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Sustainability in Action: Leveraging Energy from the Sun to Reduce Carbon Emissions for ECS

European Container Services turns to Trane Technologies’ Thermo King business for solar panels that help reduce their CO2 footprint.

We’re helping solve our customers’ big challenges by innovating and delivering solutions that are better for them – and for the environment.

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Project At-a-Glance:

The opportunity: to enhance European Container Service’s sustainability goals to reduce carbon emissions related to refrigerated transportation and minimize environmental impact

The solution: Thermo King’s ThermoLite™ solar panels and TracKing telematics system

Sustainability outcomes:

  • Reduced 1,000 liters of fuel per year, per trailer unit
  • COemissions reduction of 2,000 tons within 10 years of operation
  • Over $60,000 in annual savings

Supporting the vision for sustainability

European Container Services (ECS), one of the largest providers of transportation logistics services in Europe, aims to drive a sustainable and efficient transition in the transportation of goods. As a company, they consider it their mission to create sustainable, reliable logistics and make a long-term contribution to economic prosperity and social cohesion while respecting the environment.

Their mission drives them to continually enhance their operations to reduce their transport fleet’s cost and emissions intensity. And, focusing on reducing carbon emissions related to refrigerated transportation was a huge opportunity to enhance their sustainability goals and minimize environmental impact. They had a vision to create sustainable and reliable logistics by significantly reducing the fuel consumption of each refrigeration unit by 1,000 liters annually.

ECS added solar panels provided by Thermo King, a Trane Technologies brand, to their fleet to support this vision and reduce their carbon emissions.

European Container Services (ECS), one of the largest providers of transportation logistics services in Europe

European Container Services (ECS), one of the largest providers of transportation logistics services in Europe

Equipped with solar panels, ECS refrigeration units will have a source of sustainable power on the road, which will increase the company’s operational efficiency, reduce its environmental footprint and contribute to its strategic sustainability goals.

Samer Hawat, Thermo King Area Sales and Service Manager in Belgium and Luxembourg

Reducing diesel consumption with solar energy

It is common practice that a diesel engine powers the trailer’s refrigeration unit 24/7 until delivery. When the engine is off, a high-powered battery powers the electrical components in the system. Cooling cargo is the primary purpose, but the driver also relies on the diesel-charged battery for additional features. Devices, such as telematics, run even when the trailer engine isn't in motion and require power from the battery. So, not only does the engine of the refrigerant unit run to maintain the needed cargo temperature, but it also runs to recharge the battery. 

Using a renewable energy source to power the battery can limit fossil fuel consumption. The unit's start/stop function is uncompromised, and it enables a reduction in emissions, an increase in reliability, and a reduction in cargo loss.  

Thermo King’s ThermoLite™ solar panels capture solar energy during the day, ensuring that the refrigeration unit's battery remains continuously charged and eliminating the need to be powered by diesel fuel.

In 2021, ECS came to our Thermo King team and we offered to pilot a program using ThermoLite™ solar panels to power the onboard battery instead of the trailer’s engine. Our TracKing telematics system, powered by solar energy, were also included to provide remote tracking for battery charge levels and fuel consumption. With this telematics solution, fleet managers are in constant contact with their trailers and can access critical unit data at any time.

ECS performed a six-month field test with four Thermo King refrigerated trailers on different routes across Europe. 

Why Thermo King?

Our 2030 sustainability commitments include a goal to reduce carbon emissions related to our products by one gigaton – the equivalent of the annual emissions from Italy, France and the United Kingdom combined. And we’re doing this through our customers, and ECS is one of them—we go way back.

“As a Logistics service provider, ECS recognizes the environmental impact of our business and takes the responsibility to reduce this impact as much as possible. Focus and improvement in environmental sustainability has always been part of our daily operations and business decisions,” said Jonas Van Den Broucke, technical fleet manager at ECS. 

“Our relationship with Thermo King goes back over 20 years and they have always excelled in providing us with reliable, cost-efficient products and experienced service. When they advised us to consider the solar panels for our refrigerated trailer fleet, we had to give it a try.”

Proof is in the data

ThermoLite Solar panels

ECS monitored the fuel performance of the trailers with solar panels and compared the results with the performance of four refrigerated trailers without solar panels on similar routes. The results were clear: the solar panels would save ECS up to 1,000 liters of fuel per year, per trailer unit. This equates to a COemissions savings of 2,000 tons for the entire new fleet of trailers within 10 years of operation.

These results led ECS to add the solar panels to 76 of their refrigerated trailers.

“Our solar panels provide a sustainable power management solution for reefer units, increasing the battery life while reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions,” said Samer Hawat, Thermo King’s area sales and service manager in Belgium and Luxembourg. “Equipped with solar panels, ECS’ refrigeration units will have a source of sustainable power on the road, which will increase the company’s operational efficiency, reduce its environmental footprint and contribute to its strategic sustainability goals.” 

The enhanced fleet of refrigerated trailers is estimated to save ECS over $60,000 per year. Considering the project cost around $63,000 to implement, the ThermoLite™ solar panels paid for themselves after one year of use. The solar arrays can reduce a single refrigerated trailer’s emissions by ~200 mtCOe per year, on top of the 26% reduction in diesel-related consumption.

In 2022, ECS purchased 50 ThermoKing SLXi units and added ThermoLite™ solar panels to all the units. As ECS expands this solution across their fleet, the impact will mark significant gains in our sustainability commitments to customers. 

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