Dearman’s zero-emission transport refrigeration system is undergoing final-phase closed-road trials ahead of commercial deployment this year. But what is involved in testing a brand-new technology and making it ready for the real world? What has it taken to get to this stage? Nick Owen discusses the final phase of testing.

What stage is the technology at now?

Cast your mind back to the beginning of 2015, only a year ago, and we were still running the first generation engine in the laboratory on a work bench. A few short weeks later and we were able to integrate the engine onto a truck for the very first time. And now? Well, the second generation Dearman engine itself is 30% smaller, 30% lighter and 30% more efficient than its predecessor, it’s in a truck with a new second generation refrigeration system, and it’s about to go on trial.

It’s been a year of significant progress, to say the least. Taking Dearman technology from the lab onto a vehicle was a big step for the company and the engineering team. Now we’re preparing for the next stage, handing the zero-emission refrigeration system over to a commercial operator.

How is the test programme going and what does it entail?

The test programme is rigorous – the Dearman system will soon be on the road, carrying real cargo with real value for a real commercial operator, so naturally we have to be as thorough as possible before handing it over. Aside from standard durability testing, which involves clocking up running hours for the most part, there are other considerations and test scenarios. Does the system handle changes in terrain, corners, gradients, cambers and junctions? Essentially, can it continue to operate well when faced with real-world obstacles? The short answer is yes, it absolutely can.

The system is performing very well, and recently achieved a pull-down from winter ambient temperature to -20C in just 30 minutes. That’s significantly faster than diesel-powered systems. We are confident that the Dearman refrigeration system will be operationally superior to incumbent technologies, and we have the test data to support that belief.

How is this test data captured and monitored?

This is a vital part of the testing process – monitoring temperatures and the health of engine while it runs through test scenarios is very important. We are using a combination of methods, combining a leading refrigeration data acquisition system and our own control system, which we developed. The real benefit is that real-time data can be transmitted wirelessly, so the larger team of technicians and test engineers at the Dearman Technology Centre can read off and work on data as it comes through.

How many engineers do you have working on these tests?

On average we will have one or two Dearman engineers working on a full day of testing, assisted by Horiba MIRA personnel who continue to support the project. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, being able to transmit data in real-time back to the team at our main engineering facility, means that in practice we can have many more people working on the truck than that.

What’s next for the technology?

Soon, the liquid nitrogen-powered refrigeration system will be on the road with a commercial operator in real-world field trials; this trial will expand to multiple vehicles later in the year. We will be announcing the partners for these trials ahead of this. For now, we can say that the first trial will be in the UK, but we hope to be running further trials shortly afterwards in European markets.