The average diesel-powered truck in the United States idles an average of 1,835 hours each year, wasting an estimated 3,600 million litres of fuel. Finding practical solutions to this problem will save fleet operators money; and help them to meet new stringent local, state and provincial anti-idling regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas levels and the health effects from harmful emissions.
Automotive Partnership Canada has awarded $2.9 million to support the development of next-generation green air-conditioning and refrigeration (AC-R) systems for long-haul trucks, reefer (refrigerated) trucks, heavy and light duty vans, tourist buses and some emergency service vehicles.
The project will develop at least eight new technologies, including a lightweight and efficient material and installation system that provides better insulation with no degradation—a major improvement over polyurethane foam, which loses five percent of its insulation value annually.
The project is the largest of its kind in Canada, involving 71 researchers and students (including 48 co-op students) from Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of Waterloo, along with industrial partners Cool-It Hiway Services Inc. in Abbotsford, British Columbia (B.C.); CrossChasm Technologies Inc. in Waterloo, Ontario; and Saputo Dairy Products in Burnaby, B.C., which runs the largest reefer fleet in North America.
“There is a huge market for these technologies,” says Cool-It CEO Steve Zaeri, “but as a small company it’s hard for me to persuade a truck manufacturer to buy it. Partnering with universities and these other industry partners makes it easier to educate the marketplace about the value of these technologies.”
“We are designing more efficient and reliable refrigeration and AC systems that operate without the engine idling,” says SFU engineering professor and project leader Majid Bahrami. “And we are reducing the weight of these systems, which means trucks can make more money carrying heavier loads.”
The University of Waterloo team, headed by Amir Khajepour, is developing a new regenerative auxiliary power system to harvest the kinetic energy regenerated from braking when slowing and stopping, or during stop-start traffic. This waste energy would be converted into electrical energy and stored in high-efficiency batteries (such as lithium-ion) to run the refrigeration system.
As well, the SFU team will develop a new AC-R system that uses no electrical or mechanical energy. The system would capture the waste heat produced in the internal combustion engine to power a truck’s refrigeration and/or AC system, increasing the vehicle’s overall energy efficiency by up to 15 percent and, in some cases, eliminating the need for a second diesel engine. The technology could also be used in houses, process plants, and large buildings.
“This isn’t wishful thinking,” says Bahrami, who worked for five years in AC-R industry. “We already have the proof-of-concept. It’s just a matter of getting it to the point where it’s practical and compact enough that you can install it on vehicles and trucks.”
Cool-It Hiway Services Inc.—a small company that manufactures heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems for the transportation sector—will benefit from the project. Researchers will help the company adopt more efficient compressors and replace heavy-lead acid batteries in systems with lighter lithium-ion batteries. The project will also design, test and rate a new made-in-Canada heat pump that produces both heat and cold air, using power from a battery instead of an idling engine.