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Transport of perishable foodstuffs: towards more responsible solutions

While COVID-19 has exacerbated health concerns related to the delivery of perishable foodstuffs, environmental concerns remain an underlying trend under the influence of haulage companies. How to choose a refrigerated lorry accordingly. Options for cleaner vehicles suitable for the food industry. Focus.

Although health security has suddenly become a priority during the coronavirus crisis to the point of overshadowing all others, environmental issues remain a lasting concern for commercial vehicles transporting perishable foodstuffs. Refrigerated vehicle bodywork specialists are therefore working to offer more efficient and environmentally friendly solutions, whether for long-distance transport, deliveries to shops in town or to private individuals at home, but always taking specific refrigeration characteristics into account.

Cooling: specific needs

Goods vehicles transporting perishable foodstuffs are more energy-intensive than other commercial vehicles because they are fitted with a refrigeration unit. They require high-performance equipment to generate and maintain the right temperature for their load and thus ensure the integrity of the refrigeration chain. As it is difficult to reduce the energy loss caused by opening the doors when the vehicle is stationary, coachbuilders are working on improving the insulation of the bodywork. This solution limits the need for cooling and thus saves energy.

To continue this trend, more environmentally friendly engines can be chosen. The load carried by the goods vehicle and the distance to be covered will determine the most suitable solution. In the case of urban distribution, 100% electric vehicles will make zero emissions possible during the use of the vehicle. Their main disadvantage? Limited maximum range which not enough for long distance haulage and deliveries. To overcome this, a relevant alternative is vehicles that use natural gas (in gaseous form for medium distances or liquefied for long distances), combined with a generator that also runs on gas or electricity. Their carbon footprint is smaller than that of all-diesel vehicles, especially with vehicle natural gas from biomass. It is essential to make the right choice of energy source from among the various solutions currently on the market in order to reconcile respect for the environment with economic profitability.

Finally, as refrigeration systems can cause noise pollution and as clean goods vehicles also meet more stringent requirements with regard to this type of pollution, CO2 can be used for cooling purposes without noise, in addition to the use of electric motors.

Hydrogen, an avenue for future development

In future, more hydrogen powered models are expected to appear. Using a fuel cell powered by this alternative energy, they will be able to provide the energy needed for cooling. Prototypes from different manufacturers have gone beyond small-volume production runs, like the hydrogen-refrigerated semi-trailer made by France’s Chéreau, the first in the world, unveiled in 2019. The imminent arrival of new van and lorry models using these alternative energy sources is also expected to create a knock-on effect and encourage a boom in these solutions for the “clean” transport and distribution of perishable foodstuffs.

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