‘Going electric’ is definitely an idea shaping the future investment decisions of many a transport manager. Some will see it as the obvious way to run a sustainable fleet. For others, electric trucks and vans will help them comply with various noise and emission standards.

In 2020, demand is growing, which in turn is putting the pressure on refrigeration equipment manufacturers such as Thermo King to launch new and exciting all-electric technologies. Innovation will be key, as any new product will not have a combustion engine to pull power from, nor be able to simply pull power from the vehicle’s battery.

According to Mark Howell, managing director at Marshall Fleet Solutions, “As a power source, electric is already making great strides, with an estimated 5 million battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids estimated to be on the road. Equally, the ‘electric revolution’ is having a significant impact on commercial vehicle manufacturers with many of the major players in the industry recently unveiling all-electric vans and trucks. Whilst at Thermo King its portfolio of all-electric units continues to grow including the latest E-200 unit.”

Strategic concerns

All-electric technology is a significant development designed to help transport companies meet a number of regulatory and operational objectives, including:

  • Addressing the ‘diesel dilemma’: now under intense scrutiny, diesel vehicles are facing the prospect of being banned from various European cities – with countries including India and China looking to ban diesel engines in certain areas by 2030.
  • Mastering the need for quiet: even though a modern road vehicle makes 90% less noise than its equivalent from the 1970s, there is growing regulation for limiting noise in urban areas – starting with PIEK standards.
  • Putting sustainability first: consumers are becoming increasingly concerned with the sustainable credential of the goods they buy, which is why brands and transport companies are aiming to lower emissions throughout the supply chain.

Invention and Innovation

We all know the reasons why ‘going electric’ makes good sense in the medium- to long-term. The key question that now needs to be asked however is how?

Mark Howell continues, “Finding the answer will depend heavily on developments in technology. That’s because most direct drive solutions (for diesel combustion engines) available today include compressors that require engine movement to power the refrigeration unit. The challenge being set equipment manufacturers therefore is come up with ‘all-electric’ technologies. Innovation is now taking centre stage.”

This is arguably one of the biggest shifts in the industry since Fred Jones (the founder of Thermo King) invented the world’s first refrigerated transport unit in 1938. Success will require not just new technologies, but also new components and design principles not seen previously before.

Tesco has expanded its UK delivery fleet by adding 52 new vans with inverter driven, full electric E-200 refrigeration units from Thermo King

Leading the way

This is an area of new technology, one in which Thermo King has a strong track record.

A proof-point here being the progress they are already making on an electric journey, beginning with an entire product line (the B-series) that’s compatible with small electric vans.

Going all-out electric

“The next step is to extend all-electric capabilities to both medium-sized vans and trucks, which is where the all-new Thermo King E-200 enters the picture. This all-electric solution provides close to 2000 W of capacity, and is fully independent of vehicle RPM. Better still, it unleashes its superior cooling capacity without draining the vehicle battery,” said Mark Howell.

Now available in the UK, Thermo King’s E-200 can work with both electric and engine-powered vehicles, bringing with it a host of standout innovations:

  • Unit performance will be completely autonomous from the vehicle, and require no modifications to function
  • With its major components integrated, the unit is designed to be a plug-and-play solution that removes the headaches and costs associated with installation
  • The E-200 is using many unique components, including a dynamic new controller that enables direct communication between a refrigeration unit and the vehicle
  • Embracing new technology

“The transition to all-electric vehicles is not going to happen overnight. But when time comes for companies to make the move to electric, innovative new solutions like the E-200 bring with them powerful new capabilities to support any investment,” concludes Mark Howell, “From increased uptime and utilisation, higher reliability, and improved temperature control, to an intelligent algorithm that helps safeguard and optimize the power supply, going electric means gaining a significant boost in performance.”

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