Advanced style: Thermo King

In recent months, Thermo King unveiled an impressive portfolio of new refrigerated transport technologies at IAA Transportation. Accomplished leader and company president, Dwayne Cowan, discusses electrification, modern trailer refrigeration and what we can expect to see from Trane Technologies in the near future.
Thermo King President, Dwayne Cowan.

Dwayne Cowan is President of Thermo King Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and Global Marine, Air Rail at global climate innovator, Trane Technologies. Prior to his current role, Cowan served as Vice President of Commercial Sales and Service for the Thermo King Americas business at Trane Technologies.

Since joining the company in 2006, Cowan has worked in roles of increasing leadership responsibility, including district and regional sales and product management – all within the Thermo King business. He has maintained a strong track record of delivering business growth and meeting customers’ evolving needs through innovative solutions, while keeping customers engaged as well as creating an uplifting and inclusive team culture.

Cowan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Engineering from the University of Georgia College of Engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree from Arizona State University.

At IAA, the world’s largest transportation mobility show, held last September in Hanover, Germany, Cowan spoke with the Global Trailer team in an exclusive interview.

Taking the reins on a global scale
At the time, having only been in Europe for about six weeks in his new role leading the business, Cowan explained how innovation is remarkable in this region and that while advanced e-axle power is a great introduction to electrification, one should take a look at Thermo King’s entire electrification portfolio.

Thermo King has committed to invest more than $100 million over the next three years to deliver a fully electric product in every segment of the cold chain by 2023 in EMEA and 2025 in the Americas. Cowan shares, “we’re expecting we will have 65 percent of our portfolio electrified by 2025 and 90 percent of our products electrified by 2030,” he said.

“So, we’re really investing in electrification. That’s our story.

“If you think about Trane Technologies as a global company, we’re focused on boldly challenging what’s possible for a sustainable world – this is what drives us every day. We expect one billion metric tonnes of emissions to be removed from the environment by 2030, from our customers’ carbon footprint. We’re doing a lot to ensure that we’re making society a better place. That’s our purpose and you can see that in our investments here.”

Thermo King is developing systems for hybrid-electric vehicles as well as fully-electric vehicles, including trucks, trailers and buses.

“This is the result of decades of investment in electrification,” said Cowan. “You can see it go right across our product portfolio – these are exciting times for us.”
While these developments are exciting for the team at Thermo King, it has also piqued the interest of customers in the trailer segment.

“We’ve seen some big customers who want to be a part of it, and it’s the new electrification technology we’re introducing that is getting the attention,” said Cowan. “These customers are investing in technologies that are greener and align with their sustainability goals. I think long term it’s an economic strength.”

It is true that sustainability is a major focus for many road transport fleets in the market – especially when looking at what operators want to achieve with their equipment – however Cowan would argue that it depends on who you talk to. “For some operators, sustainability is a top priority and there are others who want to learn more about it. At Thermo King we are educating customers on the advantages of moving forward with the right type of product portfolio.”

This education typically involves Thermo King sitting with a client, running through the technology and even organising trials.

“You want people to try it in their fleet to understand it is different,” said Cowan. “You’ll have access to unlimited energy, too, and there’s different profiles for drivers to use so we think that it’s important that people try it; you just don’t put it out there. You actually have to talk to them about the technology so they understand the limitations and what they can get from the technology.”

Another technological consideration is telematics, which is available as standard across the Thermo King range of products. Fleet asset tracking and monitoring continues to see digital innovation.

“There’s always things that are coming up from the telematics standpoint to make the fleets more efficient, which allows us to continually innovate in our telematics portfolio platform,” said Cowan. “We are listening to the needs of our customers and bringing it back to our development teams to create new solutions for them. You’ll see more and more of this with the electrified models.”

By understanding how these vehicles are used, looking at the data, Thermo King can continuously improve by optimising the energy consumption from the unit design as well as device solutions that extend the range of electrified vehicles. The company has analysts and data scientists, who review and interpret this technical data, so that they can relay it as valuable information to the customer.

A complete series of innovative transport refrigeration solutions
At IAA, Thermo King unveiled three new Advancer trailer refrigeration systems: Advancer Spectrum bringing the award-winning performance, precise temperature control and fleet connectivity capabilities of the Advancer range to the multi-temperature market segment; Advancer AxlePower, a smart energy generating system; and Advancer-e, an all-electric, engineless and power agnostic refrigeration unit.

The three new trailer refrigeration systems expand the Thermo King Advancer A-Series portfolio, renowned for its performance, temperature control, system efficiency and fleet connectivity.

Advancer Spectrum features multi-zone temperature configurations, with precise temperature management and reduced fuel and operational costs.

The new Advancer Spectrum features a 48V DC mild-hybrid technology now available for temperature configurations of two distinct zones during the same journey, with precise temperature management and set point control.

Advancer Spectrum introduces a new level of performance to the multi-temperature trailer Advancer A-Series, fastest temperature recovery and pulldown, and highest refrigeration capacity on the market. Advancer Spectrum is reported to deliver up to 30 per cent savings on fuel costs compared to the market average. The units’ architecture also lowers service interval rate of up to 30 per cent and reduces unscheduled maintenance by up to 60 per cent.

Thermo King Advancer.

The new, custom-designed remote evaporators bring additional capacity to the remote zone, maximising the flexibility and efficiency of customers’ operations. Combined with the all-new Advancer multi-temp controller, customers are able to precisely manage the temperature while gaining real-time insight into how the unit is running, how the temperature zones are performing and how much fuel the unit is using.

Advancer Spectrum is the first multi-temperature trailer unit on the market, according to Thermo King, offering complete transparency of fuel levels and consumption.

Customers can access the fuel consumption and other data both on the unit and remotely via telematics, enabling them to optimise their fleet. Fleet intelligence is standard, as Advancer Spectrum comes included with two years of full, two-way telematics connectivity service.

The Advancer Spectrum’s system efficiency significantly lowers customers’ CO2 footprint with engine emissions substantially lower than the maximum allowed by latest NRMM Stage V emission standards. The Whisper Pro version offers sound levels meeting the PIEK enforced standards, thus complying with the most stringent noise-regulations for quiet, inner-city deliveries at any time of day and night. Advancer Spectrum units are also compatible with alternative power source solutions like the AxlePower or Envirodrive.

Advancer AxlePower’s smart energy generating system delivers the power needed to run the trailer refrigeration unit by converting energy recovered by the trailer’s axle during the vehicle’s routine operation. Developed in partnership with BPW, a leader in running gears and mobility services for transport, the Advancer AxlePower is a fully integrated, tractor independent system that combines BPW’s ePower axle with Thermo King refrigeration unit and battery storage technology.

The system stores the energy generated while the vehicle is rolling or braking in a high voltage battery and reuses it to power the refrigeration unit – enabling fully electric, low or zero-emission and autonomous trailer refrigeration. The battery pack, depending on the configuration, provides an average of five hours of refrigeration unit autonomy to cover stationary operations. Featuring smart power management that controls the engagement and disengagement of the generators, Advancer AxlePower also minimises the resistance on the tractor and provides the driver and fleet manager with real-time performance visibility to avoid ‘charge anxiety’.

The possibility to capture and reuse energy makes the Advancer AxlePower system an ideal solution to future-proof and increase the sustainability of all types of trailer journeys. With silent running and no CO2 emissions from the refrigeration unit when operating from the battery-pack, this technology allows customers to sustainably run long-haul and inner-city deliveries, including in Ultra-low Emission Zones (ULEZs) and low noise urban areas.

Advancer-e is an all-electric, engineless, emission-free trailer refrigeration unit.

Designed to accelerate the realisation of carbon neutral trailer fleets, the Thermo King Advancer-e incorporates an engineless and electric architecture with all the features that make the Advancer A-Series the most efficient trailer refrigeration systems in the market. Advancer-e is power-agnostic and compatible with all major engine-alternative power sources including the Advancer AxlePower, Frigoblock’s Envirodrive alternator and inverter technology, Thermo King’s battery Energ-E Pack, and shore-power when stationed at the depot.

With its fully electric architecture, one Advancer-e unit can reduce a trailer fleet’s carbon footprint by up to 10 tonnes of CO2 per year. Advancer-e is compatible with any prime mover for inner-city deliveries or for long-haul assignments when combined with the right power technology solution available from Thermo King. The flexibility of the Advancer-e enables transport companies to be more than a step ahead of changing low-emission legislation. Combined with the same A-Series controller and intuitive telematics, the Advancer-e delivers sustainability advantages and temperature control efficiency – top strategic priorities for many transport companies making the move toward full electrification.

Also, all Thermo King Advancer units are manufactured in the Thermo King’s state-of-the art and carbon neutral (ISO 14064-1) production line in Galway, Ireland.

Better yet, there is potential for integration with hydrogen-electric combinations as Thermo King’s systems are power agnostic and future-proof.

“We’ve made our systems power agnostic for a reason,” said Cowan. “The market will dictate what the it wants in terms of power. We just want to be able to have a unit that can support that.”

To remain competitive, Thermo King commits resources to testing in all kinds of high ambient environments such as South Spain which can expose cooling units and refrigerated vehicles to higher temperatures.

“We always want to test our equipment in tough types of environments so that they can run because you can’t control where they will be used,” said Cowan. “Also, we absolutely want to validate our equipment capabilities.”

As for aftermarket and sales support in Europe and beyond, the Thermo King network is vast.

“We have over 500 locations in 75 countries across the globe,” said Cowan. “So, I’ve come from America – there are over 180 locations across the North America site and you have Latin America which has about 50 to 60 locations as well. We’re well covered across the globe and our product in Asia Pacific and obviously they have their network as well. We want to ensure that we are able to service equipment wherever it may be. In Europe, for instance, wherever you are there should be a service location within 44 kilometres.”

Working around the red tape
Even though ‘electrification’ is a big talking point in America, according to Cowan, each country has different rules when it comes down to developing these solutions and making them roadworthy and compliant.

“It has been hugely interesting seeing how Thermo King in Europe has invested in electrification,” said Cowan. “To present an electrified portfolio for an industry segment and then actually go to market with something big and bold is impressive. In the meantime, we need to educate our customers, and of course, ensure our team is equipped and trained to spread the word. We’re really living the company values and pushing for a better environment.”

For commercial heavy vehicle manufacturers and trailer OEMs, adjustments must be made to accommodate government regulations. For any supplier this would present all sorts of engineering challenges.

“This is considered in the first step of the development process,” said Cowan. “We compile all those requirements from different countries and regions to ensure we produce a reliable product. Ultimately, we’re very transparent with what we do and we live by it every day. It’s really about having a more sustainable portfolio and corporate environment.”

Fast Fact
Thermo King and BPW were awarded a third place in the 2023 Trailer Innovation Awards in the category ‘Environment’ for their development – the Advancer AxlePower system. It generates energy when while the vehicle is rolling or braking and stores the energy in a high voltage battery to power the refrigeration unit.

The perks of going all-electric and future-proofing with power agnostic capabilities
The new Thermo King Advancer models are all proving to be popular in the market, according to Cowan, because of their fuel efficiency. “The Advancers are bringing a fuel reduction of about 30 per cent to the multi-temp segment. Taking fleet costs into consideration, fuel is a big deal, so we’re excited to present our refrigeration solutions to drive down energy costs for the end user.”

Customers are coming back to Thermo King as a direct result of these fuel savings. The company has also focused on the range of vehicles using its all-electric systems.

There are two battery sizes – 19 kilowatt and 38 kilowatt. With the 19-kilowatt battery you can expect up to five hours of autonomy. When taking advantage of the energy recuperation of the e-axle and other systems the driver would typically start the journey with a fully charged battery and the system itself would be powering the reefer unit only until the first stop, and then top up the battery after each stop. With 38 kilowatt-hours, a driver would have about nine hours of autonomy which is ideal in instances of idle traffic.

Thermo King Advancer.