New trials aim to boost use of electric delivery vehicles for chilled goods

Government-funded trials aiming to be “a game-changer” in the ability to use all-electric vans and trucks for chilled goods home deliveries are underway.

Using EVs for chilled goods can be challenging, due to the need for the battery to power both the vehicle and the fridge unit: either a bigger battery pack is needed, which compromises payload, or range is lost when using a standard-sized battery.

However, a new combination of technologies is being tested that aims to decouple the power requirements of the fridge unit and the drive train.

The first trial will see operator Iceland Foods operating a modified Paneltex all-electric truck on a 5.5-tonne Isuzu chassis (pictured). It will be fitted with Sunamp’s cold storage technology, with Route Monkey providing EV optimisation algorithms.

Project leader Sunamp will invert its Heat Batteries to create a new cold storage technology that can maintain the required ambient temperature in the vehicle’s cargo area.

The company claimed the system has a better power to weight ratio and is more efficient than using Li-Ion batteries, helping to increase the vehicle’s payload capabilities by reducing the size of the traction battery pack.

This trial builds on Sunamp’s R&D under previous Innovate UK funding of Heat Batteries, for heating and air conditioning in electric cars and buses, which it said showed “huge benefits” in extending the useful range of these EVs at low cost.

Route Monkey’s software will be used to optimises EV range by calculating factors such as route topography and scheduling deliveries of heavier loads at the beginning of the day. It will also plan the demo vehicle’s deliveries in accordance with Iceland’s two-hour customer time windows.

For this trial, Route Monkey’s optimisation of the demonstrator will include the capabilities to react to traffic congestion, factor in weather conditions, and – in case of emergency – schedule a top-up charge of the batteries and cold storage Heat Batteries at the nearest available charging point.

Andrew Bissell, CEO of Sunamp said: “The partnership’s combined technology has the potential to be a genuine game-changer. If it proves as successful as we expect, it will have far-reaching applications in refrigerated vehicles and beyond.”

The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership will co-ordinate dissemination of the results.

The project is part of a £38m initiative funded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and Innovate UK.

More fleets are encouraged to take part in the trials and should email info@sunamp.co.uk.