Braking energy is king

From the October 2019 issue.

Twan Heetkamp – the Dutch entrepreneur who sold his trailer rental company to TIP Trailer Services in 2016 – saw his second generation of emission-free cooling trailers hit the road earlier this year. In 2020, he has plans to produce 150 New Cool trailers.

All that we know from electricity and road transport is bound to change significantly, according to Heetkamp. Until recently, the entrepreneur has used some space in an unusually large office tower just north of Venlo, overlooking a vast piece of flat land. Much of it is covered with trees, which look peacefully green.

“Don’t be fooled with what you see,” he says. “The air in this part of Europe is far from clean. Recently, I saw a map showing air quality in Europe, and this part performs almost worst. It is an area stretching from the Belgian coast to Rotterdam and then eastward towards the German Ruhr-area. You can’t see if there’s too much carbon dioxide in the air, or too much nitrogen. By the way: this location is temporarily for us.”

After selling his rental company, Heetkamp had plenty of reasons to retire quietly on a tropical island.

“However, I feel too much attracted to follow developments in the trailer world, there’s so much bound to happen in the upcoming years,” he says – explaining the development of an emissions-free cooling trailer which debuted at the 2014 IAA show in Hanover. In the following year, the first 25 trailers hit the road. Another 25 were released earlier this year, showing quite some improvement over the first generation.

Heetkamp and his team now use a smaller, but more powerful battery, a new generator and another cooling machine from Carrier is being used.

“The first generation had some problems, which all dealt with development, not with a lack of reliability,” he says. “We just found ways to improve the concept. The second generation therefore needs less maintenance and is less prone to unplanned stops.” 

To be able to satisfy as many customers as possible with his solution, Heetkamp refused to sell his idea to one particular trailer manufacturer. On the contrary, he offered his solution to a number of manufacturers, who can all build an emissions-free cooling trailer. Heetkamp is now cooperating with Heiwo, Schmitz Carbogull, Krone, Lecitrailer, Lamberet and Chereau.

The package to construct a new Cool trailer includes a special Carrier refrigeration unit, the E2! axle from VALX, a generator as well as the electronics required for the system to function. Customers usually lease the trailer, as Heetkamp is keen to keep a controlling eye on the solution. These trailers have been exported now to Germany and Scandinavia as well.

“Scandinavia is a challenge, as this trailer has to warm the load, instead of cooling it, for a considerable part of the year,” Heetkamp says – adding that compared to a normal cooling trailer, the New Cool should save its fleet owner up to 30 litres of diesel per day. “On an annual basis, that is a very serious reduction, to which the reduction of carbon dioxide output has to be added.”

According to Heetkamp the trucking and trailer industries should work much more closely together.

“There’s a lot of energy coming from VALX’s E2! energy axle,” he says. “So much, that it would be easy to support the truck in doing its job. To make this happen, as the European Transformers Project showed, a general standard is needed for both industries to connect truck and trailer and to deliver power from one vehicle to the other. Truck manufacturers focus on reducing carbon dioxide output and thus a reduction in fuel consumption. This can be reached by partly electrifying the driveline and use power generated form the trailer axles. On the other hand, trailers can reduce the emissions of Particulate Matter (PM) which mainly comes from the brakes. Investigations have shown that PM from braking systems contributes considerably to the general PM emissions of modern-day traffic. All people involved realise this much more, as we saw at last year’s IAA, for instance with the solution of WABCO.”

When it comes to coupling truck and trailer, Heetkamp explains that in the past, a truck and a trailer stayed together for life.

“These days, trucks are changed on almost a daily basis,” he says. “It is very important that with systems like this, a truck and a trailer are able to interchange electrical power. We are lucky to use an axle of VALX which is relatively simple and which still has a high output.”

Heetkamp is more than confident that his company will be able to produce 150 New Cool trailers next year.

“We try to build twenty a month,” he says. “Should this work out well, than any other limit is strictly theoretical.”

Heetkamp makes no secret of the fact that the price will come down further in such a case. 

Together with partners Heetkamp thinks intensively about a roadside electricity network.

“In Germany an increasing number of companies and people realise that trailers have to be able to connect to a kind of power service at any truckstop, like is the case in the US,” he says. “In that case, truck stops will not only become more quiet, it is also cheaper to cool with electricity than with diesel. Most hauliers would prefer to connect to a power socket as well at their customers premises, for instance at a large refrigerated warehouse.”

Heetkamp explains that his customers experience that power to cool the trailer from the truck-engine is more efficient than from a separate diesel engine mounted on the trailer.“Should the electrical system become short of power, a safety device springs into action, just in case,” he says.

So far, Heetkamp has not installed solar panels on the roof of the trailer.

“When we do this, the trailer becomes heavier and more prone to damage,” he says. “However, when we want trailers to power the warehouse where they are unloaded, we do need solar panels; so we see if and maybe when they will be needed.”

As temperatures appear to be on the rise everywhere in the world, including the north western part of Europe, Heetkamp claims that customers are rethinking their strategies.

“Some customers doubled their order,” he says. “Not just because they want to do something about global warming, but also because they experience lower costs than expected.”

Heetkamp expects the cooling trailer of the future to be an instrument that plays a role in energy generation and partial storage for supply chains around the world. “As more people realise the potency of electricity generating services of cooling trailers, we can expect the whole emissions problem of road transport to be reduced a little bit more again.”

(Main image: New Cool Refrigerated trailer; second image: Twan Heetkamp.)

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