Alternative cooling solutions
As we move increasingly towards low emission vehicle use, particularly in an urban delivery environment, alternative methods of powering fridge and freezer compartments incorporated in vans will need to be found.
Simply running the vehicle’s engine – or worse having a non-emissions compliant motor powering the fridge unit – will become increasingly difficult. Converters and manufacturers keen to push the fridge market will need to seek new solutions to meet auxiliary power requirements.
UK converter CoolVan has recently introduced an electrically-powered conversion for the Renault Kangoo ZE electric van, as there is no engine in the van to drive the fridge unit. The company has worked with Hubbard/Zanotti to develop a fully electric roof-mounted Z12BA fridge system, that is powered by industrial batteries and an inverter incorporated in the conversion. The batteries are charged overnight along with the vehicle, using a split charger system.
Lancashire converter CoolKit has carried out a similar conversion on the Kangoo ZE, using a Hubbard refrigeration unit that is powered by dedicated battery packs. The fridge unit can run independently for eight hours, without having an adverse effect on the Kangoo ZE’s driving range.
Zanotti also supplies the refrigeration unit for the Mega electric box van. While the vehicle is being charged the internal temperature is reduced to a preset temperature. Once disconnected from the mains, the heavy duty battery can provide enough power to maintain the low temperature for 5-6 hours before recharging.
Nissan has been looking at alternative ways in which it can make use of its rapidly developing electric vehicle technology too. As well as the soon to be launched e-NV200 electric van, the company has unveiled a refrigerated truck concept that uses the Nissan LEAF battery system to power the fridge body at the rear, rather than driving the truck itself.
The Cabstar e-Refrigerator uses a high efficiency electric compressor and lithium ion battery system to power the truck’s chiller and refrigerator compartments. The system continues to work even when the vehicle engine is switched off, providing a noise reduction benefit for urban operations as well as a cut in engine emissions.
The battery module has been developed by 4R Energy Corporation, a joint venture between Nissan Motor and Sumitomo Corporation. The venture was established to consider new applications for electric vehicle lithium ion batteries, but also to find second life uses, once batteries have come to the end of their working life powering the vehicle. The joint venture says that in many cases a vehicle drive battery may still have 70% capacity after 10 years and, while that is no longer enough to power the vehicle, it may well drive auxiliary take-offs.
As well as cutting fuel use and diesel engine emissions, by not using the vehicle’s engine to power the fridge compartment, there is also no requirement for refrigerant piping to be installed within the vehicle, reducing the risk of refrigerant leaks.
While any commercial model would probably rely on overnight charging from a mains supply for the battery pack, Nissan’s e-Refrigerator concept at the recent Hanover Show used a large solar panel mounted on the roof of the vehicle to charge the pack.
‘Nissan is developing number of vehicles that adapt a diverse range of EV technologies,’ said Hideto Murakami, Nissan’s corporate vice president responsible for the Global LCV Business Unit. ‘We want to explore the potential of EV technology in the light commercial market to diversify the value that Nissan’s commercial vehicles provide to businesses.’