Tesco is the first UK company to use ECOOLTEC’s propylene/CO2-based transport refrigeration units in its fleet. (Source: ECOOLTEC)
Tesco is the first UK company to use ECOOLTEC’s propylene/CO2-based transport refrigeration units in its fleet. (Source: ECOOLTEC)

Tesco Continues Its HFC Phase Out With ECOOLTEC’s Hydrocarbon/CO2-Based Transport Refrigeration Units

The TM182 unit offers zero-emission refrigeration when operated in battery mode.

Tesco, the U.K.’s largest supermarket chain, has taken delivery of two refrigerated trucks that use propylene (R1270)/CO2 (R744) refrigeration units from German manufacturer ECOOLTEC, becoming the first company in the country to adopt the technology.

According to a statement from ECOOLTEC, its electric TM182 unit is “unique” in the heavy-duty commercial transportation sector and offers zero-emission refrigeration when operated in battery mode.

“While the phase out of f-gases within the EU is a given fact, we also notice outside the EU that industries are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint,” ECOOLTEC CEO Henning Altebäumer told NaturalRefrigerants.com. “We offer a solution for the missing link of the F-gas-free cold chain: Our ECOOLTEC TM182 is perfect to meet these sustainability goals.”

“As we look to decarbonize our transport, using lower-impact refrigeration will play an important role in our efforts to become net zero by 2035,” said Cliff Smith, Fleet Engineering Manager at Tesco.

“We offer a solution for the missing link of the F-gas-free cold chain.”

Henning Altebäumer, CEO of ECOOLTEC

The bodywork of the two new 18-ton trucks was designed by ECOOLTEC in partnership with Gray & Adams, a British manufacturer of specialist temperature-controlled vehicles. The multi-temperature box body can be divided into two compartments with a moveable transverse bulkhead system. This allows for the simultaneous transportation of chilled and frozen products between Tesco’s cold storage warehouse in Peterborough and its surrounding stores.

“Gray & Adams is delighted to be able to once again support Tesco in their mission to reduce the carbon footprint across their distribution fleet,” said Ryan Mazgaj, Sales Manager at Gray & Adams.

Installed on the roof, ECOOLTEC’s TM182 unit houses the low-charge propylene circuit, which is hermetically sealed to maximize operational safety. This connects to the secondary CO2 refrigeration circuit that serves the system’s evaporators via a brazed plate heat exchanger.

Cold air from the TM182 unit is distributed by a single ECOOLTEC E1221 evaporator in the truck’s front compartment and a double ECOOLTEC E1312 evaporator in the second compartment.

Henning Altebäumer, ECOOLTEC (left), and Cliff Smith, Tesco. (Source: ECOOLTEC)
Henning Altebäumer, ECOOLTEC (left), and Cliff Smith, Tesco. (Source: ECOOLTEC)

Reduced direct emissions

ECOOLTEC’s TM182 transportation refrigeration unit is fully electric and can be powered via the manufacturer’s G30 alternator, which is mounted to the truck engine, or charged via a wall outlet.

In battery mode, the unit does not produce any direct emissions, and when powered by the alternator, it produces 98% fewer emissions than a diesel-powered refrigeration system, according to the manufacturer. These emissions savings are due, in part, to the unit’s efficiency, which requires 60–80% less energy than conventional diesel powered systems of the same capacity.

With negligible GWPs compared to the HFCs commonly used in transport refrigeration, the TM182’s refrigerants – CO2 and propylene – also have a minimal climate impact in the event of a leak. Per ECOOLTEC, the refrigerant leakage rate for transport refrigeration systems can be as high as 30% due to many not having fully hermetic refrigerant circuits.

As HFCs can have a GWP hundreds or thousands of times higher than CO2, a leak can result in the emission of multiple tons of CO2 equivalent per year per unit.

“The total refrigerant charge in typical systems for heavy-duty commercial vehicles is up to 14kg [30.9lbs], depending on the exact specification,” explained ECOOLTEC. “In this case, an average of around 4.2kg [9.3lbs] of f-gases per vehicle is released into the atmosphere every year. Depending on the refrigerant, this corresponds to a CO2 equivalent of around 9 tons per year and per unit.”

In contrast, if 1kg (2.2lbs) of propylene leaks, less than 1kg of CO2 equivalent is released into the atmosphere.

“Furthermore, HFC-based refrigerants belong to so-called perpetual chemicals,” the manufacturer added. “When they are released into the atmosphere, they are also responsible for the formation of environmentally harmful substances such as [per- and polyfluorinated Substances](PFAS).”

ECOOLTEC first launched its TM182 unit in August 2022 and began rolling out the product in April 2023. The TM182 was named Innovation of the Year/Refrigeration at the European ATMO Awards 2023.

An ongoing transition

As noted in its “Climate Change and Energy Factsheet,” Tesco is gradually transitioning to natural refrigerant-based systems as its existing equipment reaches its end-of-life, with a plan to phase out all HFCs by 2035. During the 2022/23 financial year, Tesco invested £60 million (€70.1 million/$74.6 million) into decarbonizing its refrigeration systems – with a focus on CO2-based technologies – as well as electrifying its online delivery fleet.

Beyond its refrigerated transport, Tesco has installed transcritical CO2 systems at around 1,000 of its stores – roughly one-third of its locations – as of October 2022. Beginning in the early 2000s, the company worked with Scottish OEM Star Refrigeration to transition its four R22-based distribution centers to ammonia (R717).

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