Cool truck technology is heating up

  • 24-Jun-2008 09:02 EDT
Webasto’s zero-emissions, idle-reducing BlueCool Truck bunk cooler recently earned CARB approval.

Though introduced to market in late 2005, with full production coming on stream in 2006, Webasto’s BlueCool Truck (BCT) bunk cooler is now gaining momentum as the transportation industry increasingly seeks “green” technology solutions. The supplier recently received California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) approval for its zero-emissions, engine-off bunk cooling and dehumidification system.

New California standards for air quality took effect on January 1, 2008, limiting idling of truck engines to no more than five minutes (in non-traffic situations), thereby precluding use of the truck’s regular heating and cooling system in the cab and bunk areas. Webasto is projecting North American sales of 5000 BCT units in 2008; prior to this year, about 2000 units had been sold since its launch.

 “At first glance, people sometimes think BlueCool Truck is a new kind of auxiliary power unit [APU],” said John Thomas, Vice President of Marketing, Webasto Product North America. “But [the system] isn’t an APU at all. It’s a technologically advanced energy storage system which harnesses the kinetic energy of the truck’s drivetrain while traveling down the road and stores it as potential energy in the BCT storage core. When needed, this potential energy is released again as kinetic energy on demand to cool the bunk area.

“This elegant but simple transfer of energy affords BlueCool Truck great advantages,” added Thomas. “The BCT system requires no additional batteries, for instance, and when in discharge mode uses absolutely no fuel and produces no emissions.”

During times of driver rest, the BCT system uses small amounts of electricity from the existing vehicle batteries to circulate chilled coolant between the cold storage unit and a heat exchanger installed in the sleeper cabin. Pushed by four small air-distribution fans, the cold air is said to keep the bunk area cool for up to 10 h in most ambient conditions.

Because ice has poor thermal conductivity and extracting cold storage efficiently and effectively is extremely difficult, Webasto engineers embedded the water/ice in a high-tech graphite matrix, with a resulting thermal conductivity that is 100 times better than a pure water/ice exchange.

According to Webasto, its cooling technology uses about 80% less fuel than an APU and 90% less fuel than an idling truck (factoring in the fuel used to charge the BCT system while driving). “Feedback from users indicates that an average truck can save around $750 per month at current fuel prices,” said a company spokesman in mid-June, when the national average for diesel fuel was $4.69/gal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. With an MSRP of $3495, plus cost of installation, which is in the range of six to eight hours, “that provides a payback period of around six months,” he noted.

Designed for both original-equipment (OE) and aftermarket use, BlueCool Truck can be installed and operated on all heavy-duty diesel-fueled vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 14,000 lb and all diesel-fueled commercial motor vehicles with a GVWR over 10,000 lb. Paccar nameplates Peterbilt and Kenworth offer it as an OE system, and Paccar Parts recently announced a discount and volume-incentive program to increase sales of the cooling technology along with Webasto’s Fuel Operated Heater at North American Peterbilt and Kenworth dealerships.

BCT joins other Webasto products that received CARB approval in 2007, including the Air Top 2000 S and Air Top 2000 ST compartment air heaters and Thermo Top Z/C (TSL 17) engine coolant pre-heater.

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