Electrification is impacting transportation refrigeration units

Electrification is impacting transportation refrigeration units

If you're going to decarbonize your tractors, you have to start looking at reefer units too.

Decarbonization doesn’t end with electric trucks–diesel engines in many applications are subject to increasingly stringent California regulations that are, perhaps, a harbinger of what’s to come across the country. Outside of California, if any fleet is mapping its route to decarbonization, refrigeration units should be on the list of components to electrify.

Transportation refrigeration unit (TRU) manufacturers are developing electric units for fleets to use in their sustainability strategies, but it takes a deeper level of OEM and supplier collaboration to get it ready for use in real world applications.

In the past, interaction between the two was limited to fuel line connections, but the integration of electric reefer units now involves software coordination and diagnostic compatibility between the TRU and truck manufacturers. For example, medium-duty applications, electric reefer units will rely on the electric power takeoff (ePTO) system that connect directly to the chassis batteries of battery electric vehicles. However, given the diverse regulatory landscape and applications demands, Thermo King, for example, is also developing independent battery packs to provide flexibility. As an application example, battery packs are being tested for eTRU trailer applications.

The transition to electric refrigeration units will also require operational changes. Maintaining temperature control is always critical, but keeping rear doors open for extended periods during loading or unloading won’t work in an electric refrigeration unit application given the demands on the batteries, whether they’re powering the truck or independently powering the eTRU. Safety considerations also need to be taken into account due to the high-voltage nature of these systems. That will require appropriate training, personal protective equipment (PPE) and adherence to electrification readiness standard.

There’s a lot to talk about. Luckily, Preeti Subramanian, senior product manager at Thermo King and Trane Technologies, took the time to talk us through all of the changes, equipment development and upcoming regulations that are going to drive sustainable equipment adoption in refrigerated segments.


No script? No plan? No problem. Welcome to Fleet Equipment Unscripted—the video interview series that connects you with the greatest minds in the heavy-duty trucking world. Fleet Equipment Unscripted is sponsored by Hendrickson.

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