Created: 02/15/2013 10:41 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer
It's an age-old winter dilemma for Minnesota motorists: How do you brake safely and effectively while driving on icy roads?
A Minnetonka man thinks he's developed a new answer, and he's patented his technology.
"Nobody's ever been able to do it," said Jim Skarie, a retired carpenter who's been working to perfect his product for nearly two decades. By his own admission he's already spent "tens of thousands of dollars" of his own money to stop vehicles from slipping and skidding on the ice.
He calls his system "ICE"; it stands for "Integrated Coefficient Enhancement."
"The idea itself is very simple," Skarie says. "We're going to try to get an abrasive under the tires when you're in trouble on the ice."
It works like this:
A small air duct apparatus is installed on your vehicle, and a small tank near the bumper is filled with an abrasive material like crushed granite. Then, if high tech sensors detect a wheel lock-up situation, the ice system sprays down a carefully metered path of the abrasive.
In a recent field test (which can be seen in the video above, as well as on Skarie's website icyroads.net), two similar trucks traveling 30 miles per hour lock their brakes at the same spot and go into a skid. Only the vehicle on the right is equipped with the ICE system.
In the test, the time elapsed between the vehicles' wheels locking up and the abrasive falling onto the ice is four-tenths of one second. That significantly improves a driver's ability to stop.
"It works at any speed," Skarie says. "You can go for 70 miles and hour and it still works."
Skarie's technology has been studied by both the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University. But so far, no buyers.
"Well I'm talking to people in Detroit, Continental Auto, GM, some of those guys, and they all say they're interested but it's tough to get in the door there," Skarie says.
He's not giving up, though. Skarie truly believes it's just a matter of time before ICE breaks through.
"Everybody who hears about this says 'Oh, I want one of those'," Skarie says. "So do I. That's why i'm doing this."
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org