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DETROIT – Long-haul truckers can count on more restful sleep while meeting reduced diesel emissions thanks to a new product expected to make significant inroads in the coming years from Behr America Inc.

The German-based heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) supplier announces at this week’s SAE International World Congress here that its No-Idle Air-Conditioning system (NIA/C) will appear as original equipment on a heavy-duty truck in the U.S. this year.

The system allows for the cabin to stay cool (or warm in cold climates) while the truck’s engine is off. Most heavy-duty trucks in the U.S. are equipped with beds, microwave ovens, TVs and other small appliances as a home away from home for cross-country drivers.

To run such devices, truckers generally park their vehicles and let the diesels idle for several hours to ensure that batteries remain charged while they sleep or relax, putting unnecessary stress on the engine and the environment.

“During rest periods, drivers normally idle their 400-500-hp engines to power loads that require a little more than 10 hp to operate,” says Frank Mueller, Behr America president and CEO.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates 960 million gallons (3.6 billion L) of diesel fuel are burned annually in the U.S. by idling trucks, wasting an estimated $2.6 billion.

Idling also can add an equivalent of 20,000 miles (32,186 km) a year to a truck’s engine, requiring more frequent maintenance, Mueller says.

Behr’s answer is a separate electronic compressor, evaporator, condenser and heating unit that run off the truck’s auxiliary power unit, which produces energy with a tiny 1-cyl. diesel engine. APUs have become common in sleeper cabs for U.S. heavy-duty trucks.

Behr’s system integrates well with heavy-duty trucks because there is extra packaging space for the redundant system, unlike in smaller passenger vehicles, company officials say.

The device is not cheap. An APU, alone, which Behr does not produce, costs about $7,000. Mueller tells Ward’s the NIA/C system likely will cost between $2,000 and $4,000 at the retail level. That may be small, however, in relation to the overall price tag for a heavy truck, which generally tops $100,000.

The NIA/C system arrives as vehicle makers scramble to meet more stringent emissions regulations and as consumers cope with soaring prices of diesel fuel. Idling truck engines emit carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter.

Mueller says the NIA/C system primarily is for the U.S. market, where long-haul drivers tend to sleep in their trucks. He expects little market for the device in Europe, as sleeper cabs are uncommon.

Also for the heavy-truck sector, Behr introduces at World Congress an improved exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) cooler that meets the latest emissions standards for heavy trucks.

The device cools the exhaust gases that go back into the engine through the intake manifold, helping reduce NOx emissions.

New U.S. emissions standards in 2004 required a 38% reduction in NOx output. Stricter mandates that began this year are designed to reduce NOx and particulate emissions more than 90% by 2010.

In other news, Behr announces its Behr-Hella Thermocontrol Inc. (BHTC) joint venture with Hella KgaA Hueck & Co. will relocate its North American development center from Plymouth, MI, to Behr’s North American headquarters campus in Troy, MI.

The move, which affects some 20 employees, will occur this summer. BHTC recently received two major global contracts, valued at more than $37 million per year, to produce a distributed HVAC control for a major global auto maker.

Behr recorded 2006 North American sales of $837 million and expects to surpass $1 billion in sales by 2010.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com