Besides showcasing its new products, at Solutrans 2021 Thermo King presented the company’s electrification strategy. Francesco Incalza, president of Thermo King EMEA for the past two and a half years, considers it crucial for the future of refrigerated transport. And the latest products launched by the transport refrigeration company, a brand of Trane Technologies, go in the direction of gradual but decisive electrification. Starting with the new Hybrid version to the range of Advancer solutions for semi-trailers, which leverage Frigoblock electric technology. Advancer Hybrid is now available for the entire Advancer range, from the A-360 to the A-500 Whisper Pro. In addition, the unit comes with telematics connectivity as standard and relies on the geo-fencing to automatically switch into hybrid electric mode when entering a pre-defined zone. This allows the fleet managers to operate unrestricted day and night schedules with the peace of mind that the unit complies with the regulations in the given area.
Thermo King solutions on display
The Thermo King’s Frigoblock brand was represented by the FK2 full-electric refrigeration unit designed specifically for urban distribution, capable of operating with both diesel and electric vehicles, thus making urban distribution totally zero-emission in the latter case. Thanks to the Frigoblock power drive alternator, it is possible to maximize the energy generated from the truck’s engine, for the benefit of fuel efficiency even on diesel trucks.
The AxlePower technology, developed in cooperation with BPW, is particularly interesting. Here, BPW’s ePower axle contributes to convert the energy generated during vehicle braking and deceleration into a power source for trailer refrigeration units. The recovered energy is stored in a high-voltage battery and reused for temperature maintenance, with the added benefit of being completely tractor-independent. «Today, combining our expertise, research and development with BPW, we’re introducing new technology that turns the energy typically lost by a trailer during transit into clean, sustainable power for trailer refrigeration units», said Francesco Incalza, whom we asked a few more questions.
Thermo King EMEA President Francesco Incalza
How did the collaboration with BPW on AxlePower come about?
«Partnership between Thermo King and BPW is a cooperation of two companies that are at the forefront of the market. I personally signed the partnership agreement and today I am happy to announce the launch of a solution with such an extraordinary scope in terms of innovation and sustainability. I am also very proud of the fact that in just 30 months since signing the partnership agreement we have been able to launch such an innovative technology on the market.
We have benefited from the know-how of the Frigoblock brand and make use of our center of excellence. This know-how allows us to be prepared for the future of refrigeration, which will definitely be electric. It is no coincidence that we launched a new brand called ‘evolve’ for our all-electric portfolioFrancesco Incalza, president of Thermo King EMEA
Thanks to the BPW electric axle, energy is produced when the vehicle is rolling or braking. Through our battery system, this energy is turned into alternating or continuous power. The batteries act as both storage and a source of electricity. They work while the vehicle is in motion, but can also be ‘plug-in’ recharged when the truck does not move, thus allowing the refrigeration unit to continue working. It’s a truly zero-emission solution that can operate with any type of trailer refrigeration equipment».
Talking about batteries, does Thermo King take care of their assembly?
«The batteries are for all intents and purposes a Thermo King product. We buy the cells from a supplier, and we assemble them in-house, including the wiring which is also taken care of by Thermo King. Indeed, we have benefited from the know-how of the Frigoblock brand and make use of our center of excellence. This know-how allows us to be prepared for the future of refrigeration, which will definitely be electric. It is no coincidence that we launched a new brand called ‘evolve’ for our all-electric portfolio. The evolve portfolio aligns with customers’ goals to transition to more sustainable solutions for their fleets and it will serve as a sort of certification for the products».
The launch of the ‘evolve’ brand
Are we talking about a full electric product line?
«It’s not a product line but a new brand that will be a true certification of sustainability and quality. The new electric products that we will launch as Thermo King will have such label. I have been pursuing the electrification of our product portfolio since I became president of Thermo King, two and a half years ago, as I consider it a sign of support for society and future generations.
The launch of the evolve brand has brought with it investments of over €100 million in the development of electric solutions. By 2023, Thermo King EMEA will have an electric product for each category and for several applications, from road to rail or marine. In 2025, the same will apply to the United States. Evolve is the crowning achievement of a journey that began 10 years ago».
The launch of the evolve brand has brought with it investments of over €100 million in the development of electric solutions. By 2023, Thermo King EMEA will have an electric product for each category and for several applications, from road to rail or marineFrancesco Incalza, president of Thermo King EMEA
How’s Thermo King doing in Europe and Middle East?
«In the last two years, we have launched 18 new products on the market and we want to launch, also thanks to the ‘evolve brand’, another 24 products in the next two years. Our product development goals are now monthly rather than yearly.
The fact that we have production sites in Europe helps us enormously. Our factories are now working at full rate, thanks to the orders we receive».
Is the global shortage of components affecting the pace of production and research?
«The current situation indeed affects the time required to bring products to the market, as semiconductors have become a crucial element of the products. The engineers are looking at different options in the development process and this situation can even trigger new, innovative solutions. In general, I can say that innovation at Thermo King has taken on a momentum that may not have been seen before».