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July 29, 2020 12:45 PM, EDT

Wabash, eNow Unite to Produce Zero-Emission Trailer

WabashThe MSC reefer trailer (left) and eNow's solar technology. (Wabash)

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Wabash National Corp. announced an exclusive agreement with eNow for its solar technology as the companies prepare to sell what they called the most eco-friendly refrigerated haul available on the market.

Wabash will pair eNow’s roof-mounted solar modules and undercarriage-mounted lithium-ion batteries with its molded structural composites trailer, cooled by an electric refrigeration unit from Carrier Transicold.

It was first shown as a zero-emission trailer at American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council annual meeting in February.

Wabash has an exclusive relationship for eNow’s technology for the time being. “I can’t disclose a lot of the aspects of the deal,” eNow CEO and founder Jeffrey Flath told Transport Topics. “We are working on a rollout strategy. We should have trailers in service before the end of this year.”

Flath said the partnership allows the companies to offer an all-electric trailer that can provide not only power for refrigeration, but capability of providing power back to the tractor to extend the range of the tractor.

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“This puts Wabash in a very good position to lead the trailer industry with regard to the similar revolution that is happening on the tractor side,” Flath said.

He said the advantage of Wabash’s MSC technology is that it is 30% more energy efficient compared with other trailer materials, reducing the load demand on eNow’s battery pack and system.

Mounting lithium-ion batteries under the trailer is challenging, said Ian Fox, product manager of refrigerated van for Wabash.

“Doing these, you have to be cognizant that there is going to be a lot of weight under there and support accordingly,” Fox said. “The beauty of composites is it is a lot more flexible as to where you can add and subtract reinforcement under the trailer. That’s why we thought it was a perfect fit for MSC.”

Dubbed the eNow Rayfrigeration System, the solar-electric power system can cut operating costs by more than 50% compared with diesel reefers, according to the companies.

It is coupled with Carrier Transicold’s engineless Vector 8100 unit, which Flath said was the only one of its kind on the market.

“There are other people trying to compete in the marketplace,” Flath said, “and we do expect that others will try to enter the marketplace. It’s like everything else, it is a substantial market and I think there is opportunity for different suppliers.”

Wabash expects California, with its recently announced regulatory schedule for electric trucks, to be a major market for the trailer, “but just like everything else [Californian], the rest of the country is going to follow suit. So I think it is only a matter of time, because all the major carriers go into California, before it gets spread out,” said Jim Farrell, Wabash regional sales manager.

Wabash

A Wabash trailer with a Carrier unit on display at the TMC annual meeting. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

He said Wabash is launching the trailer with Keene, N.H.-based C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc., the largest privately held wholesale grocery supply company in the U.S. and a 100-year-old plus company that views itself as the industry leader in supply chain innovation.

The product launch will come amid a period of soft trailer orders in the industry and the ongoing freight-related uncertainties brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Over the near-to-medium term, demand for various trailer types will probably depend more on how COVID-19 has affected a particular carrier’s customer base. For instance, carriers largely dependent on energy production, restaurants or brick-and-mortar retail will likely not have the same demand for trailer capacity that carriers tied to consumer staples, residential construction, health care supplies or e-commerce might have,” Dan Clark, head of BMO Transportation Finance, told TT.

At the same time, there are plenty of new trailers out there, following booming orders in recent years.

“Given that the upgrade cycle for most trailers in our experience is approximately 10 years, I think we’ll need to see a couple more years of digesting the new trailer capacity added during the 2016-2018 time frame, combined with a robust rebound in the freight cycle, before we start approaching those upcycle numbers again,” Clark added.

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