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Future impact of lorry refrigeration could be devastating

The air quality impacts of increasing numbers of refrigerated vehicles on the world’s roads could be “devastating”, according to a report by UK cold and power technology firm Dearman

The air quality impacts of increasing numbers of refrigerated vehicles on the world’s roads could be “devastating”, according to a report by UK cold and power technology firm Dearman.

Published on Friday (April 24), the ‘Cold chains and the demographic dividend’ report estimates that the continuing global rise in urban population as well as demographic changes in developing countries will lead to an increasing demand for cold transportation.

The report estimates an increasing growth in global demand for transport refrigeration

The report estimates an increasing growth in global demand for transport refrigeration

According to Dearman, which provides an alternative to existing technology, while there were less than three million refrigerated vehicles on the world’s roads in 2013, this number “could feasibly reach” 15.5 million by 2025. This figure, the company added, could be as high as 18 million by 2025 “if changing demographics have the most dramatic foreseeable effect”.

And, if the current trend towards conventional diesel-powered transport refrigeration units persists, this increase could see a rise in “grossly disproportionate” nitrogen oxide, particulate and carbon dioxide emissions from refrigerated transport.

This is because, the report states, a conventional diesel-powered transport refrigeration unit, which keeps a refrigerated lorry or heavy goods vehicles (HGV) cold for transporting goods, can emit up to six times as much nitrogen oxides (NOx) and up to 29 times the amount of particulate matter as a modern diesel HGV engine.

The report also estimates that should the global refrigerated transport fleet reach 15.5 million using the current diesel-powered units, these units alone would emit up to 740 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Furthermore, the emissions of particulate matter from the refrigeration units would also be equivalent to that emitted by more than 450 million Euro 6 exhaust emission standard diesel trucks.

This forecasted increase in transport refrigeration vehicle numbers reflects the more affluent lifestyles among increasingly wealthy, urbanised populations in countries such as India and China, where car ownership is also increasing.

The report states: “If this continues, it can only worsen the extreme levels of toxic air pollution that cause around 1.8 million premature deaths each year in those two countries alone.”

According to the report, such countries will need to implement cold chains to ensure more food reaches consumers in good condition.

Dearman infographic accompanying the report (click to enlarge)

Dearman infographic accompanying the report (click to enlarge)

Dearman

Dearman is therefore calling for more research into the development of alternative systems – such as its own which uses liquid nitrogen instead of diesel and is currently undergoing vehicle testing (see AirQualityNews.com story) – to keep goods cool on the road.

To this end, the University of Birmingham has recently announced the creation of a new Policy Commission on cold, which will explore how best to develop ‘clean cold’ through new technology and infrastructure. Chaired by Lord Teverson, the Commission will report back in October 2015.

Commenting on the report, Dearman’s senior group managing director, Toby Peters, said: “Our research has analysed potential growth in the market for transport refrigeration vehicles as an indicator of the booming demand for cold. We are not predicting that the global fleet will reach 18 or even 15 million vehicles. But our report demonstrates that the industry could experience extremely rapid growth and we must be prepared.

“If we aren’t, and if we allow growth to happen using yesterday’s technology rather than tomorrow’s, then the air quality and climate change implications would be very significant and extremely damaging.”

This report follows recent studies by the IMechE (A Tank of Cold: Cleantech Leapfrog to a More Food Secure World) and the Carbon Trust (The emerging Cold Economy), which also identify the growing future demand for cooling.

Headquartered in London, Dearman’ technologies use liquid air to provide zero-emission power and cooling for applications such as transport refrigeration and the built environment.

Related Links:

Dearman report: ‘Cold chains and the demographic dividend’

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