Illinois Tollway and Argonne National Laboratory launch fleet vehicle study

By Angela HardinMay 3, 2011

(Downers Grove, Ill.)—The Illinois Tollway and Argonne National Laboratory today announced a new fleet research study aimed at identifying fuel cost savings and efficiencies that will make the Tollway more sustainable and have a regional application for other municipal fleet operations. Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur and Argonne Director Eric Isaacs announced the start of the research study at Argonne's state-of-the-art Center for Transportation Research.

As part of the new study, Argonne will research ways to improve fuel economy, reduce vehicle idling and study vehicle aerodynamics associated with squad cars provided from the Illinois Tollway's fleet. The Tollway's fleet includes a diverse cross section of 725 vehicles that operate in urban and rural settings, including squad cars used by Illinois State Police District 15.

In addition to analyzing a squad car's performance under controlled tests in the lab, the study will also evaluate vehicle operation by developing a baseline from actual vehicle use on the road. A second squad car will be outfitted with an array of sensors to monitor and track critical vehicle functions as the vehicle is in use patrolling the Illinois Tollway.

"The goal of this study is to find new ways to make our operations more efficient and sustainable—two very specific outcomes that Governor Pat Quinn established for our agency," said Lafleur. "This research will help us make informed decisions about how to cut fuel costs and maximize the efficiency of our roadway operations."

Research findings will determine if changes can be made to vehicles, systems or driver behavior to reduce fuel consumption. The Tollway spends $2 million on gasoline each year; a 1 percent reduction in the Tollway's current fuel use would save about $20,000 annually.

"In these times of soaring gasoline prices, it is critically important to find new ways to increase fuel efficiency and save money," Isaacs said. "We look forward to working with the Tollway to develop smart, effective new technologies and strategies that will make their fleet cheaper to run and friendlier to our environment, and that ultimately will benefit motorists throughout Illinois."

The Tollway and Argonne announced an agreement in November 2010 to collaborate on the development of energy efficient technologies and eco-strategies. The Tollway's agreement with Argonne includes four study areas: energy, fleet, intelligent transportation systems and the natural environment, with the fleet study the first to get underway.

The three-year partnership combines the expertise of both organizations to accomplish unique scientific goals, commonly develop and use specialized knowledge and facilities and increase cooperation. The Tollway has committed $250,000 toward this research partnership in 2011.

The Tollway and Argonne are also in the process of beginning a joint energy study that will focus on solar panel research. Argonne's Midwest Photovoltaic Analysis Facility Initiative will study multiple solar panel technologies at the Tollway's Downers Grove headquarters. The goal of this initiative is to evaluate how solar technologies perform under environmental conditions in the Midwest.

About the Illinois Tollway
The Illinois Tollway is a user-fee system that receives no state or federal funds for maintenance and operations. The agency maintains and operates 286 miles of interstate tollways in 12 counties in Northern Illinois, including the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88), the Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355), the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) and the Tri-State Tollway (I-94/I-294/I-80).