Wabash National (NYSE: WNC) and solar power supplier eNow are harnessing the sun to power a road-ready all-electric Carrier Transicold refrigerated trailer. It could save 50% over a diesel-powered unit.
The zero-emission trailer debuted at the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) meeting in February. Reefers are designed to keep perishable goods cool during transport.
Solar-powered refers are not new. But their adoption is slow. Until recently, manufacturers could not show their viability.
“We haven’t seen high demand for zero-emission trailers for refrigerated hauls due to the location and size of batteries,” said Robert Lane, Wabash National vice president of product innovations.
“This is the first time a major trailer innovation has been coupled with a major [transport refrigeration unit] innovation that results in breakthrough customer value in a sustainable format,” Lane said.
Molded composites breakthrough
The TRU breakthrough is due to Wabash’s molded structural composite (MSC) technology. It’s is more thermally efficient. That allows the use of fewer batteries or more run time from the same battery mass.
Wabash claims its MSC reefer is the most thermally efficient, lightest and most durable on the road. Highpoints include maximized payload, corrosion resistance and the highest standard floor rating in the industry.
Fifty-three feet of roof-mounted solar panels assist with the power needs for refrigeration, according to Mark Ehrlich, Wabash senior director of engineering.
Using MSC technology, Wabash can make a 48-foot trailer 30% more thermally efficient than a traditional reefer. That means cooling units can run fewer hours. And all-electric cooling units need smaller batteries.
The Wabash MSC insulation package is a nice match for the TRU technology, said Chris Trajkovski, vice president of fleet maintenance and DOT safety compliance at C&S Wholesale Grocers. The TRU should work less with the trailer’s composite design.
C&S is the nation’s largest wholesale grocery supply company. It will operate one of the trailers in California.
Cutting pollution and saving money
Fleets can spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to maintain diesel-powered reefer systems. California air quality regulators want to get rid of them because exhaust from groups of trailers running their cooling systems emits particulate pollution,.
During five months testing in 2017 on a Class 7 truck delivering dairy products, eNow charted reductions of 98% nitrous oxide, 86% carbon dioxide and 97% particulate matter compared to diesel engine systems.
The eNow system enables a full 12-hour route duration. It can be more than 50% less costly compared to diesel reefers. Projected operations and maintenance costs during the 2017 testing were up to 90% lower than diesel, Guy Shaffer, eNow chief marketing officer, told FreightWaves.
“We believe the potential for RayFrigeration technology to replace diesel-powered reefer units is very strong,” he said. “We are developing plans to extend the range beyond its current regional delivery applications to long-haul delivery using private and public recharging infrastructure.”