New refrigeration unit designs and technology for both trucks and trailers are quickly hitting the transportation industry this year from the two major OEMs serving the market: Carrier Transicold and Thermo King.
Carrier is moving fast on the hybrid diesel-electric front. David Kiefer, director of marketing and product management, says the company is rolling out its Vector 6500, a single-temp trailer reefer unit equipped with a hybrid Deltek technology package to help fleets lower life cycle and operating costs.
According to Kiefer, the Vector 6500's streamlined electric architecture eliminates many of the serviceable mechanical components found in conventional systems, and substitutes expanded use of electronics and maintenance-free electrical components. The result is a unit that can reduce maintenance costs over its lifetime, compared to conventional mechanical technologies. More importantly, unlike a conventional system that runs all mechanically connected components via belts and pulleys whenever the engine runs, the Vector system only powers components needed at any given time, which can save fuel by reducing the engine load, Kiefer explains.
“We've talked to a lot of fleets that leave trailers at yards or delivery points over the weekend and now, instead of running the diesel engine all that time, they can plug them in and use electricity,” he notes. “That saves the cost of fuel and emissions as well.”
Carrier's Deltek technology uses a diesel engine to drive a 23-kilowatt electric generator to generate enough current to run all system components, such as fans and the semi-hermetic compressor with its electric motor sealed inside.
On the truck side, Thermo King just rolled out its all-new T-Series temperature control units. Designed for straight trucks, the T-Series offers lower life cycle costs to fleets, notes Tim Ryan, truck product director for Thermo King.
“Time and time again, customers asked for cost and fuel savings, improved reliability and performance, quieter, cleaner operation, and that they be easier to use and service,” he explains. “We took those requests and … that's what drove the development of the T-Series.”
Features include a TSR-2 controller with more durable light-emitting diode (LED) technology; a choice between traditional reciprocating compressors or the new scroll compressor that offers more reliability, higher capacity and greater fuel efficiency; stationary or optional over-the-road Hybrid SmartPower electric operation; enhanced Whisper technology to significantly reduce noise; and a sleeker design for easier maintenance and repair service access.
Units available include the T-500R, T-600R, T-800R and T-1000R with reciprocating compressors; the T-600, T-800, T-1000, T-800 Spectrum multi-temperature; and T-1000 Spectrum multi-temperature with scroll compressor technology.
Future ideas, of course, abound for reefers; much of them are focused on taking advantage of the growing role hybrid diesel-electric power is playing in this market.
For example, Carrier's Kiefer notes that a technology trend to watch over the next five years is that of bringing solar-generated electricity into the reefer, either from plugging the unit into shore power or possibly from roof-mounted panels on trailers and truck dry van boxes.
“You couldn't power the entire hybrid reefer off solar power … but maybe you could get half of the electricity you need from the sun, and that would allow you to reduce the load on the system's batteries, diesel engine, et cetera,” he explains.
“Right now, though, solar cells are still not practical. They cost about $3 a cell and you need to get down to around $1 per cell to make it work. In addition, there are reliability and durability issues to look at,” Kiefer says. “Yet just five years ago, such cells cost $7 per unit, so the price of the technology is dropping. In another five years, some of these ideas could become reality, but we're still several years away from this.”
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