Analysis undertaken by Dearman, the clean cold and power technology company, has highlighted the damaging economic, health and environmental impact that cooling of refrigerated vehicles is having across Europe.
The research, which will be presented in Brussels later today (Tuesday, September 29), has found that the one million transport refrigeration units on European streets have the equivalent impact on air pollution as up to 56 million diesel cars.
Hundreds of thousands of refrigerated vehicles run on European streets every day –delivering perishable (cold and frozen) goods to restaurants, supermarkets, warehouses, homes and hospitals.
The cooling in these vehicles is often powered by an unregulated secondary diesel engine, which is inefficient and disproportionately polluting.
Transport refrigeration units can emit up to 29 times more potentially carcinogenic particulate matter and six times more NOx than far larger, modern diesel truck engines, and up to 165 times as much particulate matter and 93 times as much NOx as the latest diesel cars.
Launching the report in Brussels, Professor Toby Peters, chair in power and cold economy, University of Birmingham and CEO of Dearman, said: “Until now, nobody has given transport refrigeration units a thought.
“We all shop at food stores, eat in restaurants or have chilled and frozen food delivered, but the impact of transport refrigeration units has never been investigated, let alone addressed.
“They are unregulated, use out-dated, fossil fuelled technology and are disproportionately polluting. What’s worse, their pollution is concentrated on city streets where it does the most damage to our health.”
He added: “With 400,000 people dying prematurely every year in the EU as a result of air pollution, we simply cannot afford to ignore these hidden polluters any longer.
Awareness is growing and the policy landscape is just beginning to change, but action is needed now to prevent further environmental damage.”
The research also finds that pollution from transport refrigeration units could cost EU countries 22 billion euros over the next decade, as the EU fleet grows by 20% to 1.2 million by 2025.
If nothing is done, the environmental and health impact of emissions will impose an annual burden of 2.5 billion euros by 2025.
This year alone, the cooling of refrigerated vehicles in the EU will emit 13 million tonnes of CO2e; 40,000 tonnes of NOx; and 5,000 tonnes of particulate matter – equivalent to the emissions from 56 million diesel cars.
The report projections are based on a conservative assumption that the refrigerated vehicle fleet will grow by 1.5% per year.
However, other studies have predicted that annual cold chain market growth could be as much as 12% year-on-year.
The significance of refrigerated vehicles to modern supply chains is palpable – but with the growing popularity of online grocery shopping and the shift from out of town supermarkets towards local convenience stores, demand for transport refrigeration – and its detrimental impact on air quality – is set to increase, unless a zero-emission solution is adopted, Dearman concludes.