The topic of optimising mobile cooling systems is important when we consider it’s not just better cooling at stake.
In this article, Unicla’s Mark Mitchell highlights the need for a holistic approach that takes into account environmental and commercial outcomes, rather than focusing solely on cost reduction.
Life cycle climate potential (LCCP) and life cycle costs (LCC) now must be a major part of our decision-making process when it comes to designing modern systems. It can no longer just be about reducing manufacturing costs and making design decisions that deliver a good price to the end-user but perhaps shorten the life expectancy of the system.
At the iVT Expo in Cologne in Germany last month I delivered a presentation that focussed on the relative topics in a vapour compression system regarding:
- techniques in hose connection systems to reduce refrigerant leakage
- hose selection and routing criteria to enhance refrigerant flow
- suction line design and how it affects compressor vapour temperatures, and
- how excessive vapour temperatures negatively affect system components.
I proposed that we have a duty to design HVAC systems in industrial vehicles that embrace both commercial and environmental outcomes, and the engineering endeavour must consider LCC analysis and LCCP for current technologies and those emerging.
Technology ‘hopping’ doesn’t always solve problems, especially emissions. Changing a component such as hose coupling, heat exchanger or compressor because it has new features doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome. This also applies to system processes and controls in systems.
Good technology should be implemented, not just announced.
We see this all the time. One of the common statements that is often announced is ‘Our systems use components manufactured to the highest standard’. This is the most common ‘motherhood’ statement, and it is often false because we are left wondering why we see component failures in vehicles after 2-3 years of operation.
In 2023 we shouldn’t be still talking about direct emissions from HVAC systems. But we are!
Also, it’s not just about the atmosphere, loss of refrigerant results in machine downtime, no matter which refrigerant it’s using.
My fear is the ‘passenger car syndrome’ is creeping into industrial vehicles. And by this, I mean lightweight and cost down manufacturing causing inferior component quality. As an example, one of the biggest selling cars manufactured in Europe has a HVAC system that lasts less the six years in the Asia Pacific region, and over its 12–15-year life cycle will emit its entire refrigerant charge 3-4 times, and at the evaporator replacement point, the cost to repair is 15% of the original purchase price of the vehicle.
This also results in the direct emissions from the HVAC system as 20% of the total for the vehicle over its lifetime.
This is now evident in the industrial vehicle arena. One of the biggest selling tractors made in Europe has a condenser and hose coupling set that often fails within 50 hours of operation. Cynically, workshops in Australia are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of the commercial opportunities post-warranty. But in reality, it’s not a good outcome for the end-user or brand reputation.
Direct emissions should be avoided. GWP-rated or not, refrigerants impact safety, downtime, uptime, productivity, efficiency, and environment.
Implementing the new and enhancing the old is the way forward. To me this is the ultimate goal, and getting on top of what we already know without racing blindly into the unknown, is the most efficient means of putting new technology into focus to allow for its implementation.
– Mark Mitchell