DOWNERS GROVE, IL – The Illinois Tollway and Argonne National Laboratory are conducting a new fleet research project designed to identify areas where the Tollway can reduce fuel costs.

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.

This is part of an effort to make the Tollway's operations more efficient to make the organization more sustainable. In addition, this effort is part of a strategy to develop a regional application for other municipal fleet operations. Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur and Argonne Director Eric Isaacs announced the study at Argonne's Center for Transportation Research.

The Tollway's fleet includes 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 whether 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, the organization stated.

"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 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.