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Despite efforts to increase energy efficiency, the final energy consumption for freight transport in Europe constantly increased during the last years. Food, beverages, and tobacco accounts for the largest share of tonne-kilometres in road freight transport, while about one-third of the transported products require refrigeration or cooling. Standard technology today are vapour-compression refrigeration (VCR) systems operated either via the vehicle engine or with a dedicated diesel engine, both increasing the fuel consumption for transportation. To achieve the energy and climate targets of the EU, further research is needed for the transport sector and especially on alternative cooling technologies in transportation applications, which are more efficient, and/or using renewable energy.
This paper will present an evaluation of different alternative refrigeration technologies such as (i) eutectic cooling by the use of phase change materials (PCM), (ii) cryogenic cooling, (iii) solid oxide fuel cell in combination with vapour absorption refrigeration, and (iv) photovoltaic (PV) cells as an energy provider for the vapour compression refrigeration (VCR).
The alternative systems are compared to the VCR systems regarding technical feasibility, GHG-emissions, and economic competitiveness (investment and operational cost). Required cooling loads are calculated for different truck sizes and distribution scenarios as well as solar potentials in different regions of Europe. Emissions during operation as well as emissions related to the production and losses of the fuels and refrigerants are taken into account. However, emissions related to the production of the required hardware are not considered.
The results show that all the alternative technologies are feasible, except for the PV-driven VCR system, which alone cannot provide enough energy during some months or transport scenarios. They might need to be supplemented by an energy storage device. However, PV-driven VCR and eutectic cooling seem to be the most promising systems in terms of emission reduction potential.
The paper was prepared for the eceee Summer Study 2021.
Authors: Sebastian Leopoldus, Alessandro Consolati, Prof. Dr. Peter Radgen, Prof. Dr. Simone Zanoni