Innovation that is focused on zero emissions is the future reality of our industry, and Thermo King is committed to doing it the right way – in every product segment.
Like many industries, the Transport Refrigeration Industry has the ability to positively impact the sustainability of our world through technology and innovation. As an pioneer in sustainable technology, Thermo King has committed to that acceleration in many ways, and electrification technology is at the forefront. This includes investments in talent and skill sets, research and development, real-world testing, and collaboration with various businesses, industry partners, educational institutions, and manufacturers. With the goal to move technological ideation forward quickly by focusing on customer needs, environmental responsibility, and our 2030 Sustainability Commitments, industry-changing product innovation is happening in real-time with Class 8 trailers being next on the list.
While the electrification of the Transportation Industry is occurring in every product segment, one thing is clear – to be successful, future innovation must be customer-centric. This is particularly true in the development of a commercialized electric transport refrigeration option for trailer. No doubt, the Class 8 segment offers challenges and requirements very different than Classes 3-7, which already have a growing number of all-electric options that are helping customers meet sustainability goals. This includes Thermo King’s e200 unit with R452 lower GWP refrigerant introduced in 2021 for small trucks and vans, and the new e1000 all-electric unit for large straight trucks. There are also commercialized electric options in the bus, APU, and airfreight segments today.
Partnering for success and listening to real customer needs
Thermo King’s goal is to provide customers with reliable, flexible, and scalable solutions that integrate into the specific needs of our industry while protecting sensitive food products and pharmaceuticals. As part of our product innovation process, we have been engaging with key customers and testing a custom, hybrid electrified trailer since 2021. The trailer has been successfully hauling refrigerated and deep-frozen goods at various distances and climates. Thermo King’s team of engineers has been collecting valuable performance data with telematics and intelligent dashboards. The data – and the importance of connectivity technology, coupled with vital customer dialogue and input, is shaping the technology and its speed to market.
Partnerships will continue to be instrumental in the electrification transformation being seen in our industry, and we have already learned a lot from our ongoing trailer trials with customers including Walmart, Loblaws and Martin Brower. In these trials, we recorded average customer savings of 150 pounds of carbon dioxide per unit per day – that equates to a BIG impact when considering the number of long-haul refrigerated trailers that are on the roads. But to get there, we must fully understand what our customers require to have success and to feel comfortable about making the investment in the first place.
Operationally, we are seeing important factors that need to be considered such as:
- Strategy for yard operation of an electric transport refrigeration unit (TRU) including precooling, staging, and loading
- Integration of charging infrastructure and use in operation
- Careful detailing of routes including distance, stops, and duration of door openings
- Determining the need for charging infrastructure at delivery locations
- Ability to extend range by leveraging over the road technologies (Examples: Solar & eAxle)
Close collaboration with our customers and leveraging our TracKing™ telematics is enabling these deeper operational learnings and route analysis’ that are critical to the success of electric operations.
There is no doubt that electrification is here. It is driving our industry, and others. And it is moving fast! Now is the time to further define the innovation and pave the road ahead for our customers and the cold chain, and we will be most successful with continued customer collaboration so that we can fully understand operational needs. We are excited to keep moving forward together as we work to meet sustainability goals that will have real impact in our industry and our world.
To learn more about the recent electric trailer trials, read the press release.
Sam Doerr is the trailer portfolio leader for Thermo King Americas