Illinois-based Prairie Farms is testing a "zero-carbon-footprint" cold plate refrigeration hybrid unit that will save on fuel and maintenance and drastically cut CO2 emissions.
Prairie Farms will put the cold plate refrigeration hybrid unit on the road immediately; five more are to come.
Prairie Farms will put the cold plate refrigeration hybrid unit on the road immediately; five more are to come.

The hybrid vehicles are coming from Hercules Manufacturing, which received five additional orders following a key presentation and inspection of the first hybrid vehicle to Prairie Farms Dairy.

"This makes a stronger statement to their environmental interests as well as their approval of Hercules in this first of its kind green hybrid transport for the refrigerated truck industry," said Joe Banna, Hercules president emeritus.

Hercules has developed the green cold plate refrigeration hybrid unit with the help of an $80,000 investment in R&D and using Eaton Corporation's hybrid diesel/electric technology. Hercules estimates the vehicle will save over $7,000 a year per vehicle in fuel and maintenance costs while being environmentally safe. The truck's hybrid engine technology could reduce annual CO2 emissions by up to 43,000 pounds per vehicle, compared to conventional refrigeration systems.

"It is a green solution in terms of the environment, but also in terms of the additional money saved to the companies who employ it," said Jeffrey Caddick, Hercules owner and CEO.

"We chose Hercules because they are at the forefront of this groundbreaking technology and they have an extended association with Eaton Corporation," said Jay Naples, corporate fleet manager of Prairie Farms Dairy. "Being the first to try this new green hybrid design, we hope to set a precedent in our industry and establish environmentally friendly transportation."

The green Hercules body combines heating and cooling capabilities with over-the-road power generation in a Direct-Store-Delivery vehicle. This refrigeration design eliminates the complexity of onboard generators and/or inverters with a seamless power management module that uses the hybrid chassis battery system during the delivery day and shore power at night.

Through reengineering and newly developed electronic controls, the truck can use the electricity generated by the hybrid motor to recharge its cold plate refrigeration system on the road enabling companies to run longer routes since the weight of the refrigeration system has been reduced to improve fuel mileage. It also means the truck can go without needing to return and repower the cold plates in its refrigeration system, which lose their cool gradually.

"Delivery costs are one of our highest expenses," said Ed Mullins, Prairie Farms CEO.

Prairie Farms will put the hybrid vehicle on the road immediately, and it will be wirelessly monitored 24/7 by Hercules to track its performance. The additional five vehicles ordered will go into production upon receipt of hybrid chassis.