A sustainable investment
Cold chain demand is set to grow massively; with increased population, the growth of the ‘middle class’, increasing urbanisation and, of course, climate change.
The number of transport refrigeration units in operation is expected to grow from 2.5m today to over 4.5m by 2030 – reaching 9.7m by 2050.
With 2 million people dying every year due to a lack of cold chain for vaccines, the urgency of the need is clear.
A solution for the World
The Chinese and Indian governments have committed to invest US$100bn to create cold chains. Less than 20% and 3% of foods respectively pass through their cold chains (vs 95% in the West), and 30-40% of food loss is wasted post-harvest.
Even in the US demand is growing. The aim is not just to avoid food waste, but improve foods standards: one in six Americans being affected by foodborne illnesses caused by improper processing, including inadequate refrigeration.
Closing the cold chain gap with diesel is not an option for anybody
Those 2.5 million TRUs today already produce 83 megatons of CO2 eq every year as well as nearly 150 kilotons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 7.7 kilotons of even more harmful Particulate Matter (PM).
That’s because each diesel-powered TRU on the truck or trailer carrying the refrigerated load emits 29 times the PM and 6 times the NOx compared to the truck engine that pulls it.
There are already 7-8 million deaths linked to air pollution every year. But by 2050, if conventional TRUs are allowed to close the gap in demand for cold chain logistics, the air quality impact would be equivalent to over 600 million more cars and 0.68 gigatons of greenhouse gases.
Fortunately, policy makers are recognising the need to regulate for air quality as well as climate change. Governments around the World are following California’s lead and implementing Low Emissions Zones and Clean Air Zones, which progressively ban diesel TRUs and incentivise their replacement with clean alternatives.
Battery power isn’t the answer
While advances in battery technology will make electric heavy goods vehicles a reality within the next 10-15 years, the technology can’t solve the refrigeration challenge in the near or medium-term.
Firstly, battery power hasn’t enough energy density (the amount of energy batteries store) to cope with modern cold chain duty cycles – and won’t close the gap in the foreseeable future.
Limited battery lifespans also mean they need to be replaced several times during the life of a vehicle. Not only does that make them uneconomical, it also radically compromises their environmental benefits, considering the chemicals, processes and energy needed to make them, and the effort to safely dispose of them.
On top of that, charging is slow, infrastructure costly and grid capacity unfeasible at the scale that will be needed.
Naturally, we believe in our own technology. So do the brilliant people who’ve helped us to develop it. Over the last 5 years our systems have been trialled across the full spectrum of chilled and frozen delivery chain duties. That’s thousands of miles and hours of cooling for European retailers and food producers including Unilever, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s, all validating the benefits of the system: