In the spotlight: Reynolds Catering: Electric fridge trailer

Commercial Motor
October 9, 2019

Reynolds Catering Supplies is putting an electric urban reefer trailer into service with a rechargeable battery box and solar panels.

Reynolds Catering Supplies will this week put an innovative zero-emission urban fridge trailer on the road. The 11m Gray & Adams-built electric reefer features an Electra-supplied 62kWh rechargeable battery box, mounted in the middle of the chassis. Via an inverter, this powers a standard Frigoblock EK25 electric fridge. To back it up, SuperFlex solar panels mounted on the trailer’s roof push out between 250V and 500V.

Commenting on his decision to build the trailer, which has taken 18 months to come to fruition, Reynolds’ head of fleet Steve White says: “We wanted quieter night-time deliveries for London, and obviously, we wanted to be as green as possible.”

Initial tests

Prior to putting it on the road and before the solar panels were connected, Reynolds conducted some initial tests. The electric fridge was left to run for 10 hours, with one compartment at -26C and another at 3C, with the door being opened frequently to simulate deliveries. This showed that 18% of the battery was used without any solar assistance.

“So we can basically run it for five days without having to recharge,” says White, who is optimistic that when the solar panels are connected, it will rarely need to be plugged into the mains.

He has also been impressed with the trailer’s pull-down rate, which is quicker than initially expected. “There’s a boost setting that can reduce the temperature from 17C to 1C in eight minutes,” explains White. In addition to a distribution setting, which operates at the standard 85dB, the fridge also has a whisper mode, making it ideal for night-time deliveries. According to White, this sounds like a fan and is considerably quieter than a truck on tickover.

Safety features

In addition to its green credentials, Reynolds also takes safety seriously, and this vehicle was specced with the well-being of both its drivers and vulnerable road users in mind. At the front is a low-entry Econic tractor, which White says is perfect for multidrop deliveries in London. Drivers get an unrivalled view of their surroundings, and are able to enter and exit the truck via a kerbside bus-style concertina door. Access to the trailer is simple too, with doors on either side, both featuring fold-down steps and secure handrails. The cabs are equipped with inward and outward-facing SmartDrive windscreen-mounted cameras, and Sentinel cameras have been fitted along the length of the vehicle. Vulnerable road users are alerted to left turns by illuminated and audible warnings, and banksman lights aid reversing in the dark.

World first?

“Although it has taken longer than I had hoped, it’s great to finally get this project over the line,” says White, who believes it to be the world’s first electric trailer. Following the success of this vehicle, he is already toying with the idea of electrifying all five urban trailers on the Reynolds - fleet, and is also considering converting some tri-axle trailers. While this initial trailer will be coupled to one of Reynolds’ diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz Econic tractor units, White’s ultimate aim will be to pull it with a zero-emission version. At the moment, however, there isn’t one available.

Freight in the City is the must-attend event for anyone involved in making urban logistics cleaner, safer, quieter or more efficient. This free event is taking place at Alexandra Palace, London on 6 November. Click here for more information and to get your free tickets.

About the Author


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