Saving COLD, Hard Cash | Refrigeration Feature | October 2011

The drive to be seen to be green is at its strongest in the temperature controlled distribution industry – with customers such as the corporately aware supermarkets this is of little surprise.  The focus on footprints has led to a number of new systems from the refrigeration unit makers and van converters that boast impeccable green credentials.

Abel & Cole's new home delivery vehicle, featuring Hubbard Products 360 AM chiller unit.

Abel & Cole's new home delivery vehicle, featuring Hubbard Products 360 AM chiller unit.

 When discussing a refrigerated conversion with a customer, you need to look at all parts of the conversion – the refrigeration unit must suit the vehicle, the conversion and the application.  This is a highly specialist area – one best left to the experts.  Whilst there is no legal requirement for testing of the refrigerated conversion to use the vehicle in the UK, ATP testing is a requirement for overseas operation.  It is likely therefore that this could become standard in the UK over the next few years.  Check whether the converter that you are dealing with builds to this standard.  If this is the case your customer could pay the extra money for a test to be carried out.

 Mark Foster of converter Vanfridge tells us, “We specialise in managing projects large and small to make sure that the customer gets exactly what he needs.  We check the temperatures that are required and factor in the duty cycle – how many times doors are opened and closed for example – before we make a recommendation.”

A recent example of a heavy duty operating cycle is Abel & Cole’s new  3.5 tonne Iveco Daily vehicles which use Hubbard 360 AM Chiller units. These Chiller units have been specified to meet a demanding requirement of around 140 door openings per delivery round. Hubbard Product’s units are expected to cope with approximately 30,000 deliveries each week from 108 vehicles.


The Hubbard 360AM units chill to +8° C and to achieve the correct performance a prototype unit was built and tested in a hot room environment in conjunction with Hubbard. After extensive testing of the Chill unit and various door location and bodywork opening permutations, Abel & Cole have achieved the right fridge for the right bespoke vehicle.

Refrigeration Units

Choosing an efficient refrigeration unit is all-important.  The days are long gone when a large condenser simply stuck on the roof of a van will do.  GAH, the only UK-based refrigeration unit manufacturer has focused on the efficiency of their units in recent years.  The company has launched the Rapier and Super Rapier that are up to 35kg lighter than the outgoing models. 

This weight saving alone will save on fuel consumption or increase the efficiency of the vans thanks to an increased payload available.  In addition, the new units run on scroll compressors that are more economical, as it is bolted to the engine and driven by the crankshaft pulley.

GAH are not alone in using this technology, Hubbard’s 360AM units have the compressors mounted in the engine compartment and driven by a crankshaft belt as well.  This system is suitable for temperatures down to 0°c. and uses environmentally friendly R134a refrigerant. 

Hubbard take this one step further with their 380Alpha, as the condenser is also mounted within the engine compartment – instead of externally roof mounted. This means that there will be lower fuel consumption, less wind noise and reduced vehicle height.

Hubbard’s latest development is their ‘TWICE’ dual temperature system.  Normally in a frozen and chilled application, some of the cold air is blown from the freexer section to the chilled.  Hubbard install two evaproators, one in each section to give the operator total control over the temperature sin each section.  This prevents cross-contamination of air and allows for much smaller frozen compartments when compared to air transfer kits.


Hubbard’s Europa system

Hubbard’s Europa system

For trailer operation, Hubbard has recently launched their Europa package – a scroll compressor systems mounted underneath the trailer. This package from Hubbard gives the operator lower operating costs and low carbon emissions with high multi-drop performance with claimed savings of up to 50%. 

Aerodynamics are Vital

For box-bodied fridge vehicles, aerodynamics plays a greater role in the fuel efficiency.  Here GAH have made significant steps forward with the help of Cranfield University in the development of the company’s fuel saver range of refrigeration units. 


Note the ducts on the GAH Fuel Saver ‘MAX’ Unit installed on TGL

Note the ducts on the GAH Fuel Saver ‘MAX’ Unit installed on TGL

For larger vehicles, the company has developed a range of ‘Fuel Saver’ (FS) units that can provide savings of between 2% and 10%, depending upon the type of unit chosen.



The range starts with the standard FS unit, which is essentially a condenser with an aerodynamic cowl attached – upgrade to the ‘Midi’ and the operator gets a half-height roof deflector, complete with ducts which feed the condenser with a controlled airflow.  Go for the FS ‘MAX’ full cab-mounted spoiler and operators could save up to 10% on their fuel bills, whilst still providing the refrigeration unit with all the fresh air it needs to operate effectively.

If an operator uses a standard blade or roof spoiler, the performance of the refrigeration unit could suffer, as the condenser may get starved of the air it needs to cool effectively.  This is why it is important to contact specialists when discussing the configuration of a refrigerated vehicle with a customer.

The GAH Fuel Saver Range’s Savings

The GAH Fuel Saver Range’s Savings

Refrigerated Conversions and Bodies

Of course, the refrigerated unit is only as good as the installation.  There are plenty of companies in the marketplace that can offer a refrigerated panel van conversion or a refrigerated body, but with legislation tightening with European Whole Vehicle Type Approval just around the corner, you need to make sure that you are dealing with a company that knows what it is doing.  Check that their conversions meet ATP standards.


GRP’s Enviro-Lite conversion

As far as the conversions are concerned, your customers could opt for ‘greener’ systems.  For example, GRP have launched their new product range under the brand ENVIRO-lite. By using a combination of the traditional laminate conversion and more modern material production methods, ENVIRO-lite gives the end user a conversion that still retains strength and integrity.  The makers claim that this ‘hybrid’ conversion combines the best of traditional and modern manufacturing techniques which means that GRP can reduce their own atmospheric production emissions by over 50%.  With a 25% weight saving compared to some conversions, ENVIRO-lite conversions will use less fuel and consequently reduce CO2 emissions.

Paneltex designed 13.6m double deck, multi-compartment reefer trailer, built for Ocado. The twin compartment double deck trailer can hold enough products to supply over 300 home delivery customers, as the trailer transports the equivalent of 12 ‘van loads’ of product

Paneltex designed 13.6m double deck, multi-compartment reefer trailer, built for Ocado. The twin compartment double deck trailer can hold enough products to supply over 300 home delivery customers, as the trailer transports the equivalent of 12 ‘van loads’ of product


GRP’s Managing Director, Duncan Read commented, “Never in our 40 year history have we compromised on quality, but we do recognise that factors such as environmental impact and cost are now even more important in the decision making process. These main factors have prompted us to launch the ENVIRO-lite product range in order to meet market demand. Initial response from our customers has been very positive and we are keen to ensure that the market understands the full benefits of opting for an ENVIRO-lite conversion.”


Chilled Electric truck from Zeroed with lithium iron phosphate batteries and GAH electric refrigeration

Chilled Electric truck from Zeroed with lithium iron phosphate batteries and GAH electric refrigeration

Refrigerated converter, Paneltex put their success down to the breadth of their range. Chris Berridge, Managing Director at Paneltex told us, “Temperature controlled vehicles form the backbone of the Paneltex operation and we are able to demonstrate the full range and breadth of our refrigerated product range, from ATP Class C panel vans through to refrigerated rigid trucks and maximum length double deck reefer trailers.”

 Not content with providing refrigerated conversions, the company also produce a fully electric 6.2 tonne truck under the Zeroed brand which can be fitted with a 14 ft Paneltex ATP certified single compartment insulated body for chilled applications.



GAH is an independent, UK-based company specialising in the manufacture of direct-drive transport refrigeration. The company’s systems can carry temperature sensitive goods for chill, freeze and heat applications in single or multi-compartment vehicles of a range of sizes, including box-body units. The GAH products are supported by a nationwide fleet of service engineers.

Tel: 01394 421140 Twitter @GAHgroup.


GRP claim to be the UK’s largest temperature controlled van converter and have been established in Leeds for nearly 40 years.   The company manufactures a range panel van conversions and refrigerated box bodies.  Current ATP standards covering refrigerated bodywork legislation are the basis for GRP’s box body manufacturing programme.

T: 0113 255 4664 W:


Hubbard celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008 and is part of the worldwide Zanotti Group of companies. The company serves the cool chain supply sector offering a wide range of direct drive, alternator drive, Diesel drive and stand alone electrical units for panel vans, box body vehicles and truck and trailer combinations. Hubbard offers the full range of units from European transport refrigeration manufacturers, Zanotti S.p.A.

T: 01473 892218 W:


Icecraft claim to have created the first ever dry lining in 1986 and are the UK’s oldest established manufacturers of the refrigerated dry lining.  The company targets businesses large and small for their conversions.

Tel: 01258 837779  W:


Formed in 1991, Paneltex Limited manufactures truck, trailer and container bodywork from insulated composite panels made in-house. All vehicles are custom designed and built under the control of BS EN ISO 9001 quality system in a well-equipped factory in Kingston Upon Hull.  In April 2008 Paneltex acquired Somers Refrigeration, also established in 1991 catering for the quality panel van conversion market. 

Somers Tel: 01508 532 248 W:

Paneltex Tel: 01482 787236 W:

The Cold Consortium

The Cold Consortium was formed in 1994 and now has solutions for every type and make of panel van and lightweight box bodies.

The company deals with the whole process from the initial idea, through to conception, Design and Production.  Operating from a purpose-built factory in East Yorkshire allows all operations to be carried out on one site without the use of sub-contractors.

T: 01430 861373 W:


Vanfridge Ltd was formed in 2002 to provide a “package solution” for a new refrigerated van. The service was targeted specifically at small companies requiring a refrigerated van. These include start up businesses who have no experience of specifying and purchasing a refrigerated vehicle; or existing companies who have been operating and purchasing refrigerated vans with little or no independent expert advice. The business has grown from a small office to a centrally located secure 0.75 hectare site owned by the company. Tel: 01299 253478 W:


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Article by Jason Hodge Editor

Editor of Commercial Vehicle Dealer Magazine, Jason has worked in the commercial vehicle industry since leaving university 20 years ago. More about the Authors
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