Trucks at Work

Reefer ditches diesel in favor of kinetic energy

Emerald Technology Partners is preparing to test a new refrigeration system that it says will eliminate the use of fossil fuels and still maintain a cool operating environment for refrigerated loads.

The Wedway Refrigeration Power System does this through kinetic energy. For all of us who remember learning about kinetic energy in school but never thought there would be a need to use it again, kinetic energy is the energy that is stored in an object while it is motion. That energy remains constant until the velocity of the object is changed.

Working with researchers at the University of Central Florida’s Center for Advanced Turbines and Energy Research, Emerald says it has developed a system that captures the kinetic energy produced by a trailer’s wheels as it rolls down the highway. That energy is converted into power that is used to operate the refrigeration unit, leaving the batteries to charge so that they are fully charged when the vehicle stops.

According to Emerald, those charged batteries can run a refrigeration system for up to 12 hours while the vehicle is stopped. The system, for which Emerald has applied for a patent, can also be plugged in to shore power for times when the trailer will be stationary for long periods of time.

By using a vehicle’s kinetic energy, the need to carry extra diesel fuel to power the refrigeration system is eliminated, thereby lowering the weight of the overall system and offering increased payload capacity for truckers.

Emerald says it is building a full-scale device and plans field testing of the unit in ten markets around the country.

If the technology works as planned, it could put a significant dent in the use of diesel fuel to fill refrigeration systems each year. Emerald estimates there are 1.1 million reefers on the road each year and filling each one once a week costs $12.8 billion a year. For each Wedway system installed, the cost to fill it would be zero, the company points out.

The technology also offers hope for other power systems in vehicles. Logic would dictate that if kinetic energy can be used to power refrigeration units as well, then it also might be possible to power other in-vehicle systems such as APUs.

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