Trailers and bodies – meeting the low carbon reefer challenge

Telematics: the game changer
Telematics is increasingly powerful and, if properly used, can help to drive down emissions and operating costs, says Lionel Curtis, head of new products at Marshall Fleet Solutions. “As we shift to more efficient refrigeration units – including battery-powered all-electric fridges – the ability to monitor temperatures and modify fridge settings remotely introduces a whole new dimension to temperature-controlled distribution. Centralising the temperature management, effectively reducing the driver’s responsibility, opens up opportunities for optimising performance,” he says.

Telematics is crucial for much technology change and plays a decisive role in increasing efficiency and reducing the total cost of ownership, according to Schmitz Cargobull. Spokeswoman Anna Stuhlmeier says: “Today it is no longer enough for trailers to have a very high uptime. To be successful in logistics, operators must be able to properly use the data from the trailers to support customers with supply chain transparency and services based on real-time data. For this, we see many new solutions on the market offering companies end-to-visibility, ETA services, exception management tools and so on. All these systems rely on the data from the trailer.”

Chereau communication officer Aurore Leroyer agrees, saying that telematics has a crucial role in fleet management to cut costs. Tyre pressure monitoring systems will soon be required on all new trailers. Telematics helps fleet managers monitor tyre pressure which have a large impact on fuel consumption, she says.

Hydrogen is here

Battery electric-powered trucks have cornered the market for short haul and urban distribution but heavy truck makers almost all tout hydrogen as the fuel of the future for long-haul transport. Mercedes-Benz Trucks has prototypes of its hydrogen fuel cell truck under test on public roads and expects to have a truck with a 1,000 kilometre range suitable for heavy long-distance transport in production in the second half of the decade. 

Carrier Transicold has a hydrogen fuel cell-powered trailer fridge developed with Bosch and PowerCell Sweden. It uses a Carrier Transicold Vector HE 19 fridge with no standalone engine or separately mounted buffer battery system. The hydrogen fuel cell delivers the same level of autonomy as existing diesel engines used in the standard Vector units. By using a hydrogen fuel cell system, customers can maintain operations with the legacy products, but without any of the associated emissions, Carrier says. 

Central to the new system is the integration of the Bosch 48-volt automotive battery, which directly interfaces the fuel cell with the refrigeration unit, removing the need for a standalone engine or a separately mounted buffer battery system. The fuel cell is powered by hydrogen tanks with an electric power distribution unit used to convert the direct current provided by the fuel cell into the alternating current needed to operate the fridge. The refilling time is equivalent to a standard diesel engine and, depending on the tank size, it can also achieve a similar range.

Hydrogen used vehicles typically get the same range per tank of diesel compared to hydrogen, and refuelling time is almost the same which is a great advantage over battery recharging. But the hydrogen needs to be green, produced from solar power, to be classed as carbon neutral and it needs to be readily available. That part will take time and requires government-driven investment and infrastructure. 

Trial and improvement

British operators are exploring new technologies in a bid to reduce emissions, including solar power and electric vehicles. Many are currently trialling trailers and vehicles to assess performance, green credentials and cost. For example, Gist is trialling two Daf electric refrigerated trucks supported by Ford & Slater and Daf Truck. 

Kate Brown, Gist’s director of communications and sustainability, says: “Moving to diesel alternatives for ambient HGV vehicles has its challenges, but finding suitable, sustainable alternatives for refrigerated transportation units adds another layer of complexity.

“That’s why we’re delighted to work with Daf to trial its 100% fully electric refrigerated rigid and unit. Our fleet is largely made up of refrigerated vehicles and as we continue to work on reducing our carbon emissions and creating a greener, cleaner environment we hope these trials will demonstrate that using electricity is a viable alternative.”

Gist is also trialling the Volta Zero, a fully electric rigid, in partnership with Marks & Spencer and Volta. Elsewhere DFDS is using Sunswap’s solar power for refrigerated trailers following a trial of its solar and battery-powered system. In the DFDS trial, the Sunswap system used a combination of solar and battery power for frozen produce and on one of DFDS’s longest UK routes the system provided 22 hours
of frozen cooling on a single charge over two days. Depending on conditions, the solar panels can provide 65% of all the charge needed to operate the fridge. Average time to fully charge the batteries is 80 minutes. The trial indicated that over ten years, using Sunswap would give a 25% to 35% saving in comparison to operating a diesel fridge. 

Matt O’Dell, UK managing director, cold chain, at DFDS Logistics Services, says: “Finding innovative solutions to reduce emissions while improving our customer offering is a top priority for our cold chain service and DFDS as a whole is pioneering new green technologies throughout its operations, in line with a commitment to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 and to ultimately achieve climate neutrality as an organisation.”

McCulla is running 25 refrigerated trailers with Genie Insights solar panels that keep fridge batteries topped up and prolong battery life. McCulla’s Schmitz Cargobull S.KO Cool Smart refrigerated trailers have Carrier Transicold Vector HE 19 fridges and Schmitz’s TrailerConnect telematics. Brian Beattie, operations director at McCulla, says: “Crucially, the solar panels prolong battery life and improve battery reliability so they also save us downtime and money.”