CORRECTED -- Thermo King's new Precedent series of transport refrigeration units that will meet federal exhaust emissions limits for 2013 represent three years' work by hundreds of employees here and overseas, and cost more than $60 million, the biggest such investment in the company's history, its president said during a press briefing yesterday.
The cabinet of the Precedent S-600 has sleek styling, and its Yanmar diesel meets Tier 4 Final emissions limits without a particulate filter or urea injection.
The cabinet of the Precedent S-600 has sleek styling, and its Yanmar diesel meets Tier 4 Final emissions limits without a particulate filter or urea injection.
The project began in 2008 and included extensive input from dealers and, through them, from customers.

Three series of TRUs will serve separate segments in the temperature-controlled trucking industry. Most will cost more to buy but will perform better and save significant amounts of fuel over current products, said President Ray Pittard and other company executives at their headquarters in Bloomington, Minn.

Changes to the firm's TriPac auxiliary power unit will also enable its engine to meet the Tier 4 final limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as those imposed by California's Air Resources Board, they said.

Thermo King outlined the products, most available in January when the EPA regulations take effect, or soon thereafter, in an announcement on Wednesday, Aug. 8. Reefers and APUs are regulated under EPA's off-road Tier regulations, even though engines on their host trucks follow separate on-road standards.

More Details

At yesterday's event, executives added many details about the design and testing process and explained how each fits its market. Like EPA's Tier regs, the 2013 reefer products are classified as under 25 horsepower or 25 horsepower and over. The regs set more stringent limits for particulate matter and nitrogen oxygen for the higher-power category, which is why they had to be developed separately.

Three TRUs, two of them new and one a current model, will serve the trailer reefer market starting in January, said Tom Kampf, trailer product manager. The largest new trailer units are designated S-600, with several submodels and all in the 25-plus-horsepower category. They have an entirely new architecture with advanced electronic controls, new engine, frame, cabinet and other components.

They share a Yanmar diesel with a high-pressure common-rail fuel system, very precise fuel injection and a "light" dose of exhaust-gas recirculation, but no diesel particulate filter and no urea injection. The engine directly drives the refrigerant compressor. Each unit also has a belt-driven generator that powers electric fans, uses a larger condenser and evaporator, and claims more efficient air flow.

The diesel will make 29 to 30 horsepower under high load, sufficient to drive the more efficient components, compared to the 34 horsepower produced by current models. The S-600 series will deliver as much as 27% better fuel economy than current products, Kampf said. This and better performance will pay for an S-600's higher price, though executives declined to say how much more they will cost.

Because of larger and more capable components, an S-600 will weigh about 200 pounds more than a comparable current model, he said. Electric stand-by equipment will add another 150 pounds, as now.

Easing Anxiety

Because the S-600 meets Tier 4 Final emissions limits, the EPA will allow Thermo King to continue selling its current SB-230 TRU under a credit system based partly on volumes of production. The SB-230 will probably be available through 2013 and perhaps into 2014, Kampf estimated.

This will address fleet managers' "anxiety" over new technology, he added, allowing them to phase in the new unit and get accustomed to its advanced technology while continuing to use the familiar, older-tech TRU, thus easing training requirements for technicians.

Also because the S-600's diesel meets Tier 4 Final, CARB considers it an "evergreen" engine that has no time limit on its life. Like other current products that meet Tier 4 Interim and earlier standards, the SB-230 will be limited to seven years of life from the time it goes into service in California, Kampf explained.

A second new series is the under-25-horsepower C-600, which uses a smaller engine and advanced components similar to those on the S-600. Its enhancements will deliver fuel economy up to 11% better than current products, Kampf said. This category need not meet Tier 4 Final until later, so the C-600 series also has a seven-year time limit for use in California, meaning one that enters service in 2013 must be repowered with a newer engine or replaced in 2019.

All Precedent TRUs will be available with stand-by electric capability, also called shore power. While trailers are parked, These units can be plugged into 230- or 460-volt outlets and operated with no diesel power and no exhaust fumes. CARB exempts shore-power TRUs from the seven-year limit if users can prove that they run at least 30% of the time on electricity alone.

For straight trucks, Thermo King has prepared the T-series with enhanced versions of existing components and slightly larger diesels. The engines will have new cylinder heads and mechanical fuel pumps. These units will use piston or rotary-type compressors, plus controls, coils, frame and motors from the current SB-3 series.

The S-600 series will enter production in October and the C-600 in December. Coming later is a higher-capacity S-700 TRU, which will take over from the current SB-330. Other products will enter production slightly later.

Upgraded TriPac APU

Thermo King engineers have upgraded their TriPac diesel-powered APU to meet the 2013 emissions limits, and have dubbed it the TriPac Evolution. Its engine will have an electronic throttle control for more precise output over wide operating conditions, according to Paul Barbaro, APU product manager.

Engineers developed a new control system - "a very large-scale project" - which has real-time data logging and can register 22 alarm codes for later diagnostic work; ampere-based decision-making governing the charging system to ensure that chassis batteries stay charged; flash-drive-loadable software capability; and an easy-to-understand and -use control panel which Barbaro called the human-machine interface, or HMI.

The simple three-knob HMI should reduce training of new drivers in its use, which is important in these days of high driver turnover where fleet managers must instruct new hires on operation of their tractors as well as company operating and paperwork procedures, he said.

The new APU is the same external size as the existing one, is easy to install, and simple to maintain because mechanics can quickly remove its "skin" and readily get at its components. After installation, all new APUs will be test-run for a 10-hour break-in period to ensure proper operation.

The basic engine-oil drain interval is 1,500 hours, 500 more than the current model, done by enlarging its oil capacity from 4 quarts to 6. This will allow managers to align APU maintenance with normal tractor preventive maintenance checks.

As with the current TriPac, the new model will supply 115-volt electricity to power a refrigerator, microwave, television and other "home" conveniences needed by drivers who spend days and weeks on the road and live in their tractors.

This story updated 8:35 EDT 8/13 to correct an error. The system does NOT have a DPF, as previously indicated. We regret the error.