By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
HANCEVILLE — For Zero RPM president Lance Self, the formal announcement for his new tech company ended up a lot bigger than expected — much like the company itself in recent months.
What started as a cool idea a few years ago —finding a way to power a car without activating the engine — snowballed into a full-fledged, statewide industry announcement Wednesday at Wallace State. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley was even in town to provide the keynote, with the project on the verge of mass production.
“I just thought we’d be doing a small event for the media, and it just got bigger and bigger from there,” Self said, standing outside the Burrow Center, where the announcement took place. “This is just so great, because everyone involved has put in so much time and hard work.”
Self’s company has created the IMS 100 idle mitigation system, which can power a vehicle and the air-conditioning for several hours via high-capacity batteries.
His initial target market is law enforcement , with hopes to cut down on gas and carbon emissions while idling, but he sees potential at every level of the automotive industry.
The initial production run is expected to create 54 new jobs, and the company has reached a manufacturing agreement with Bremen-based Hired-Hand technologies.
The first phase of testing is nearly complete, with the Cullman Police, Alabama State Troopers, Hoover Police and Florida State Patrol all providing test vehicles in the field.
“An average police car sits idle 4-6 hours per day, having to power a laptop, radar gun and whatever other technology is there,” Self said. “If you turn the engine off, the battery would go dead in just a few minutes. This allows the officer to experience that car as if it were running. Our name actually came out of some field tests, because they didn’t realize the car was running, but it was at 0 RPMs.”
Internal estimates found, even with low-level adoption at just a handful of police agencies, Zero RPM could say more than $5 million in fuel costs and cut out 30 million pounds of carbon dioxide pollution if used in 1,200 vehicles.
“You can imagine what this could do for the environment if it were adopted across all vehicles, nationwide,” Self said.
The company has spent the past several months housed on the campus of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, as part of a new green-business incubator currently in its infancy. College President Vicki Hawsey said she has eyed an incubator project for years, though it took some seed money from the State of Alabama and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to finally get it off the ground.
When the prospect of Zero RPM arose, the college made room and moved Self and his team into some empty office space, allowing him to use the college’s resources for early level research and development.
“We welcomed the opportunity to leverage Wallace State’s resources, even before the incubator was fully a reality,” Hawsey said. “The project aligned perfectly with Gov. Bentley’s plan to create new job growth, and we are proud to have Zero RPM as our first incubator tenant.”
Bentley said Wednesday’s announcement was one of the most important in the state since the recession began in 2008. Though it may not be the biggest project in the pike, Bentley said it represents something greater: “Renewal.”
“Politicians do a lot of talking, but what we like to see are some real results,” he said. “This is one of the best examples yet in this state of entrepreneurship and innovation, and it means renewal for our economy ... The first example of what I’ve been trying to do came out of here, out of Wallace State in Hanceville.”