London-based Sunswap has secured a £3m investment to help roll out its plans to power transport refrigeration units (TRUs) with solar panels and electric batteries, in a move which could radically cut the cold chain sector's carbon emissions and fuel costs.

The  deal means Clean Growth Fund and Barclays become shareholders in the company as the haulage industry braces for the removal of the red diesel entitlement on 1 April this year for many commercial transport applications including refrigeration units (TRUs). The sector has warned that the measure will hit cold chain operators hard as they struggle to make the transition.

Sunswap was founded in 2020 with a brief to decarbonise the cold chain by developing a clean, zero emission TRU technology. It is targeting a sector which has around 100,000 refrigerated vehicles in the UK, the majority of which rely on auxiliary diesel engines to provide power for the cooling system, producing high levels of CO2, NOx and particulate matter emissions.

Sunswap's technology is already being trialled by DFDS to deliver frozen goods across the UK, with further trials planned with "other major European logistics companies", the company said this week.

Sunswap said this latest investment will enable it to accelerate commercialisation of its next generation, zero-emission Endurance TRU, which combines solar panels on the trailer roof, battery storage technology and low environmental impact refrigerants with cloud-based remote monitoring.

Sunswap’s TRU is said to achieve total cost of ownership savings of 20% to 50% compared to diesel. In addition it can also reduce the unit's global warming impact by 79% to 93%.

Sunswap also offers the Endurance clean refrigeration platform, which analyses each client’s refrigeration needs, delivery schedules and routes. This ensures that the Endurance TRU can deliver the most efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration solution, helping cold chain operators cut their emissions and save money.

As well as being a zero-emission replacement, Sunswap said its unit is ultra-quiet, allowing operators to avoid urban noise disturbance tariffs and night-time delivery restrictions.

Read more

Stephen Price, investment director at the Clean Growth Fund, said: “Cold chain owners and operators are under increasing pressure to decarbonise their operations and mitigate the rapidly increasing cost of operating highly polluting, diesel-powered refrigeration units.

"Sunswap’s technology provides a compelling and cost-effective clean solution and given the scale of the market opportunity, the environmental benefits of their refrigeration units are significant. We are therefore incredibly excited about Sunswap’s prospects for future growth, and through our investment, support their journey to commercialisation.”

James Ferrier, Barclays' head of sustainable impact capital, said: “The Sunswap team have developed an innovative technology that has the potential to significantly decarbonise the food miles in global supply chains. This focus on sustainability will play an important role in the transition to a low-carbon economy and we are excited to be supporting them on the next stage of their journey.”

Michael Lowe, co-founder and CEO of Sunswap, said: “We are delighted that CGF and Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital have chosen to invest in Sunswap and support us in our mission to decarbonise the cold chain.”

“The logistics industry in the UK and globally is in the process of transitioning to using fully zero-emission technology for their transport refrigeration requirements. At Sunswap, we already have a working, cost-effective solution that is currently being used on UK roads to accelerate this transition.”

“We are proud to be working alongside investors whose ideals strongly align with Sunswap’s mission. This backing is hugely significant and will allow us to fulfil our goals in the years ahead.”