The Indian government recently published its Cooling Action Plan, unveiled by environment minister Dr Harsh Vardhan. The plan aims to set out “a long term vision to address the cooling requirement across sectors”.

With India’s 1.3 billion population expected to continue growing, so will demand for cooling fresh produce and the need for lifestyle changes such as air-conditioning. Crucially, given India’s air pollution crisis, this demand for cooling will have to be met cleanly and this is where there’s a role for zero emission technology companies like Dearman.

The key elements of India’s Cooling Action Plan comprise of a “reduction of cooling demand, refrigerant transition, enhancing energy efficiency and better technology options with a 20-year time horizon”. Whilst India has a significant level of cold storage warehousing available to meet current demand, the refrigerated transport sector required for a robust joined-up cold chain is rudimentary or non-existent. Such cold chains help reduce food losses and maintain produce quality, safety and nutritional content, as well as increase farmers’ incomes. This is done through facilitating greater market participation, both domestic and export, and reduce food price volatility for Indian consumers.

India’s air pollution and the need for clean technologies

Although the economic and social rewards of building cold chains are clearly understood, it is increasingly recognised that doing so based on the deployment of conventional diesel-powered transport refrigeration units (TRUs) will exacerbate India’s air pollution crisis, worsen associated health impacts, and affect the country’s greenhouse gas emissions budgets. The starkest health impact was set out by a Lancet study which estimated that in 2017, air pollution was the cause of 1.24 million premature deaths in India.

Conventional fossil fuelled TRUs typically consume up to 20% of the diesel used by a refrigerated vehicle and emit up to six times the NOx and twenty nine times the PM of a modern diesel propulsion engine. It is essential, therefore, that any new cold chains should be built using alternative clean sustainable technologies and in contrast to diesel TRUs, a Dearman TRU emits zero nitrogen oxide and zero particulate matter.

With less than 4% of India’s fresh produce passing through a cold chain annually, the economic value of food lost to wastage across the nation is estimated to be a staggering US$13 billion per year. To help combat this, India’s National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD) estimates that the nation’s fleet of refrigerated trucks would need an increase of 53,000, around 6 times its current fleet size, just to catch up with current levels of food production and consumption.

Dearman’s role in the future of cooling in India

The current landscape, therefore, presents a real opportunity for companies like Dearman. We have begun a two-year project to further explore the refrigerated transport market, understand customer requirements, and develop a ‘ruggedised’ TRU and cryogenic system suitable for the Indian market. In seeking to deploy a Dearman TRU with an Indian customer, we are working closely with the Department of Biotechnology in India, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Cartwright Group and the University of Birmingham.

The growing demand for cooling will also mean a growing demand for clean refrigeration technology. Conservative forecasts suggest that demand for TRUs in India will be 250,000 vehicles by 2025, and more bullish forecasts (based on TRU demand in Europe) suggest India could need 750,000 vehicles. Either way, given there are currently just 9,000 refrigerated vehicles in India, it is clear that there is a significant market opportunity here for TRU manufacturers, retailers and integrators, as well as cold chain logistics operators. By recognising a need to promote and develop cleaner technologies, India’s Cooling Action Plan sent the right signal about enabling this opportunity to be exploited.

Shezad Suleman
Project Manager, Dearman Engine Company

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