of your vehicle
- Prevents exhaust from entering the cab
- Can be easily installed by a certified diesel mechanic
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