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Transport industry recognises refrigeration

Sainsbury’s is currently trialling Transicold’s NaturaLine CO2 technology

UK: Two innovative cooling technologies were recognised at last night’s 2014 SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation.

Although losing out to the eventual winner, a vehicle energy recovery system, Carrier Transicold’s NaturaLine CO2 transport refrigeration system and the Dearman Engine Company’s liquid air technology both made the final.

The SMMT Award for Automotive Innovation, organised by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, was presented at the society’s annual dinner at London’s Grosvenor House last night. 

The Dearman engine

With investment in cold logistics booming around the world, it is seen as a timely recognition of the inevitable damage to the environment and human health if the exponential growth in diesel refrigeration goes unchecked, and of the arrival of a potentially multi-billion pound market in ‘clean cold’ technologies.

The diesel powered transport refrigeration unit (TRU) is the trucking industry’s big challenge. While truck propulsion engines are tightly regulated in the EU and increasingly clean, the secondary ‘donkey engines’ used to power TRUs on many trucks and all articulated trailers are effectively unregulated and emit grossly disproportionate amounts of toxic air pollution. Over the course of a year, a modern trailer TRU is reckoned to emit six times as much NOx and 29 times as much particulate matter as the Euro VI propulsion engine pulling it around.

The refrigeration alone is said to account for around 20% of a truck’s diesel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Carrier Transicold’s NaturaLine is a diesel-fuelled system incorporating CO2 in place of conventional synthetic refrigerants. The Dearman Engine Company, a British start-up, received highly commended status in last night’s awards and is developing a zero-emission engine to completely replace incumbent diesel fuelled transport refrigeration systems. Dearman’s highly efficient refrigeration system extracts both cooling and power from the phase-change expansion of liquid air or liquid nitrogen. The system is based on a novel piston engine invented by Peter Dearman.

The Dearman Engine Company is working on the first application of the engine with Hubbard Products to drive the motor in a transport refrigeration unit. The technology will be undergoing on-vehicle trials in December at MIRA (formerly the Motor Industry Research Association), which will be followed by commercial trials in 2015 and the manufacture of the first engines in 2016.

Hubbard’s managing director, Pat Maughan, said: “Hubbard, after many years of refining designs, has realised that near-term future requirements cannot be achieved with existing available components and technologies. Hubbard has engaged jointly with Dearman to develop a transport refrigeration system that will be the paradigm shift to economic clean cold on the highway.”

Air pollution is rising rapidly up the political agenda in Europe, where the European Commission has started enforcement action against the UK for persistently breaking legal limits on emissions of nitrogen dioxide, which could eventually result in fines of €300m per year. A separate ruling by the European Court of Justice in November 2014 also obliges the government to clean up Britain’s air pollution, and applies equally to other EU member states.

Also, with online food shopping growing fast in the UK – the market is set to double in value over the next five years to £13bn – if the additional refrigerated vehicles needed to deliver all this food are not made more eco-friendly, the environmental and health impacts in urban areas could be serious.

The Dearman engine can also offer global benefits, particularly in rapidly industrialising countries where the cold chain is not yet fully established such as India. Here, up to 50% of perishable food is lost before ever reaching a plate because cold chains are rudimentary or non-existent.

In many cases innovative fuel-efficient technologies tend to be significantly more expensive than established ones, but the Dearman engine breaks this orthodoxy. As well as being simple, cheap to build and low maintenance, many of the parts needed to make it are readily available in the UK.

Toby Peters, Dearman’s senior group managing director and newly-appointed visiting professor of power and cold economy at the Birmingham Energy Institute, said: “At the moment cold is treated very much as the “Cinderella” of the environmental debate. But the good news is that there are many promising opportunities for doing cold better and we are delighted that the judges have recognised the Dearman engine and the importance of this sector in the awards. We look forward to proving the value of this technology over the coming months and demonstrating the impact it could have on a better cold chain worldwide.”

Related stories:

Hubbard trials liquid-air-powered refrigerationJune 5, 2014
UK: Suffolk-based Hubbard Products is collaborating on field trials of a new liquid-air-powered transport refrigeration system. Read more…

Sainsbury’s trials CO2 refrigerated trailers – September 6, 2013
UK: Sainsbury’s is trialling a world-first Carrier Transicold CO2 refrigerated trailer to transport chilled and frozen goods. Read more…

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