CONVERSIONS: Chill out and lighten up

Date: Friday, April 10, 2020   |   Author: Sean Keywood


Fridge 1a

Businesses seeking temperature-controlled conversions will have to contact third-party converters

(Continued from page 1) Discussing the firm’s Coldtainer products, Eberspacher UK technical sales manager Paul Hickinbotham says: “These items are ideal for those customers who want to transport chilled and frozen goods within a standard van, possibly within a load of primarily ambient goods.

“The containers are particularly suitable for refrigerated courier businesses. This flexible approach can avoid the need for an expensive dedicated refrigerated van conversion, which is both costly to purchase and run.”

Hickinbotham adds that for companies needing to transport frozen goods, a freezer specification unit can also be installed within a chilled refrigerated van.

He says that as well as transporting food and drink, Eberspacher also sells units to the pharmacy sector, with its products having ISO 15189 certification for medical transportation.

He continues: “The units are a flexible alternative to a traditional refrigerated vehicle, allowing the user to adjust ambient chilled and frozen capacity around the requirements of the day.

“Excess units can be stored until required without the issues associated with converted vehicles and are virtually maintenance ffree.”

Like our other contributors, Hickinbotham says that the growth in the home food delivery market has led to increased demand for Eberspächer’s products.

“We have seen many enquiries from different sectors who have had to adapt to a changing market, sometimes moving from a traditional retail premises to a small distribution hub.

“As the larger couriers gain new contracts, flexibility of vehicle use becomes a factor, with many large players now having small refrigerated or even heated units for last-mile services in a traditional panel van.”

When asked about current market trends, Hickinbotham is another who says that efficiency is a hot topic.

“Efficiency drives and global climate concerns mean that flexibility of both load areas and smaller fleet vehicles are more important than ever.

“Electric vehicles create their own complications, which have forced us to explore range-extending options and adapt our range with rechargeable onboard power supplies.

“Some converters are offering chilled options for electric vehicles but most are not offering freezers, due to the additional power required reducing the vehicle’s range to unpractical levels.”

Hickinbotham sees the demand for products in electrified vehicles steadily increasing as time goes on.

“Electric vehicles are the future and as battery technology improves and climate change deadlines approach this market will grow exponentially.

“A few years ago car-based vans were the only commercial electric vehicles available. Now we have everything from autonomous last-mile pods to the largest panel vans.

“All the main manufactures and fleet owners are having to embrace the new technology.”

For Eberspächer, developing products suitable for electric vans has had the added bonus of opening up other potential customers, as Hickinbotham explains: “[The EV range] has also created a new demand from customers who lease or hire vehicles and can’t alter or modify the vehicle – this can even include just running a DC power supply to the rear.

“The self-powered units have opened up a new market for us. Anyone who has a Coldtainer can now hire a regular panel van to simply transport temperature-sensitive items.”

Hickinbotham adds that it is not just chiller and freezer products that Eberspächer is offering: “A further exciting development of Coldtainer is the Hot Meal Line (HmL), designed to maintain the temperature of hot food (above 65°C) during transport, storage and serving for the whole day.

“Self-powered HmL units are the only available product in the market to guarantee the temperature during transit and transport without any external power source.”

For operators who don’t want to buy a temperature-controlled van, another option is to rent one, from providers such as Enterprise Flex-E-Rent.

Managing director Danny Glynn tells us that it has also seen demand increase from the pharmaceutical sector, but less so from grocery deliveries, with retailers tending to buy their own bespoke vans rather than rent.

He says that a strong current trend is customers looking for higher-specification vehicles.

“Demand for higher-specification vehicles is growing, both in terms of the build and also the ancillaries, such as temperature-monitoring equipment and fridge unit performance,” he says.

“Customers expect even ‘entry-level’ temperature-controlled vans to be higher specification and fitted with the best equipment, so we’ve continually upgraded and adapted our fleet in line with customer demand.”

Glynn says that these are set to be continuing trends, while Enterprise will also keep an eye on electric van conversions as their viability increases.

“The expectation for higher build and equipment specifications is likely to increase in the short and medium term given current levels of demand. Growth in the pharmaceutical distribution sector is driving a large part of the high-end temperature-controlled van rental market.

“In the long term, electric vans are likely to become more viable. As costs come down and range performance improves, electric will probably become a key element of any LCV refrigerated rental fleet.”


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