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Thermo King looks to refrigerant to tackle carbon emissions

Lower-emissions refrigerant to come standard with new units

(Photo: Thermo King and Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Starting this month, Thermo King’s refrigerated trucking units will come standard with R452A refrigerant, which reportedly has a 50% lower carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) impact than the previously used R404A refrigerant.

As companies strive to reduce transportation-related emissions, refrigerant is one avenue trucking companies could start exploring more. 

The lower carbon impacts of the R452A refrigerant are equivalent to saving approximately 650,000 metric tons of CO2e annually, or taking 143,000 passenger vehicles per year off of the road, according to a Thermo King press release

Thermo King is owned by Swords, Ireland-headquartered Trane Technologies (NYSE: TT). 

“Sustainability is foundational to Trane Technologies’/Thermo King’s strategy, and we are committed to delivering to customers solutions that add value to their operations and are better for the planet,” Chris Tanaka, vice president of product management at Thermo King Americas, told FreightWaves.

While customers previously had an option to choose lower-emissions refrigerant, Thermo King will start using the R452A refrigerant as standard in its new trailers.

“Thermo King’s Precedent single-temperature and multitemperature model trailer units will be equipped with the lower global warming potential refrigerant R452A” beginning this month, Tanaka said. “Thermo King truck units in North America will transition to R452A in mid-2022.” 

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The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) requirement for all new transport refrigeration units to use lower-emissions refrigerants by January 2023 has been the “primary driver for Thermo King to invest in making the transition to a lower global warming potential refrigerant now,” Tanaka said.

Since the CARB requirements will only apply to new units, Thermo King’s existing units will continue to run on 404A refrigerant, which produces 50% more CO2e than the R452A refrigerant.

“Some customers have made climate commitments to their stakeholders that are similar to Trane Technologies’ gigaton challenge, and this proactive, early release timing by Thermo King helps those customers deliver their sustainability commitments earlier than would otherwise be possible,” Tanaka said.

Trane Technologies has a target to reduce 1 gigaton of CO2e from its customers’ footprint by 2030 as part of its sustainability goals. The company plans to improve technologies and energy efficiency, reduce food loss globally and transition to more eco-friendly refrigerants to reach its target.

Cost, performance impacts of R452A refrigerant

Tanaka said that the price difference between the two refrigerants is “nominal” and Thermo King worked with its supplier to negotiate a favorable price for its customers.

“When it comes to performance, our customers can continue to expect the same level of quality and performance in these units and with the added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint of their operations,” Tanaka said.

Read: Clean Energy’s renewable natural gas to power an additional 611 trucks

R452A is a nonflammable, non-ozone-depleting blend refrigerant, according to Tanaka.

None of Thermo King’s newly produced units will run on 404A refrigerant. Thermo King is “the first transport refrigeration company in North America to use R452A as standard in its trailer and truck units,” he said.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.