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Electric Refrigeration Reduces Fuel Consumption and Noise

Refrigerated fleets are cutting their TRU idling time by using electrified parking spaces. This Meals on Wheels People refrigerated delivery truck plugs in at the loading dock to keep its load cool.

Photo courtesy of Meals on Wheels People, NREL.

Operators of refrigerated trucs and trailers, also known as reefers, typically idle auxilary diesel engines in transport refrigeration units (TRUs) when parked at their home-base locations to keep loads stored at the proper temperatures. Using electricity via electrified parking spaces versus idling diesel TRU engines results in substantially reduced operating costs and emissions while keeping cargo at the desired temperature.

That’s why Portland, Oregon-based Meals on Wheels People—which provides meals for seniors in the Portland metropolitan area—now powers the TRUs in its truck fleet with electricity. The trucks leave the loading dock early each morning to deliver food to regional outlets and return in the middle of the day to restock for afternoon deliveries. Instead of using auxiliary diesel engines to power the TRUs while parked at the loading dock, the TRUs are plugged in at electrified parking spaces to keep the loads cool.

Employees who work in the dock area and adjacent offices, as well as nearby businesses and residences, say they appreciate the reduced exhaust fumes and quieter operation made possible via the electrified parking alternative.

“Our coalition, the Columbia Willamette Clean Cities Coalition, is working in partnership with a variety of coalition members—CleanFuture, Shorepower Technologies, Portland State University – Transportation Research Education Center (TREC), and Drive Oregon—to promote electrified idle reduction in refrigerated fleets,” said Brian Trice, coalition coordinator. “With support from our joint technical assistance project, four fleets in the region have implemented TRU idle-reduction projects, and many more fleets are in the process of evaluating their options.”

“More than 20 refrigerated fleets are participating in our technical assistance project, which was supported thanks to an EPA Pollution Prevention Program grant,” Trice added. “Once fleets learn about idle-reduction technologies and best practices, they are naturally compelled to reduce their operating costs and noise generation while improving local air quality.”

“The choice to install electrified parking was easy for Meals on Wheels People after its Green Team reviewed an idling analysis conducted by CleanFuture as part of our technical assistance project,” Trice said. “The analysis quantified the financial and environmental benefits of switching to electricity.”

“It’s not uncommon to see 40 to 60 percent of TRU engine run time occurring while parked at home base distribution centers in local and regional delivery fleets ,” said John Thornton of CleanFuture. “Few fleet operators realize how much fuel is wasted in parked reefers that could be saved with shore power electricity.”

“Parked operation of refrigerated trucks and trailers is unfortunately an accepted status quo—we’re working to share information and identify cost savings in each fleets’ operation,” said Thornton. “Grid-connected electric TRUs, combined with electrified parking spaces, provide a cost-effective solution.”

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