Australia's first Can Van at SuperTest

An ice-cold beer? The Can Van can

SuperTest has attracted some fascinating – even weird – vehicles that require refrigeration or air conditioning testing to ensure that the equipment installed is fit for purpose.

Such a vehicle was Australia’s first Can Van, an extraordinary invention of Gold Coast publican Peter Thompson. As the name suggests, it’s a refrigerated trailer unit designed to quickly chill huge numbers of cans of beer without the use of ice, and capable of keeping up with the heavy demand for ice-cold drinks at big field events.

Peter brought his prototype Can Van to SuperTest for checks on refrigeration system capacities that would comfortably meet the demand of thousands of thirsty customers in summer temperatures at places like the Birdsville Races, or even the Melbourne Cup and outdoor music festivals. (read the whole story below)


Peter Thompson (left) and SuperTest Managing Director Mark Mitchell toast the successful completion of the refrigeration equipment tests with – what else – a beer.


The cans of beer free-fall down these races while being sprayed with fine ice water mist.


The Unicla 330 compressor (centre of the picture) was the best choice for a mobile refrigeration unit.

The unit has been fitted with a Unicla 330 compressor that SuperTest managing director Mark Mitchell says is ideal for the job because of its ability to cope with high vibration and high ambient conditions in a mobile unit.

‘Given that the Can Van is designed to operate remotely from town power, driven by a stationary engine, a mobile-type compressor such as the Unicla is the ideal choice,’ Mark added.

The SuperTest report was glowing for the Can Van. ‘A classic example of a great idea, fitted with good componentry.

‘The operation is fundamentally excellent’, Mark said, ‘but as with any new system, until the components are bundled together in a unit and run in a variety of temperature conditions, you can never be sure of performance capabilities.’

The Can Van was tested in a variety of conditions in the SuperTest environmental booth, and the result was validation that it could perform in high ambient conditions, in excess of 45 degrees Celsius. Only some minor improvements to the refrigeration layout were suggested.

The prototype Can Van is capable of holding 3,000 cans of beer. The cans are stored in a series of tracks, with each track containing 155 cans. Hot cans are loaded on one side of the van, and are dispensed on the opposite side after being chilled to 1.5 degrees C.

The cans free-fall down a series of tracks while being hit with an ice-cold fine water spray to hasten the chilling process. Starting from scratch on a hot day, the first full load of beer will take about two and a half hours to chill to 1.5 degrees, and after that, as fast as the beer is sold, the unit will maintain a constant supply of chilled beer.

Inventor Peter Thompson is the licensee of the Gold Coast’s Fisherman’s Wharf and the Mermaid Beach Tavern, and as a supplier to many outside functions, is well aware of the logistical and labour problems of sourcing and hauling truck loads of ice to keep drinks cold in mid summer at outdoor locations as well as coolrooms for the beer and freezers for the ice.

With the help of local engineers, Peter developed his Can Van concept, and now after the SuperTest results, he intends to fine tune the design, moving the refrigeration unit into a fully enclosed space in the centre of the van and adding to the beer loading capacity with a bigger trailer.

‘It has to be a no-brainer for hire companies that have to deal with the logistics of mass refreshment supply at outdoor venues,’ said Peter.

He is already fielding inquiries for rental and sales of his unique Can Van.