ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (June 2, 2005) – With valuable assistance from the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP), an Albuquerque small business has resumed production of an idle elimination system that cuts exhaust pollution from diesel trucks by as much as 95 percent.
The “Pony Pack” is a smaller engine that uses a multi-patented process to power the factory-installed water, fuel, electrical and climate control systems, thus eliminating costly main engine idling.
“Pony Pack supplies electricity without expensive main engine idling,” said Pony Pack, Inc., General Plant Manager Jim Gore. Pony Pack also keeps the main engine warm to avoid cold starts. Studies show that cold starts account for 85 to 90 percent of wear on an engine.
Pony Pack creator Rex Greer first designed the environmentally- and economically- efficient auxiliary power unit for personal use in the late 1980s. After four years of design, testing and modification, followed by more than a decade of manufacturing with numerous improvements, Pony Pack has sold several thousand units.
Aside from drastically reducing fuel consumption, Pony Pack greatly lessens operating costs by extending main engine and accessory component overhaul or replacement times, extending oil change intervals and reducing down time for service repairs. Studies have shown that main engine idle elimination adds as much as two hours of engine life per hour of high idle elimination. Pony Pack also serves as a backup when the main engine alternator or a/c compressor fails.
Unfortunately, Pony Pack recently faced a technical challenge that ultimately halted production. The engine’s electronic control module kept causing it to shut down at unpredictable times and places. “We received complaints on a significant portion of units,” said Gore. “By no means did we have the engineering expertise required to determine why this was happening.”
When Pony Pack crossed paths with SATOP New Mexico, a program of the Santa Fe-based Regional Development Corp., a Request for Technical Assistance was submitted to Program Engineer Manuel Durán. TEAM Specialty Products, a Platinum-level SATOP Alliance Partner, volunteered to help resolve the technical challenge.
Electronics Engineer Doug Webb was assigned the request. He first secured the existing module design documents and verified that the baseline engineering was up to standard. In order to reduce the number of possible sensitivities, he rewrote some sections of the code containing diagnostics that were no longer in use.
“After probing deeper, I concluded that the problems were less with the Pony Pack than with real-world truck modules,” said Webb. He determined that ground circuit voltage spikes triggered the malfunction. The module serves as a circuit breaker, shutting off automatically when this occurs. The spikes have countless origins, including starting the motor, vibration on the road, wear and tear on wiring and road contaminants.
To decrease the voltage sensor’s sensitivity, Webb pinpointed and implemented a few software changes to the operating parameters, keeping the currents from reaching the module. “It all came down to finding the glitches in real-world use of the Pony Pack,” he said.
As a result, Pony Pack has continued production and implemented the recommended changes on units in the field. “By the time we became involved with SATOP, we had doubts that we were selling a quality product,” said Gore. “We have much greater confidence in the control system at this point.”
”SATOP is a truly innovative way to get solutions to small businesses that have a problem they might otherwise not have the resources to solve,” added Webb.
Pony Pack has since ordered another 100 modules from TEAM Specialty Products. ”SATOP pairs companies that would not otherwise find each other. We went from not knowing this company at all to becoming business partners in a nine-month time frame,” said Gor