Electrification begins

The rush to electrification has begun. The September issue of Cold Chain News reports on the trend, highlights new products, and the decisions operators must make to move from diesel

London, UK: A decade ago diesel reigned supreme. Then no fleet engineer would give house room to untried, untested, expensive, complex, electrical systems for fridges, let alone battery-powered electric trucks. Now almost all major fleets have diesel-free vehicles and refrigeration systems on trial to garner data and experience about operating an electric or hydrogen-powered fleet.

In the UK, all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans are set to be banned from sale in 2030. New hybrids will be given a stay of execution until 2035, on the condition they are capable of covering a “significant distance” in zero-emission mode, a distance the government has yet to define. The sale of new diesel lorries will be banned in the UK by 2040 at the latest, or earlier if technically feasible. Urban area restrictions are already in place and set to expand, making it harder, and more expensive, to operate diesel trucks.

Fridge makers are all well ahead of the curve with Carrier Transicold and Thermo King expecting to have all electric options on all their units by at least 2024. Carrier Transicold’s new Pulsor E-Cool operates directly from the high voltage DC current generated by batteries powering electric light commercial vehicles. It means the fridge operates without the need for an additional battery pack or a voltage converter. Carrier’s newest temperature-controlled trailer unit, the Vector HE 17, available next year, will offer customers greater refrigeration capacity output at above 16kW and best-in-class fuel consumption, Carrier says. Carrier’s Syberia 14 extends the existing range designed to get the most of Carrier’s E-Drive technology, with cooling capacity of up to 14kW in multi-temperature applications. Thermo King now offers its new Advancer trailer fridge in a hybrid version. The fridge switches between the primary electric mode to engine power as needed. And for trailers there is BPW’s E-Power axle, sold by Thermo King, that converts energy from the vehicle and its braking system into a continuous power source for trailer fridges. Carrier offers similar technology.

The new technology surrounding electric refrigeration has also led to a resurgence in older technologies, such as eutectics, where tubes filled with a eutectic brine store energy and produce a cooling effect to maintain the correct temperature in the refrigerated container.

Fraikin supplied this new 7.5-tonne Isuzu chassis adapted by electric drivetrain specialist Magtec with a bespoke insulated body from Paneltex

The downside of eutectics – the need to charge the system usually overnight – is less important when the vehicle’s batteries also need to be charged. A refrigerated body with a eutectic system is independent from the chassis so draws no power from a battery on an electric vehicle. There is already plenty of choice of electric refrigeration system and of a chassis when it comes to rigids with Volvo, Isuzu, Mercedes-Benz, Daf, and others offering production electric power chassis.

But batteries are not much use for long-haul tractors. Here, the solution for most truck makers is hydrogen cells. Volvo and Mercedes-Benz have prototype hydrogen cells heavyweight tractors and expect volume production within a decade. Chereau is working through its Road collaboration project to develop a hydrogen-powered refrigerated trailer. However, the hydrogen needs to be ‘green’, made using solar to power electrolysis to extract hydrogen from water.

Chereau sees potential to use the large surface area of most industrial buildings to power hydrogen production. Through this, “it is possible to overcome the short- and medium-term limitations of the network of consumer recharging stations in operation or planned to date, and to accelerate the implementation and growth of the industrial project for the production and sale of semi-trailers and refrigerated trucks powered by hydrogen energy,” Chereau says.

Chereau aims to get volume production of hydrogen systems in refrigerated trailers and to deal with all the blocking points for hydrogen production. “Indeed, the deployment of 1) the production of green hydrogen 2) the distribution of hydrogen 3) the production and sale of hydrogen-powered refrigerated semi-trailers and tractors, should act as a catalyst to initiate the hydrogen-powered cold chain market, and enable even faster and more extensive industrial deployment in the future,” said Damien Destremau, president, Chereau.

Green hydrogen is no silver bullet but it is a fuel of the future, most especially once you get to big engines or where you need to refuel the engine quickly, as with long haul trucks.

How to specify electric refrigeration

Jon Jerrard-Dinn, area sales manager UK, Thermo King, offers top tips when specifying electric refrigeration

What should you consider when specifying electric fridges for battery electric vehicles? 
When specifying electric refrigeration for a battery electric vehicle, operators should consider the power draw of the unit and resultant impact on the vehicle operating time or range.  The necessity to determine cold chain management requirements, such as temperature settings, the number and time of door openings and pre-cooling regimes, are unaltered regardless of the power source.  For battery electric vehicles however, the efficiency of the refrigeration unit and how the power is harnessed from the vehicle batteries and its managed use will have a direct impact on the vehicle’s operation and charging needs.
 
What distinguishes an electric fridge designed for a battery electric vehicle from a vehicle engine alternator driven electric fridge?
Thermo King refrigeration units designed for battery electric vehicles are the same to those that require alternator drives.  Maximising proven Thermo King Frigoblock technology, the only difference being the removal of the alternator from specifications where the OEM provides HVDC access from the batteries via either their own or Thermo King’s inverter.  These systems provide maximum efficiency, with the least impact on vehicle range and limited energy loss. The refrigeration system is the same as those used for Thermo King Frigoblock applications powered by Euro 6 diesel, offering 100% electric refrigeration with zero refrigeration exhaust emissions. 
 
What electric options are available for 13.6 metre trailer long-haul refrigeration?
Electric options available for long-haul trailer operations exist with hybrid solutions, drawing electrical power from the tractor unit, regardless of its power source (diesel, gas etc).  Autonomous trailer solutions available include axle drive technology like the Thermo King AxlePower, recuperating energy via the trailer’s axles to recharge a battery pack.  Alternatively, requiring larger battery capacity, back to base recharge systems, are also available.  All Thermo King trailer refrigeration units are compatible and in service with these systems.

Electric options for long-haul trailer operations exist with hybrid solutions, drawing electrical power from the tractor unit, and autonomous trailer solutions using axle drive technology like the Thermo King AxlePower

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