The refrigeration units used in cold transport trailers are typically powered by small diesel engines, which use up non-renewable fuel and release greenhouse gases, just like their big brothers. The US Department of Energy, however, is looking into an alternative. As part of a two-year pilot project, it’s equipping four such trailers with clean-running hydrogen fuel cells.

Massachusetts fuel cell manufacturer Nuvera is supplying two of the cells, while New York-based Plug Power Inc. will provide the other two. Each company is receiving US$650,000 from the Department of Energy for the project, and will provide matching funds of their own.

The tractor units pulling the trailers will still have their regular diesel engines. Without having to use additional fuel to run the refrigeration units, however, it is estimated that each truck should save approximately 10 US gallons (38 liters) of diesel per day. They should also release considerably less pollutants, plus as a side benefit, the units should run much more quietly.

The demo rigs will be servicing Sysco Corp food distribution facilities in California, Texas, and New York, delivering food from the facilities to stores or other outlets. It is hoped that the project will illustrate how the higher costs of fuel cells can be offset by fuel savings.

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