The road transport industry, in light of supply chain disruption and the need to keep essential services on the move, is as competitive as ever. While the total cost of ownership remains a top priority for fleets, attention is also turning towards the longevity, cost-effectiveness and versatility of modern trucks and trailers. When the time comes to upgrade a heavy vehicle asset, ultimately, it is the residual or resale value that will make the difference between a good investment and an incredible one.
Almost a decade ago, VALX unveiled the first of its energy axles, the E2!, at the 2012 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany. Not long after this debut, VALX explored a new design involving a full-electric refrigerated trailer with a company owned at the time by Carrier Transicold and rental fleet, Twan Heetkamp.
With an integrated power generation system fitted to the axles of trailing equipment, there are opportunities for fleet operators to achieve significant operational and fuel efficiencies, especially if this technology can be used to share the load of connected systems that draw electricity.
As cold chain technologies matured over the years, VALX has maintained a leading edge in the reefer electrification segment by refining its energy axle portfolio. In recent months, Carrier Transicold partnered with OEM, Gray & Adams, to develop a demonstrator program for the new Vector eCool trailer refrigeration unit. To complete the design, it features VALX energy axles.
This 13.6m build would be among the UK’s first autonomous, all-electric refrigerated trailer systems. Utilising a new energy recovery and storage system, the Vector eCool converts kinetic energy generated by the VALX trailer axle and brakes into electricity, which is then stored in a battery pack powering the refrigeration unit. This loop creates a fully autonomous system that produces no direct carbon dioxide or particulate emissions.
“The Vector eCool reaffirms our commitment to reducing emissions, improving sustainability and increasing efficiency across the refrigerated transport sector,” said Scott Dargan, Managing Director UK and Northern Europe, Carrier Transicold. “This exciting new technology represents a giant step forward for trailer refrigeration, and we are delighted to be working together with Gray & Adams on the roll-out here in the UK.”
The autonomous power developed by the trailer and the subsequent emissions reductions have attracted significant interest from Zemo Partnership (previously The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership) – a not-for-profit organisation that plays a key role in helping the government deliver its low carbon transport strategy.
“As part of the road to net zero, we must take into consideration emissions generated by transport refrigeration units and other ancillary power, and our testing already includes these aspects,” said Andy Eastlake, Managing Director, Zemo Partnership. “Innovation such as this from Carrier Transicold is demonstrating what needs to be done to future-proof its products; the Vector eCool is a practical, workable solution that ticks all of the boxes of electrification and decarbonisation and we are excited to see it take to the road in 2021.”
Carrier Transicold has been working closely with Gray & Adams on the design of the demonstrator vehicle to maximise the environmental benefits of the system. Even with the VALX axle generator and battery pack, it is lighter than a standard diesel unit with a full tank of fuel. The tri-axle trailer also features aerodynamic cappings to reduce drag, while bespoke sideguards allow access to the battery system and protect cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
“We have a special relationship with Carrier; working so closely with them to bring the Vector eCool to the UK has been really exciting,” said Peter Gray, Joint Managing Director, Gray & Adams. “Our design teams have seamlessly integrated the axle, braking and battery systems that make up the eCool into a trailer that has the potential to completely change the face of refrigerated transport.”
Suitable for operation with the engineless versions of Carrier Transicold’s Vector HE 19 and Vector 1550 E, the Vector eCool utilises the company’s E-Drive all-electric technology to the fullest. Where traditional belt-driven systems suffer a loss of up to 40 per cent kilowatts cooling power when converting electrical energy into their required mechanical drive, the E-Drive ensures the eCool has consistent, efficient cooling power and pull-down speeds whether operating on battery power or when plugged into the mains grid.
If used with the city versions of the Vector range, the eCool is also PIEK-compliant, which combined with its emissions performance, means that the system offers the ultimate solution to tightening inner city and urban regulations.
In addition to supporting the future of all-electric vehicles, VALX also develops, manufactures and supplies a variety of other axles and componentry for heavy duty and linehaul applications.
VALX’s dealer network currently has 2,200 service points however the OEM aims to grow to 3,500 service points in the next five years. Globally, Fuwa Group now has a total of 7,000 service points spanning the globe servicing its well established and growing customer base.
The Fuwa Group, which VALX is a part of, was awarded ‘Manufacturing Single Champion Enterprise’ by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) in China. According to the selection standard of MIIT, this national-honoured award represents the highest level of development and strength in the global manufacturing market. As the European base of Fuwa, VALX will continuously promote high-quality axle products and support its dear customers in the future.
The following fleets across Europe are champions of the VALX axle. Netherlands (THT New cool customers): Lidl, DHL, Frans Cremers, Nagel Group, PNO Finland, Hessing, Westerman, Muller, Green, Cornelissen, Jan Linders, Hordaal Pilsener, Farm trans, Dask, Franken transport, NewCold, Van Straalen De Vries Transport and Vion Group.
UK (Gray & Adams customers): Sainsbury Supermarket, Samworth Brothers, Aldi Supermarkets, Booths Supermarkets, NewCold and Dawson Group.