Spokane Valley-based Kim Hotstart Manufacturing Co. says one of its railroad products is like the little engine that could: It could generate millions in revenue, help protect the environment, and save railroads millions in fuel costs.
The product, the Diesel Driven Heating System, or DDHS, was introduced by Kim Hotstart about six years ago, and keeps a locomotives engine fluids warm when its main engine is turned off. This helps prevent engine damage because cold temperatures cause the fluids in a locomotives diesel engine to gum up the engine so it doesnt function property.
Traditionally, in the cold parts of the country, railroads have left their locomotives diesel engines idling when they werent in use, and the locomotives belched tons of exhaust into the atmosphere and used up thousands of gallons of fuel. The DDHS eliminates the need to keep a locomotive idling for countless hours, in turn reducing the emission of tons of pollution into the atmosphere.
Kim Hotstart says Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. recently ordered 30 of the devices, which have specialized three-cylinder diesel engines that are mounted on locomotive engines, for nearly $1 million. The railroad has indicated it intends to buy more, the Spokane company says.
Theyre going for fleet-wide implementation, says Terry Judge, Kim Hotstarts sales and marketing director. If they buy 500 units over the next 10 years, thats about $15 million.
Thats good news for the 62-year-old Spokane Valley company, which makes pre-heaters for diesel engines, locomotives, and heavy equipment. The company serves a host of industrial and transportation industry customers, and says its annual sales are about $16 million.
There are a lot of smiling faces with the way business has turned around, says Judge. We had a record January, a record February, and a record March. Were sitting on a record backlog of orders worth $2.5 million.
Judge says about 100 employees work at Kim Hotstarts 80,000-square-foot plant at 5723 E. Alki. The company plans to hire four or five additional employees to meet growing production needs, he says.
With roughly 20,000 railroads in service in the U.S. and more worldwide, the potential for growth in the railroad market is huge, says Judge.
In the U.S. railroad market, Burlington Northern says it will analyze the test results of an upcoming study in Washington state that will monitor locomotive diesel-fuel consumption, engine emissions, and noise pollution from three of BNSFs switcher locomotives in Vancouver, Wash. equipped with the DDHS. The railroad says it will base future purchases of the device on that study.
The Southwest Clean Air Agency, based in Vancouver, Wash., monitors air quality and enforces regulations in a five-county area, is hoping its $85,000 study will spark a revolution in the industry.
Were hoping this project is what causes the snowball to start rolling downhill for all railroads, says Robert Elliott, executive director of the Southwest Clean Air Agency, which is based in Vancouver. We see this as a good way to go for the railroads and the environment. Theyll save money for a long time.
Its the second time the EPA has tapped Kim Hotstarts equipment for an environmental-impact study. The agency monitored the pollution, fuel efficiency, and noise pollution of seven locomotives equipped with DDHS in Chicago nearly two year ago.
That study produced dramatic results. The Chicago tests showed nitrous oxide emissions from those seven idling locomotives were reduced by 2.2 tons, and emissions of particulate matter were reduced by 119 pounds over one year, says Judge. The EPA says some idling locomotive diesel engines can produce as much as five tons of emission a year.
Were studying the results, and were pleased with what we have seen thus far, says BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. We look forward to studying further results from the Vancouver operation with the Kim Hotstart technology.
The EPA says a locomotive uses about 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year if left idling at switch yards, compared with about 3,000 gallons when employing the Kim Hotstart technology and being turned off when not in use. It says the annual fuel cost at idle for a locomotive is about $20,000, compared with about $2,500 with the DDHS.
The Chicago tests also found a reduction in noise pollution.
The noise was reduced by eight to 15 decibels, Judge says. Its a big deal with locomotives that are left idling near a neighborhood.
The device turns on automatically when a locomotive is shut down, and turns off when the locomotive is restarted. In addition to its small, diesel-burning engine, the DDHS has a system of heat exchangers that perform such functions as creating heat from water pressure to warm the locomotives engine fluids and oil, and providing electric power to its batteries and cabin heaters.
Judge says Kim Hotstarts DDHS devices have been upgraded to be more efficient since they were introduced nearly six years ago. The $30,000 devices also now are compatible with a product produced by ZTR Control Systems Inc., of Minneapolis, that automatically shuts down and starts up a locomotives engines based on sensor readings.
Judge says the five-year agreement signed in 2002 between Kim Hotsmart and ZTR control systems has been beneficial. Its working fantastic.
Kim Hotstart says its staple products are its electric preheaters for diesel engines and heavy equipment, including mining and marine applications. Many of its preheaters are custom-tailored.
The company, which started small in 1940 when it designed diesel-engine heating systems for school buses, has a large client base, including Kenworth Truck Co. and Caterpillar Inc.
Kim Hotstart also serves companies in China, Chile, Australia, Korea, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere.
Our international business has grown by 20 percent, says Judge. Were looking to continue to expand it.
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