Unilever trials Zero-emission refrigeration on trucks in drive towards carbon-free future

NETHERLANDS –  Unilever has partnered with equipment service provider TIP Trailer Services, green tech experts Maxwell and Spark, and transport company Daily Logistics Group (DLG) to run a pilot in the Netherlands to test battery-powered refrigeration in trucks. 

According to a statement for the company, if successful, the trial would provide a new solution for lowering the environmental impact of its range of refrigerated products, including ice cream brands such as Magnum, Wall’s, and Cornetto. 

Currently, refrigerated trucks rely on diesel engines to power the cooling systems in refrigerated trucks, a carbon-intensive process that significantly increases the environmental impact of refrigerated products.  

To address this problem in its own supply chain, Unilever is replacing the diesel refrigeration in four trailers with zero-emission battery-electric prototypes. 

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The system – which keeps freight chilled at temperatures down to -25°C – will be tested to run entirely on renewable electricity. 

 If successful, the technology could be scaled to help the consumer goods company lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its ‘cold chain’ business.  

Unilever says the new technology could save up to 25 tonnes of CO2 per trailer annually, with air quality benefits for each vehicle equivalent to taking 70 passenger cars off the road for a year. 

“With logistics and distribution accounting for around 15% of our emissions, we are moving our cold chain to cleaner sources of energy,” explains Michelle Grose, our Head of Logistics and Fulfilment.  

“We are partnering with innovators to pioneer new technology and find new solutions. This journey of co-creation will provide us with valuable learnings and insights to help us lower emissions from our vehicle fleet.” 

This latest trial is one of several measures Unilever is currently exploring to reduce emissions in its logistics network as its doubles down on efforts to achieve net-zero across its entire value chain by 2039. 

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So far the company has achieved its 2020 target of 40% improvement in CO2 efficiency of our global logistics network (against a 2010 baseline) one year ahead of schedule. 

This WAS primarily driven by reducing distance traveled and reducing the total number of trucks used through improved truck utilization. 

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