Efforts to shrink the carbon footprint of transportation operations typically hinge on options like renewable fuels or battery-electric motors. But a new approach by the truck-parts manufacturer Meritor Inc. focuses on another part of the vehicle entirely—the wheels under its chassis.
The Troy, Michigan-based company is collaborating with ConMet, a supplier of industrial wheel hubs, to develop zero-emission refrigerated trailers. Through the partnership, Meritor will develop purpose-built trailer suspensions and brakes as well as tire inflation systems to work with ConMet’s PreSet Plus eHub, a vehicle electrification system.
Most of today’s refrigerated trailers use a small diesel engine to generate the electricity that powers their air-conditioning units, Meritor explains. But under the new approach, that generator is replaced with a ConMet eHub device that integrates an electric motor with a specialized hub assembly to capture wasted braking energy and repurpose it as electricity. The electricity generated by the system is stored in batteries that drive the refrigeration compressors.
“ConMet identified refrigerated trailers as the first application for its electrification solution, utilizing in-wheel motors to enable zero-emission refrigeration,” Marc Trahand, vice president and general manager of ConMet eMobility, said in a release. But the technology could have broader applications, he added. “ConMet’s eHub system provides design flexibility as a building block for a variety of applications in the commercial vehicle market.”