The effect of EWVTA (European Whole Vehicle Type Approval) upon the refrigeration conversion sector has brought about a good deal of debate in the LCV world of late. Like most EU legislation its complexity varies depending upon how much of it applies to any given vehicle, but in a nutshell it has less impact on panel van conversions than upon a bespoke body built upon a chassis cab.

LCV manufacturers have, for some years, been promoting ‘in- house’ conversions, which are
of course created by aftermarket converters supplying to the LCV makers’ specifications under an approved converter system. So it is with refrigerated vehicles and the latest maker to enter the fray is Nissan, with its NV200, winner of the
What Van? Editor’s Choice Award.

The Nissan-dealer supplied, zero degree-Centigrade capability NV200 Fridge has been converted by Gruau using an insulated insert conforming closely to the van’s interior to preserve load volume at 2.2m3 and roof-mounted fridge unit from Carrier. The whole conversion only robs 215kgs of payload. Barry Beeston, Nissan corporate sales director told What Van? “A lot of great work has gone into developing the NV200 Fridge as the ideal solution for any fresh food company’s transportation needs. With the conversion adding little weight to the vehicle, the driving quality and the nimble performance of the base NV200 is maintained. Customers will also take advantage over after- market conversions as the NV200 Fridge comes complete with our comprehensive three- year warranty.”

What such in-house conversions lack however, is bespoke specification. Here the independents reign. One such example is that of Dorset Fishwife, a doorstep delivery wet fish business.

The Somers conversion has been tailored to the product, rather built upon a generic design.

Charlie Berridge, technical sales manager at Somers, told What Van? “We have seen an increase in work volumes of late and we know our competitors have also.”

One industry analyst had a simple take on this growth, telling What Van? “The recession has lasted five years, whilst most refrigerated LCVs are leased on a four year basis, many operators have sought to get a further year’s use, the simple fact is that a large proportion of the refrigerated LCV fleet in the UK is ready for replacement.”

So it would seem the conversion market is becoming busier, if often due to LCV
maker partnerships. Somers provides conversions for LCV manufacturer’s in-house products.

The Citroen Ready to Run one-stop specialist vehicle programme includes Somers ATP- standard, temperature controlled conversions for Nemo, Berlingo, Dispatch and Relay panel vans as well as temperature controlled box bodies for Relay chassis cabs. The issue of warranty is
one which is often held up as a reason for choosing manufacturer in-house solutions. Any converter used in the Citroen programme has to undertake to match both the time and mileage elements of the Citroen base-vehicle warranty.

So is there still room for the independent converter or must they be in partnership with an LCV maker? Many people we spoke to feel there is, since more than one converter may be used by a manufacturer within the partner scheme for different types of conversion. Many operators will use the same converter when they change vans.

There are further advantages in sourcing the conversion aftermarket in that it allows
the operator freedom over the specification, rather than being forced to have the chassis

manufacturer’s preferred conversion. It also means you can use your local or trusted converter no matter which van you operate. The independent approach can also mean a quick response to new models on the market.

Refrigerated Vehicles (Northern) Ltd in Bradford has recently completed its first temperature controlled conversion of the new Ford Transit Connect SWB standard roof van, for a local butcher (pictured, top). Consisting of RVL’s own 50mm lightweight insulated sandwich panels and a Hubbard 360AM chiller unit, it operates down to 0 degrees-C.

The next step for the industry then is one of a shift in quality, whether it be through partner schemes or bespoke builds to individuals’ tastes. A simple case of survival of the fittest.
The bottom line is encouraging however, no matter whether the base LCV is made in France, Germany or Japan, its refrigerated conversion, supplied by the manufacturers’ partnership schemes or sourced in the after- market by the vehicle operator, will be made in the UK.