Trailer refrigeration without direct emissions

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Text: Oliver Schoenfeld
Photos: BPW, Shutterstock

The requirements for low-emission and quiet transport, particularly in inner-city logistics, are increasing. An efficient, autonomously driven trailer refrigeration solution from collaboration partners Thermo King and BPW is designed to sustainably improve the ecological balance. Field trials are currently underway and series production is scheduled to start in the fourth quarter of 2022.

Be it Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, London or Milan: Numerous European metropolises are already implementing stricter regulations for freight transport, access regulations and – depending on the time of day – zero-emission zones in the urban environment. Restrictions are likely to increase in the coming years with the European Union’s Green Deal. This will be a challenge for refrigeration logistics in particular, which is essential for daily provisions to the population.

»This integrated complete solution is an important contribution to the breakthrough of zero-emission refrigerated transport.«

Thore Bakker, General Manager Trailer Solutions & Mobility Services BPW Bergische Achsen

An electrified future for refrigeration logistics

There is demand for temperature-controlled transport solutions which allow for inner-city refrigeration logistics with the lowest possible noise and CO2 emissions. A technology developed jointly by Thermo King and BPW Bergische Achsen targets energy production: The energy generated during driving and braking is used as a constant, sustainable source of electricity for trailer refrigeration units. This functions independently of the tractor unit, so fleet operators can use the solution flexibly for their entire fleet. The fully integrated system combines hybrid or all-electric trailer refrigeration units from Thermo King with the energy-generating ePower axle from BPW to create an autonomously powered trailer refrigeration solution. How it works: The energy generated when the vehicle is rolling, going downhill or braking is stored in a high-voltage battery and then used to power the refrigeration unit and keep the cargo at an optimal temperature at all times. “This is our collaborative contribution to the breakthrough of zero-emission refrigerated transport”, says Thore Bakker, General Manager Trailer Solutions & Mobility Services at BPW.

Reducing emissions, lowering costs

With its quiet operation and lack of CO2 emissions, this technology enables inner-city delivery operations even in environmental and low-emission zones. The sustainability balance includes both an ecological and an economic dimension: emissions and noise are reduced, and ongoing operational costs drop immediately – an important argument, especially in times of high energy prices. “In a price-sensitive industry like commercial transportation, this is particularly crucial”, emphasises Laurent Debias, Thermo King’s Product and Marketing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “The technology is a significant advancement – both for operational flexibility and for the long-term sustainability of fleets using refrigerated trailers.”

Testing in full swing

The development phase is almost complete and extensive field trials with selected customers are underway in spring 2022 – the customer experience tour so that potential users can experience technology. With stops in Germany, the BeNeLux countries, Scandinavia and Spain, the tour covers a wide range of climatic conditions. Series production is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2022. “The demand is already very high and shows how great the ambition in refrigeration logistics is to improve ecological efficiency”, explains Thore Bakker. Initially, a hybrid and an all-electric configuration will be available. The two available battery packages with capacities of 19 and 38 kilowatt hours cover a wide variety of application situations. Extensive simulations have shown an optimal cost-benefit ratio and an attractive return on investment for driving distances of up to 300 kilometres per shift. Due to the energy production during driving, however, even longer distances are possible with reliable refrigeration.

Seeking series approval

“The tailor-made cooling solutions fit seamlessly into the vehicle manufacturers’ processes. Be it air suspension, spring centres, wheel ends or interfaces – nothing changes, nothing has to be redesigned”, explains Thore Bakker, highlighting another advantage. “In addition to the many kilometres of testing, we have ongoing contact with certification bodies and associations. We are working diligently on a series approval for the new product.” This will make implementation even easier for trailer manufacturers. In addition to the highly integrated technology of energy recovery and trailer refrigeration, the two partners have also developed an integrated utilisation concept, from financing and leasing models to fully comprehensive telematics and their Europe-wide service networks for operational safety and international mobility at all times.

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