RouteMax all-electric refrigeration solution

Nov. 1, 2007
International Truck and Engine and Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies have jointly launched the new RouteMax a technology that keeps products cold or frozen

International Truck and Engine and Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies have jointly launched the new RouteMax — a technology that keeps products cold or frozen with innovative, efficient all-electric clean and green refrigeration while in transit exclusively on International medium duty DuraStar trucks with Johnson Premier bodies.

RouteMax is a self-powered, extended-route cold plate refrigeration system that charges cold plates — coated steel plates with tubing that contains a salt-brine solution — to provide a cost-effective way to maintain a cool temperature inside the truck body.

“A traditional cold plate refrigeration system requires overnight plug-in to re-freeze the salt brine,” says Ron Ricci, president of Johnson Refrigerated Truck Bodies. “With RouteMax, the plates also are recharged during the route by a condensing unit that quickly restores the truck body's internal temperature and removes heat from the cold plates.”

The power to charge the condensing unit comes from International's Diamond Logic PowerPack 3, Steve Guillaume, International's general manager-medium truck, says. “The first OEM factory-installed 3,000-watt AC power solution in the truck industry, PowerPack 3 offers fully integrated, on-demand power.”

Diamond Logic, the name of International's truck electrical system, uses multiplex technology to provide control and communication between major areas of its vehicles. The system is easily expandable through the use of remotely mounted power modules and air solenoid modules.

With RouteMax, truck body temperature can be monitored remotely from a password-protected Internet site using International's Aware Vehicle Intelligence, and the optional GPS-based solution that monitors the truck and body performance, says Guillaume. Aware uses telematics technology that links a truck's electrical system to a fleet's computer, allowing wireless monitoring of truck routes, performance, maintenance, security, and fuel.

While traditional cold plate systems hold the truck body's temperature during daily delivery runs of 10 to 12 hours, the RouteMax solution can allow users to deliver cold products for 16 to 20 hours per day. This is accomplished because the temperature is continually maintained, and the cold plates are charged when needed by the PowerPack 3 system.

RouteMax has been designed for distributors of medium- and low-temperature, and deep frozen products, Ricci says. It provides “substantial operating cost savings” over traditional diesel powered refrigeration units because RouteMax is lighter and operates with electricity generated by the truck's engine — with minimal drag on fuel economy — and electric shore power during overnight plug-in.

In addition, maintenance costs are reduced as the RouteMax has very few moving parts for greater reliability, says Ricci, and is virtually maintenance free.

Fuel economy can be improved when the RouteMax is teamed with International DuraStar Hybrids. These vehicles use diesel hybrid electric technology that has the capability to provide fuel savings up to 40 percent compared to traditional diesel engines, says Josh Lepage, International's sales manager of product integration.

DuraStar Hybrids use an International MaxxForce DT diesel teamed with an Eaton hybrid electric system, which includes an electric motor/generator between the output of an automated clutch and the input of the transmission, and the system's Lithium Ion batteries.

The hybrid electric system maintains conventional drivetrain architecture with an Eaton Fuller UltraShift automated transmission, plus adds the ability to augment engine torque with electrical torque, Lepage says. “The system recovers energy normally lost during braking with regenerative braking and stores this energy in the batteries to assist the vehicle during the next initial vehicle launch from a complete stop. While braking, torque passing through the transmission turns the system's motor/generator drive unit into a generator to recharge the hybrid electric system's Lithium Ion batteries.”

When pulling away, DuraStar Hybrids use the hybrid electric system's motor/generator unit's electric torque to get the vehicle moving. Once up to speed, the diesel engine blends horsepower and torque to maintain desired road speed.

When electric torque is mixed together with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for any given speed, or used to operate the vehicle with an electric power requirement, says Lepage. The result is reduced engine and brake maintenance, fewer emissions, and quieter operations.

Having an opportunity to drive a loaded DuraStar Hybrid, I was taken aback by its performance. Never having driven any type of hybrid medium duty truck, I figured it would need to be driven differently, and would be sluggish. Such was not the case.

The truck started out with plenty of power, because at virtually 0 rpm, 60 horsepower and up to 300 lb-ft of torque is blended into the driveline instantaneously. There was a lot less noise as the diesel engine was at idle maintaining engine cooling and accessory loads.

The hybrid electric system automatically switches to diesel power as demand is requested by the driver. I discovered that this happens based on vehicle weight and the speed demanded.

The only indication of the switch to diesel power was an increase in noise from the engine “coming on” off of idle. There was no noticeable change in the truck's operation. All shifts from the automated transmission were relatively smooth.

I found the hybrid electric system is best suited to inter-city type start-and-stop applications such as pick-up and delivery. That is because the system works invisibly in such operations to save fuel while delivering performance.

I appreciated the regenerative braking feature because it enhances stopping power by using the electric motor to slow the vehicle. I used the truck brakes less often, and that helps reduce brake wear.

Because the DuraStar Hybrids have a parallel hybrid system, the diesel engine remains fully functional in the event that the hybrid system should need to “go offline” for any reason.

About the Author

David Kolman

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