On-roof solar electricity supplanting diesel as the preferred power source for truck refrigeration got a £3 million boost today.

Government-backed investment angels the Clean Growth Fund and Barclays blew hot in that sum in their enthusiasm for Sunswap, a clean-tech firm offering solar-charged batteries to chill truck containers.

Known as TRUs or Transport Refrigeration Units, chilled trucks are the workhorse for distributing perishable foods.

Most chilled trailers today need diesel to run auxiliary cooling. Globally, carbon emissions from diesel-fuelled TRUs are thought to equal those of 30 million cars.

Around 100,000 refrigerated trailers are on Britain’s roads at any one time, Sunswap reports, a third of them operated by UK hauliers.  Worldwide, today’s 5.6 million TRUs are expected to grow to 8 million this decade.

With backers including Imperial College, vehicle research centre Cenex and Innovate UK, two-year old start-up Sunswap believes it can freeze diesel out of road-based refrigeration.

Installing PV panels on top of lorry trailers, feeding power in an on-trailer battery, and remotely monitoring contents’ temperatures over a Cloud-based app, are Sunswap’s three steps to success.

Tenth Avenue freeze-out

The Wimbledon-based firm claims its Endurance unit can cut carbon emissions from a truck’s refrigeration by up to 93%, while saving operators between 20% and 50% in running costs.

Global logistics firm DFDS are trialling Sunswap’s kit for UK frozen deliveries. Other European logistics hauliers are set to follow suit.

Sunswap co-founder and CEO Michael Lowe said: “We are delighted that CGF and Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital have chosen to invest in Sunswap and support us in our mission to decarbonise the cold chain. The logistics industry in the UK and globally is in the process of transitioning to using fully zero-emission technology for their transport refrigeration requirements.

“At Sunswap, we already have a working, cost-effective solution that is currently being used on UK roads to accelerate this transition.  We are proud to be working alongside investors whose ideals strongly align with Sunswap’s mission. This backing is hugely significant and will allow us to fulfil our goals in the years ahead.”

Earlier this month, diesel as a power source in the construction industry heard what may be its last post, as builders Keltbray announced its first lease of a gen-set based on hydrogen fuel cells from Surrey innovators AFC Energy.


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