Refrigerated vehicles are complex and they are specialist pieces of equipment that work to keep the products within them at the right temperature. Sometimes the vehicles have to maintain a consistent temperature over a prolonged period of time, particularly if the consignment is being taken on a long journey. These vehicles are a significant part of the cold supply chain but the technology that goes into them is often overlooked. In this guide, we will explore how these vehicles are made and what different components go into them to make them efficient and effective.

Refrigerated vehicles come in many shapes and sizes. They can be a small vehicle or a larger transit van or something even larger. The interior of these vehicles will be adapted to include temperature-controlled storage compartments and an onboard refrigeration unit to control the temperature. This allows businesses to transport goods in a way that allows them to remain safe for consumption or use.

The Refrigerated Vehicle Conversion Process

Converting a normal van into a refrigerated vehicle is a complex process. Essentially, a refrigerated vehicle works in the same way as a fridge that you find in your house. One of the most important components of the temperature-controlled system is the insulation. It is this that enables the vehicle to remain at the right cold temperature throughout the journey, regardless of the temperature on the outside of the vehicle. Well, insulated refrigerated vehicles should be able to easily transport ice and prevent it from turning to water, even on a long journey.

Another of the important elements within a temperature-controlled vehicle is the actual refrigerator. This will work by circulating coolant fluid around the inside of the vehicle, collecting heat as it does so. The heat will then be collected by a condenser and then distributed through the evaporator and then outside of the vehicle into the air. The coolant will then recirculate, and the process continues. This system will create a cycle for the heat to be dissipated from the vehicle without allowing the heat back into the vehicle which can cause fluctuations of temperature. This system combined with quality insulation will maintain the correct temperature.

The Manufacturing Process

Most refrigerated vehicles will start their life as a regular vehicle, whether this is a transit van or something smaller. Before any refrigerated system can be installed into the van, it will need to be completely stripped back to the shell. This will require the removal of all internal panels, making sure that the full structure of the vehicle is completely clean, fully operational and in optimum condition. Once the vehicle shell is in an acceptable condition, the fit-out can begin.

The way that the refrigeration element is fitted will depend on the nature of the vehicle, with some larger vehicles being able to accommodate a refrigeration unit above the cab. Many vehicles will have the refrigeration unit on the roof. In either case, the vehicle body will need some adaptation. A suitable opening will need to be made in the body of the vehicle without affecting the overall structure too much. Often the opening is made in the roof, between strong pillars which can support the weight of the refrigeration unit.

The refrigeration system is then installed in place and secured into the structure of the vehicle. The next step is to add the insulation.

Insulating a vehicle is important and it needs to be a neat fit to the shape of the vehicle. A balance has to be struck between the most effective installation of the insulation while maximising space inside. This insulation will then be perfectly encapsulated into specially designed panels to form an internal chamber. The flooring is usually insulated first because these will provide a strong foundation for the rest of the vehicle and it will allow you to secure the rest of the system to the floor. Once the floors are in place, the bulkhead and wall panels are installed.

The rear wheel arches will also need some attention because these generate a lot of heat at the rear of the vehicle. Extra insulation must be placed around here to prevent excess heat from transferring inside the vehicle. Once all of the panels are in place, the vehicle storage area will be completely sealed, and trims fitted including around the doors where a rubber gasket seal will be installed to prevent any cold air from escaping.

Now that the vehicle has been insulated and the refrigeration elements installed, the electrics will need to be fitted and then the last touches to making the vehicle roadworthy and operational. A special coating will need to be applied to the floor of the vehicle which is used to protect insulation panels from general wear and tear from goods being placed into the vehicle and taken out upon delivery. These also need to be resistant to moisture too. The vehicle is now ready to transport any temperature-sensitive products over a long distance. Technology may also be included at this stage such as temperature monitoring sensors and these linked through to the cab which will alert the driver to any problems such as a deviation of the acceptable temperature range so prompt action can be taken.

The conversion process of a temperature-controlled vehicle is a complex and detailed one that takes time, care and meticulous attention to detail. If you are looking for a refrigerated vehicle for your business to transport perishable items such as foods, flowers or pharmaceuticals, we have a specialist fleet of refrigerated vehicles that can accommodate one offloads, from small consignments to large deliveries. Please contact our team to find out all the details about our vehicles and see which one would be best for your business.