Two of D&D's trucks outfitted with Volta Air electric reefers. Photo courtesy Second Generation Cooling and Volta Air.

Two of D&D's trucks outfitted with Volta Air electric reefers. Photo courtesy Second Generation Cooling and Volta Air.

California’s continued push toward fewer and fewer emissions has affected all companies that use trucks in the state, and fleets that rely on trucks to deliver products are no exception. D&D Wholesale Distributors in City of Industry, Calif., has been distributing produce, meats, poultry, grocery, non-foods, frozen foods and dairy in the Southern California area since 1979, and it’s responding to the demand by moving to all-electric refrigeration units for its delivery trucks.

“Because of the of the lack of ARB-compliant units in California, we looked really deep into the future and decided we wanted to go battery operated,” explains Frank Ulloa with Second Generation Cooling, also in the LA area, which handles refrigeration needs for D&D’s 40 trucks.

They found a Canadian company, Volta Air, that offers all-electric refrigeration units for vans and medium-duty delivery trucks. Last year they installed a unit it a smaller truck, an Isuzu. It worked “wonderful,” according to Ulloa, so this summer they added a larger-size unit incorporating solar panels on a larger Hino box truck.

The new Volta Air 450 system is nose-mounted like a traditional reefer unit. Photo courtesy Volta Air

The new Volta Air 450 system is nose-mounted like a traditional reefer unit. Photo courtesy Volta Air

Not only will the move make the reefer units eco-friendly, they’ll also save money — Ulloa says $3,500 a year just in fuel, not counting savings in maintenance costs. And, he says, the up-front cost is actually less than a traditional reefer unit.

Peter Johnston with Volta Air explains that the Vancouver, Canada-based company started out with a no-idle electric auxiliary power unit for long-haul trucking, and has been working with the Canadian government and educational institutions on further developing its electric compressor and control systems. The D&D unit installed this summer is the third one they have running in California but they’re ready to do more with the help of Second Generation Cooling.

“If you’re stopped, you leave your engine off and the solar panels kick in to charge the batteries,” he explains.

Solar panels go on the roof of the box, two to four panels depending on the size of the unit and the demand.

New on this unit, Johnston says, is a controller that will send alerts if the power level is getting too low or the refrigeration box temperature is too high, and will monitor the idle time and fuel saved.

“We’re 25 years ahead of the mandate by going this route,” he says. “By 2050 all units have to be zero emissions. By next year all companies have to have plug ins.”

One benefit of the Volta Air system over other reefers that run on stand-by power, Johnston says, is that it requires only a standard breaker. “Some standby units have to run off three phase power,” he says, which can be expensive to install. “These units can run off single phase. Just go buy an extension cord at Home Depot.”

They also are lighter than traditional reefer units, allowing more payload capacity.

Another benefit? The noise level, Ulloa says. “We got a lot of complaints about the diesels making deliveries at 4 in the morning. They won’t even know we’re there” with the electric refrigeration units. “‘Sustainable urban delivery trucks’ is kind of what we’ve been advertising.”

Drivers love them, too, he says. “You can stand next to the unit and have a conversation.”

Volta Air already offered refrigeration units that could be mounted atop delivery vans. But its newest offering, the VAR450DTBLI, which includes a solar system, is designed for medium-duty delivery trucks.

An entirely 12V electric refrigeration unit dubbed the E-Fer, it’s a front-mount electric refrigeration unit that is integrated with lithium batteries and a solar panel charging system.

Ulloa says so far D&D has been impressed by the technology. “D&D wholesale delivers all over southern California. You’re talking the desert where the temperature is 100 plus and we can meet the demands with these units. We challenged Volta Air, and they’ve met the demand.”

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About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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