20 Jul Modine adapts military research to idling engines
Racine, Wis. – Adapting military research on hydrogen-powered refrigeration technology to the trucking industry could make truckers appear a little more environmentally friendly, but only after they stop driving.
When truck drivers traveling cross-country pull over to rest, many leave their engines idling to regulate the temperature of their sleeping cabs. With over 500,000 heavy-duty diesel trucks on U.S. roads today, idling engines annually consume more than 1 billion gallons of fuel, according to U.S. Department of Energy estimates.
A new product from a local thermal management company promises to help curb this consumption. Modine Manufacturing Co., a designer and developer of heating and cooling solutions, has made public a new thermal technology called the “idle-off” system.
The system incorporates high-efficiency hydrogen fuel cells and utilizes carbon dioxide, a non-greenhouse gas, as the refrigerant. It can be used for both cooling and heating the sleeper cabin in a heavy-duty truck.
“More truck drivers will be pulling over and taking a rest, requiring them to idle.” said Tony De Vuono, Modine’s vice president and chief technology officer, in a statement. “This is setting up a conflict, as 22 states have pending legislation that limits idling in some form.
“Our new technology offers a solution, helps to eliminate those emissions, and reduces energy consumption, while providing a comfortable air-conditioned or heated sleeper cab for truck drivers.”
The idle-off product applies knowledge gained from Modine’s joint research with the U.S. Army to develop a CO2-based cooling solution for military vehicles.
Modine, which saw its profiits drop 21% in the most recent quarter due to the high cost of raw materials, asserted that the patent-pending product could potentially save the trucking industry billions of dollars per year, and the company anticipates that it will have far-ranging uses and applications in numerous other markets.
“We developed this on our own dime,” said Michael Wilson, manager of advanced product research at Modine, in a video release. “We felt committed to the technology. We felt committed to new ideas.”
Modine sourced the hydrogen gas fuel cell power pack from General Hydrogen Corp., a producer of industrial fuel cell solutions.
As with standard hydrogen cells, the power pack uses hydrogen gas as the fuel, with the only byproduct being water. The pack is specifically designed for a truck auxiliary power unit application to produce electrical energy continuously for more than 10 hours.
Hydrogen in the cell combines with O2 in the outside air to produce a water vapor byproduct and electricity to power a compressor. The compressor transforms the CO2 refrigerant into a very hot, high-pressure gas, and Modine’s heat exchanger cools it to near-ambient temperature. The gas is then expanded to a cold liquid-gas mixture and enters an evaporator, where it cools a water-glycol mixture that circulates throughout the truck cab, effectively cooling the air inside the cabin.
The same process is slightly altered to heat the cabin in cold weather by circulating the water-glycol liquid into the cab after it is heated in the hot side of the CO2 loop.
Modine has approximately 8,000 employees in 15 countries, and reported over $430 million in fiscal 2007 first quarter sales, but that did not prevent the company’s quarterly earnings from dipping due to high materials costs. After reporting record sales of $20.8 million in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year, the company’s profits dropped to $16.4 million, or 51 cents per share, during the most recent quarter.
In other news, Modine announced the promotions of two executives. Thomas A. Burke, who had served as executive vice president since May of 2005, has been promoted to executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Meanwhile, Robert Kampstra was promoted to corporate controller. Kampstra had been with Modine since March of 2006 as assistant controller.
• Modine Manufacturing earnings drop
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• Modine showcases CO2 cooled Jeep