Reynolds Catering Supplies is one of the first companies in the UK to have a fully electric Electra Commercial Vehicles’ Solar Charging Refrigerated Trailer in operation – reducing the company’s emissions significantly.
Waltham Cross-based Reynolds Catering Supplies initially approached Electra in 2018. with the idea of creating a fully electric refrigerated trailer and tractor unit combination for urban operation.
Electra picked up the challenge and designed a bespoke system for the trailer, which is still in use today. Reynolds has been operating the trailer since mid-2019. The 11m Gray & Adams trailer features Electra’s scalable fully electric system coupled with a Frigoblock EK25 electric fridge. Moreover, the system also delivers considerable benefits by adding charge from solar panels fitted on the roof,’ commented Ben Smith, MD for Electra Commercial Vehicles.
Although the trailer has been in zero-emission operation for well over three years, the solar array had not been fully utilised. Initially, the plan was to use the solar array to provide power directly to the 700v system, but unfortunately, this proved inefficient with little benefit. Electra looked at many options.
The design team noted that generators are now fitted into trailer axles. Still, early reports said this harmed diesel consumption of the tractor units towing trailers with this technology. Earlier in 2022, Electra`s design team formulated a method to use solar panels to charge the system, which operates the battery thermal management system, charge control systems and tail-lift operation.
This required a workshop visit to Electra’s headquarters in Blackburn for the trailer re-wiring and refurbishment of the electrical system. New software had to be specifically created in-house.
‘The trailer is now fully operational transporting catering goods all over the country. When combined with an electric tractor unit, it creates zero emissions and can deliver PEAK-compliant quiet operation, ideal for night-time deliveries which Reynolds has to carry out regularly. If required, it can operate with any existing tractor unit without needing an additional generator fitted,’ explained Ben Smith.
The Electra system is fully scalable – this means a refrigerated trailer can be built to suit its operation, where run time and payload are critical.
This specific unit is fitted with a 62-kWh battery pack and Electra EV system, which runs the refrigeration unit at ambient temperature on a multi-drop round for over 12 hours. Electra can fit up to 420 kWh of battery storage, enabling the EV trailer to be used for over a week before requiring charging.
This is without the solar array energy factored in, which will save around 10 kWh per day. All Electra EV trailers and BEVs are fitted with onboard chargers and can be charged from any 32amp 3-phase power outlet.
The Frigoblock fridge system can also be run from shoreline power while stationary to save the onboard battery power. With thermally managed batteries, it can operate in outside temperatures of -30 to +50 degrees. Other electrical ancillaries, such as a tail lift or working lights, can be easily accommodated.
Control systems are automated – typically, the driver would have no other input than connecting the charge leads when required.