Sainsbury’s has become the first operator to use a liquid-nitrogen-powered cooling technology in one of its refrigerated trucks to reduce emissions.

The three-month trial will see the supermarket test a new concept in refrigeration units, designed by clean cold technology firm Dearman, which harnesses the rapid expansion of liquid nitrogen to deliver zero-emission power and cooling.

Dearman expects the trial to save up to 1.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 37kg of nitrogen oxides and 2kg of particulate matter by its end, compared with a similar diesel-powered cooling system fitted to a truck.

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The vehicle is operating from Sainsbury’s Waltham Point depot, delivering chilled goods to stores in the London area.

Paul Crewe, head of sustainability at Sainsbury’s, said the business had set itself a target of cutting carbon emissions by 30% between 2005 and 2020.

“This trial with Dearman is just one of the innovations we’ve introduced to help us towards this goal,” he added. “This zero-emission system is really exciting - to be running a liquid air engine, quite literally, means our cooling is running on thin air.”

Dearman’s founder and CEO, Toby Peters, said: “Sainsbury’s is demonstrating real leadership by embracing cutting-edge British engineering that delivers performance alongside positive environmental impact.”

He added that the first commercial trial of Dearman’s zero-emission system was a significant milestone for the company.

“Demand for cooling is increasing worldwide and new technologies are urgently needed to ensure that growth can be achieved sustainably,” he said.

Dearman has worked alongside partners Hubbard Products, Air Products and Dawsonrentals to get the system ready for commercial trials, with the latter recently providing one of its rental fleet to be fitted out with the new cooling system.

The company is working on a range of applications for the new technology from its Croydon, Surrey research and development centre.