Lorry refrigeration is ‘hidden polluter’

Refrigeration units used in road transport to keep food and drink deliveries cool emit 163 tonnes of nitrogen oxides onto London streets each year, but the issue is being “ignored”, according to engineering company Dearman.

Dearman infographic showing impact of transport refrigeration

Dearman infographic showing impact of transport refrigeration (click to enlarge)

Research by the London-based firm has found that the majority of the 84,000 transport refrigeration units on UK roads — many of which are diesel powered — are “disproportionately polluting”, emitting up to 29 times more particulate matter than a modern Euro 6 diesel truck engine.

In London alone, the firm claims that refrigerated vehicles travel around 84.6 million kilometres each year, emitting the equivalent of 163 tonnes of NOx, 22 tonnes of particulate matter and 49,125 tonnes of carbon dioxide onto the capital’s streets.

But Dearman claims that if all these “unregulated” units in London were zero emission-capable, it would save the same amount of particulate matter as taking around 327,510 diesel cars of London’s streets.

Dearman’s international ambassador, Dr Tim Fox, who is also a Fellow of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, described transport refrigeration as a “hidden polluter” which is being ignored, but he said this “has to change”.

Dr Fox said: “Until now, nobody has given transport refrigeration units a thought. We all shop at food stores, eat in restaurants or have chilled food delivered, but the impact of transport refrigeration units has never been investigated, let alone addressed.

“Although refrigerated vehicles make up a small proportion of the vehicles on the road, they are unregulated, use out-dated fossil fuelled technology and are disproportionately polluting.  What’s worse, that pollution is concentrated on city streets where it does the most damage to our health.

“In addition to continued investment to make diesel cars and trucks less polluting, we could make a sizeable impact on both NOx and PM pollution by bringing transport refrigeration units up to modern emissions standards — or even better making them zero emission. That small change could have a very big impact.”

The company develops liquid nitrogen power and cooling technology for a variety of applications, and claims that its own technology for transport refrigeration — which can be retrofitted to diesel vehicles — produces zero tailpipe emissions of NOx (see feature).

The Dearman Technology Centre near Croydon, South London

The Dearman Technology Centre near Croydon, South London


Meanwhile Dearman has also begun full testing of its zero emission refrigeration units at its new liquid air research and development facility near Croydon in South London, which the firm claims is the first dedicated liquid air engine facility of its kind.

Once fully operational, the Dearman Technology Centre will enable the testing of four engines simultaneously, along with full system testing, supported by low-volume manufacturing and build capabilities.

This allows the firm to work on several projects in parallel, and it will shortly commence work on its auxiliary power technology for buses and heavy-duty vehicles.

Commenting on the new facility, Dearman deputy chief executive Michael Ayres said:  “The Dearman Technology Centre is a huge step forward for the company, and for the development of cutting-edge clean cold technologies. Having a bespoke facility means that we can accelerate our rate of development and testing, enabling us to bring zero-emission cold and power technologies to market even quicker.

“The team is hard at work running durability testing on the Dearman engine powered zero-emission transport refrigeration unit. The technology is performing well — its power output is very good and it is still proving to be highly efficient.”

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3 years ago

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