Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Optimizing Transport Electrification Using Advanced Energy Storage(18816)

Customized Energy Solutions, Ltd.


In the United States, trailer refrigeration units (TRUs) powered by small diesel engines have traditionally provided the trailer cooling required for transport of fresh and frozen foods. Small diesel engines are notoriously high emitters of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), and carbon monoxide (CO) air pollution. While these pollutants are now regulated, diesel-powered TRUs remain significant contributors to air quality issues. Hunt’s Point Cooperative Market in New York City is a prime example of poor air quality caused by diesel truck idling and diesel TRU operation. According to information from the New York State’s Department of Agriculture, agricultural production returned over $3.6 billion to the farm economy in 2005. The New York City Metropolitan Area is a critical transportation center and creates an enormous demand for the sale and distribution of locally grown and processed foods. At this point in time, New York State farmers are dependent on trucking as means of transportation into this region. By evaluating waterborne transport, this project sought to enable agricultural producers to distribute their products to downstate markets in a more cost effective, efficient, and environmentally responsible way.

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Project Description

Utilizing an electric-powered trailer refrigerated unit (eTRU) while on a waterborne barge provides an opportunity to reduce the consumption of diesel fuel. Each of the eTRUs can operate independently and can be powered by diesel or electric. This project evaluated the benefit of using battery energy storage technology to provide electric power to the eTRU refrigeration units, while mounted on a barge carrying refrigerated trailers loaded with fresh product traveling to New York City. This type of system can benefit the environment by reducing both diesel fuel consumption and reducing grid electricity demand. The initial Feasibility Study assessed the technical, economic, and environmental aspects of an innovative electric supply system to provide sufficient electric power to be used by Carrier Transicold’s Hybrid Electric eTRU units and ThermoKing’s Electric Standby eTRU units mounted on refrigerated trailers. As envisioned, the refrigeration units would be powered by clean electricity provided by a rechargeable battery energy storage unit mounted on a barge that would transport approximately 25 refrigerated trailers, while traveling from Albany to New York City, and carrying fresh produce from upstate New York’s farms. The study identified top manufacturing candidates for system components, as well as NYS-based firms capable of assembling a commercial-ready advanced energy storage system.


While eTRUs arguably offer many distinct advantages when compared to conventional units, by far their most attractive quality is their ability to displace petroleum fuel with electricity. By using an advanced energy storage system, this electrical energy would come from renewable resources or during off-peak hours when the power plants are producing excess electricity. Using electricity to power transport refrigeration units will reduce noise and exhaust emissions as compared to conventional units. Transport refrigeration units being moved on a barge or train and those at an intermodal site are classified as mobile emission sources, which are typically less regulated because of the unit requirements, but are still very important contributors to overall air emissions.

Project Results

The results of the Feasibility Study showed that the concept is viable, but not at this time. Significant further study is necessary before an operation such as the one proposed can become a reality. Primarily there needs to be an electric storage battery that is commercially available to provide the 300 to 400kw/hr for 10 to 12 hours necessary for the trip down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City. Many of the other aspects of the system have been tried and tested and are currently being used commercially, such as the electrified refrigerated trailer. Also, there were a significant number of issues associated with mounting an energy storage system on a barge that is used on inland waterways that must be resolved in order to have a commercially viable product. The project produced a thorough and detailed Conceptual Design Document that was widely distributed and posted on the web. Several conference presentations were made at relevant venues and a comprehensive Final Report was produced that documented all project activities and identified future courses of action and alternate energy supply scenarios.


Customized Energy Solutions, Ltd.
PO Box 7190, Building #40 1701 North Street
Endicott, NY 13760

Principle Investigator

James Harvilla

Universities Involved


Project Type:

Research Study

Technologies Types:


NYSERDA Contact Information

Joseph Tario


R&D -Transport & Power Systems

Contract Details

Start Date: 9/22/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: 18816

Last Updated: 3/29/2012