Wholesalers & Distributors

UNFI Rolls Out All-Electric Refrigerated Trailer Fleet

Diesel predecessors to be retrofitted ahead of coming regulations

A fleet of 53 all-electric refrigerated trailers are hitting the road out of United Natural Foods Inc.’s distribution center in Riverside, Calif.

The trailers make UNFI one of the first wholesalers to use innovative technologies such as roof-mounted solar photovoltaic panels, a wheel-momentum generator, lithium-ion batteries, and a unique auxiliary power that supports the company’s environmental ambitions while getting ahead of a proposed imposition of zero-emission requirements for refrigerated trailer units (TUSs) in the state, the Providence, R.I.-based food wholesaler said. The California Air Resources Board announced plans in January to impose zero-emission requirements on TRUs sold or operated in California by Dec. 31, 2029.

“Nearly 50% of UNFI’s direct greenhouse gas emissions are from our fleet of trucks and trailers. These 53 all-electric TRUs will help us get a head start on the proposed CARB zero-emission requirements, and are expected to allow us to decrease our emissions as we make progress on our climate action commitments under Better For All,” said Jeff Wismans, national director of fleet operations for UNFI. “Adding these TRUs comes after an exhaustive four-month pilot testing the equipment through a variety of conditions with the intention to replace diesel-powered TRUs. When we look at it from an operational standpoint, we’re not changing anything, but it gives us a fresh look at running our operations and finding additional efficiencies.”

The all-electric TRU achieves zero-emission results by using a high-efficiency refrigeration system powered by roof mounted solar photovoltaic panels, a wheel-momentum generator, lithium-ion batteries and a unique auxiliary power unit to eliminate the requirement for diesel fuel to power the refrigeration system. Through this process, the refrigeration system provides multi-zone temperature settings with the capability of maintaining a full load of frozen product from minus 10 to minus 20 degrees throughout the distribution route.

The new fleet will replace 53 existing trailers that have been taken off the road so as to be rebuilt to all-electric specifications, UNFI added. Advanced Energy Machines, a leader in the electrification of refrigerated trailers, will rebuild the units.

By operating the all-electric TRUs, UNFI anticipates it will save about 135,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year while reducing particulate matter pollutant emissions and greenhouse gas emissions.

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