Diesel or electric?

In an industry where the shift to sustainability has faced more hurdles than most, Daikin Transport Refrigeration is helping lead a complicated sector, all while giving customers the offerings they demand. Daikin will be on hand at this year’s SOLUTRANS trade fair presenting its Exigo plug-in hybrid concept.

Achieving zero emissions in the transport industry has transformed from an ambitious aspiration to rapid progress. However, the transition has been challenging for the intricate refrigerated transport segment, due to various limiting factors. Despite being a newcomer to the temperature-controlled road transport sector, Daikin already stands out as a prominent manufacturer of marine container refrigeration units.  Daikin’s approach to sustainability is both practical and comprehensive, deviating from the conventional path taken by most competitors.

“Electrification is not just about removing a diesel engine and replacing it with an electric motor,” said Daikin Transport Refrigeration business unit leader, Evren Akçora.

“We need to consider the whole ecosystem, including electrical infrastructure available to heavy trucks in both distribution and long haul.”

Daikin’s sustainability strategy, according to Akçora, is pivoted towards electrification without losing sight of the main mission of the industry: transporting temperature-sensitive food and pharmaceuticals safely, without compromising the integrity of the cold chain.

Daikin Transport Refrigeration business unit leader, Evren Akçora

“The goal is to ease our customers into electrification without creating any range or autonomy risks that would threaten the cold chain. After showcasing our engineless electric concept in IAA 2022, and exchanging thoughts with the key industry stakeholders, we came to the conclusion that it is too soon for engineless refrigeration,” he said. “Ironically, by keeping the dedicated engine to ensure temperature control in all circumstances, we believe more customers will be interested in switching to electric refrigeration, thus a higher positive impact to the environment.”

By removing one of the main barriers of entry, that is the autonomy risk, Daikin aims to make a real impact on the decarbonisation of the industry.

This approach is what led Daikin to consider a plug-in hybrid solution for the current decade, taking a page out of the playbook of carmakers, proven to achieve emission reductions without the anxiety surrounding autonomy under battery, and how to charge them.

Daikin Transport Refrigeration Product Manager, Marco Napolitano, said this concept is only possible with the unique design of Exigo.

“Exigo, utilising the Daikin inverter technology, enables best-in-class energy efficiency, reducing the energy consumption under battery power by more than to 25 per cent based on average usage,” he said. “Customers can already experience the superior Daikin efficiency with any 400VAC power source, whether it be the grid or a battery. Our aim is to build on this architecture and develop the intelligent algorithm to switch between engine and battery power seamlessly, just like a hybrid car does, in order to further optimise energy consumption, as well as entering low emission zones. We are working on offering a battery pack that will complement the unit design, which is soon planned to enter the field testing phase.”

Unlike conventional trailer refrigeration units, Exigo provide the same cooling performance under engine or electric power, eliminating any impact to the cold chain.

Daikin’s disruptive plan does not end there.

“We are working on making all Exigo units whether sold in the past or now, to be upgradable to this intelligent plug-in hybrid concept, as long as there is space in the trailer chassis for the battery pack,” said Napolitano.

Exigo offers minimum total cost of ownership and maximum peace of mind courtesy of its reliability, reduced energy consumption, optimised airflow and reduced maintenance and down-time.  Exigo, already claiming industry leading electric efficiency, is planned to get a plug-in hybrid upgrade to provide electrification without anxiety, for maximum autonomy.

Exigo, with the hybrid concept revealed in SOLUTRANS in November 2023, is one of many Daikin innovations in taking a step into a zero-emissions future. Daikin Environmental Vision 2050 is the company’s overarching goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, throughout the entire lifecycle of its products. Within Daikin Europe there is also an environmental research department focused on achieving a 30 per cent emission reduction by 2025, taking 2019 as a base year.

Soon after SOLUTRANS, Daikin will start the field trial of its plug-in hybrid concept, to get it ready for commercial launch in 2024.

As for the long-term vision of eliminating internal combustion engines altogether, Akçora said there is no simple or single way forward, but he would like to see the industry, regulators, and the supporting infrastructure stay in close cooperation.

“By innovating together, we can leverage our expertise,” he said. “We can develop solutions that will bring us to zero-emission transport refrigeration both in distribution and long haul.”

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