The next phase in refrigerated transport

The next phase in refrigerated transport

The “TV show” launch of Thermo King’s new Advancer unit did not fail to entertain. But amusement was not the only thing on the agenda. As JACO DE KLERK discovered, the company’s latest transport control solution has much to offer

On June 18, Thermo King, a brand of Trane Technologies, announced the Advancer – a disruptive new reimagining of the trailer refrigeration unit.

“We invented the first-ever refrigerated transport unit more than 80 years ago,” said Francesco Incalza, president of Thermo King Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). “We invented the first bus air-conditioner, the first seagoing container refrigeration unit, the first zero-emission refrigeration unit, the first hybrid-powered unit and the first electrical unit.”

He added that the Advancer is a completely redesigned trailer platform and another industry first.

“At Thermo King, we understand being a leader includes the responsibility to advance the technology and capability of refrigerated transport,” he said.

The Advancer A-Series is available in three versions – the A-360, A-400 and A-500 – and will be distributed locally by GEA Africa, one of the largest technology suppliers for food processing and a wide range of other industries.

“With the Advancer we went back to the drawing board and looked to the future,” says David O’Gorman, senior product manager at Thermo King EMEA. “We asked customers to tell us what they needed in order to win more business and to cut their costs of operation.

“The result is a game-changing solution we believe our customers have been waiting for.”

The Advancer is the first-ever refrigeration unit with fully variable airflow independent of the engine’s speed.

“This offers the highest airflow, fastest pull-down, the most precise temperature control and the lowest fuel consumption on the market. The unit also allows users to see and record fuel consumption,” O’Gorman said.

“With the Advancer we are introducing 48V DC, mild hybrid technology. It is an automotive industry standard, but this is another first for transport refrigeration. We harness the power from a low-voltage motor generator architecture to deliver power only where and when it is needed.”

The new unit has a modular architecture, fewer components and moving parts and provides easier access to all serviceable components. It also features onboard intelligence to predict service needs and integrated solar power to keep it charged.

“We predict a 60% reduction in unscheduled maintenance,” says O’Gorman. “And that number was not just pulled from thin air – we have the proof. We’ve had units running non-stop in our endurance facility for more than two years now, without any interruption.”

The Advancer was extensively tested in real-life conditions to obtain a comparison against its predecessor and other flagship refrigeration units. These have shown that the new offering is up to 40% quicker to pull down and up to 30% more fuel-efficient than the market average.

“Our field trial units travelled more than one-million kilometres across different climate zones and counted tens of thousands of running hours in diesel and electric modes,” said O’Gorman. “They have crossed deserts, operated at high altitudes, travelled on ferries to cross the seas as well as on trains for intermodal operations. Throughout the tests, the Advancer units proved to be trouble free.”

These tests have included a unit running throughout Southern Africa since the beginning of 2020.

Thermo King has already received orders from some of its field test customers. “They do not want to give back the field test units. So, in a nutshell, we have had overwhelmingly positive feedback.”

Donal Cox, commercial leader of Thermo King EMEA, predicted that an upgrade to the Advancer will pay for itself in less than 24 months.

“The Advancer will also increase a company’s bottom line,” he said. “We have integrated a brand-new controller into the Advancer, which constantly gets information from the unit.
“It is getting load temperature, as well as many other parameters and continuously adjusts the unit to run in the most efficient way.”

Advancer units are manufactured in the Thermo King’s zero waste to landfill plant in Galway, Ireland.

“Sustainability was also a priority when we developed the Advancer,” explained Laurent Debias, product management and marketing leader at Thermo King EMEA. “Our parent company, Trane Technologies, has pledged to reduce the carbon footprint of our customers by one Gigaton by 2030. One Gigaton equates to the annual CO2 emissions of Italy, France and the United Kingdom combined.”

“Converted into numbers of trees planted, this equates to 50 trees planted for every unit, every year,” Incalza said. “The Advancer adds another milestone to our history. By introducing this completely redesigned trailer platform, we are challenging what is possible in our industry. This is our vision for the future of trailer refrigeration and this future is now here for our customers.”

In summary, the Advancer offers various features that address a wide range of operational and financial challenges, including:
• Fully variable airflow that can be regulated for each journey and cargo, and is independent of unit engine speed;
• Engines with 50% fewer emissions than the maximum allowed by the latest European Non-Road Mobile Machinery Stage V emission standards;
• Electronic engine speed control on the A-400 and A-500 units, which makes them the first units on the market to give complete transparency of fuel levels and fuel consumption. The fuel consumption data will be recorded, displayed and made available remotely via telematics;
• Lower maintenance costs and enhanced serviceability compared to the predecessor, thanks to sensors offering more insight into the engine, fuel, battery and the performance of other key components;
• Power capabilities that can utilise diesel, axle generator, or shore power sources with ease; and
• Fleet intelligence as standard, with the Advancer being the first-ever unit to offer two years of full telematics connectivity in the purchase price.

“Advancer is a sound investment for the future, for our planet and for your business,” Debias said.

“In the southern African market Advancer will add great value to our existing range of Thermo King products,” added Arnold Botha, head of new machine sales for the Thermo King Division of GEA Africa. “The concept of flexibility of drive unit including possibilities such as gas engines and patented axle generators combined with the latest battery technology will transform the local refrigerated trailer market.

“We are pleased to offer this new technology in our market and have already received a number of orders from customers who are excited about what such a unit can offer. We expect to land the first production units in South Africa by the end of September 2020 for fitment and commissioning before the busy Christmas season.

“Depending on travel restrictions we still hope to have a local launch event of the new unit in South Africa before the end of 2020.”

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FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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