Cullman may not seem like a big enough place to have such a global impact, but one compnany here, ZeroRPM, is responsible for lowering fuel consumption throughout the world. On the state level, the company won the 2017 Corporate Innovator Award in the small company category, which is presented by the Alabama Economic Development Alliance. We chatted with Cullman native, entreprenuer and ZeroRPM Founder Lance Self to learn more about what his company, its product, and of course why he chooses to live and do business in Cullman County.
This Cullman, AL Company Helps Big Trucks Idle Without Burning Fuel
ZeroRPM invents technology to let work trucks run without burning fuel
Q: Can you give us a summary about your company?
Basically, ZeroRPM's idle mitigation system, called IMS 100, can power a vehicle and the air-conditioning for several hours using high capacity rechargeable batteries. The technology is used today in vehicles such as armored trucks, ambulances, fire engines, utility trucks and U.S. Customs & Border Protection vehicles.
We engineer and manufacture the ZeroRPM system in Cullman, then we ship a complete kit with instructions to about 14 plants around the U.S. that install our innovative unit while they are building their trucks. For example, our partner that manufactures bucket trucks — while they build the truck, they install our IMS 100 system so that when it gets to the end of the assembly line, it’s a bucket truck that is a hybrid using our technology. Once installed, the system allows a dirver to arrive at a work site, put the truck in idle and keep all the equipment and air conditioning operational using the battery system.
It's all about finding a way to power a vehicle without activating the engine. I see potential for this product at all levels of the automotive industry.
Q: So the name of the company speaks for itself then?
Yes. And you actually need to look at your RPM gauge to determine if the engine is on, because the system operates so seamlessly.
Q: What are some applications of the technology you'd like to see in the future?
Police often must idle their cars four to six hours a day and also must power a laptop and other technologies. If the police car's engine is turned off, the car's battery would go dead in a few minutes because of all the technology it must power, and our system would remedy that.
Every hour of idling equals 33 miles of driving, so the savings would be significant in many ways. However, there isn't one big company right now that can install our system on police cars like they can onto heavy-duty trucks, but that is certainly something we hope will happen later on.
Q: How did you get started with this type of business here?
After starting the business in my garage years ago, I eventually moved to the campus of Wallace State Community College in Hanceville as part of WSCC's new green tech innovation incubator program.
Prior to all of that, I graduated from innovative technology programs at WSCC and Alabama State University, and in the late '80s and early '90s I worked as a product design engineer for an iconic inventor names Grant Crider who built a company called Hired-Hand. I also attribute much of my knowledge required for starting a technology company to 15 years in the automotive industry, working with another great leader named Albert von Pelser at two very progressive companies called REHAU and Magna. We incorporated in 2012, and today we have 54 employees, including my wife, Sandra, at our manufacturing facility on Highway 69 South.
Q: Why do you choose to stay in Cullman County now?
I grew up on Smith Lake, live on Smith Lake now and love being in Cullman. When people suggested that I move ZeroRPM to Silicon Valley, my answer was always the same — why would I? I have traveled all over the world, but it's always home whenever I come back to Cullman.