Sunswap opens funding round to progress solar-powered refrigerated trailer development

VIDEO CONTENT: British cleantech start-up Sunswap – which is developing a solar-powered refrigerated trailer for UK supermarkets – has launched its first public crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube.

London-based firm’s patent-pending technology provides operators with a zero-emission alternative to their existing diesel transport refrigeration units (TRU).

This round of investment will grow the team and expedite the delivery of Sunswap’s first TRU on UK roads in 2021, says the firm. 

The announcement of the funding round comes as Sunswap forms a partnership with charity OX to develop solar-powered mobile chilling capability for its overseas zero-emission trucks.

Sunswap estimates there are currently 5.6m TRUs on the road globally. It expects this to rise to 8m units, with a market worth £13.4bn by 2030. It believes that electric TRU sales will follow the electric vehicle adoption curve with a 60% year-on-year growth.

A working prototype has successfully proven capability to meet temperature requirements of -22°C. It is collaborating with six major UK supermarkets on product development, with aims to secure sales with them in 2021.

TRUs are seen as a significant barrier to the UK Government’s target to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Currently TRUs, commonly used by all major supermarkets, use diesel engines. Due to the energy required to keep goods cold, one TRU diesel engine can produce the same level of emissions as 60 Euro 6 diesel engines. 

“A working prototype has successfully proven capability to meet temperature requirements of -22°C. Sunswap is collaborating with six major UK supermarkets on product development, with aims to secure sales with them in 2021”

Diesel-powered TRUs are expensive to operate and will become even more costly in 2022 when cheap red diesel is banned, increasing costs by 47p per litre of diesel. They are also highly polluting; replacing a diesel TRU with a Sunswap TRU could be the equivalent of removing 31 cars from the road.

Sunswap will develop a zero-emission TRU for a new Chilled OX truck. The vehicle forms part of OX’s ambition to create the world’s first clean-transport ecosystem.

As well as talking with leading supermarkets, the venture with OX truck is to create the only purpose-designed electric vehicle for emerging markets.

OX is a charity that works to deliver affordable transport in emerging markets to create a self-reinforcing cycle of economic growth and social impact. 

The relationship will involve both organisations working together to understand the technical and regulatory requirements to deliver a fully operational Chilled OX truck that can transport chilled goods in Rwanda.

Sunswap’s technology will enable OX to enter the Rwandan cold chain market, with the intention of providing a cost-effective solution for Rwandans to transport chilled produce and medicine, including vaccines, by the end of 2021.

The high-level technical study into a Chilled OX is currently underway and caps off a busy year of growth for Sunswap.

Since the beginning of last year, Sunswap secured £150,000 funding in April 2020 to develop its range of zero-emission products to revolutionise the transport refrigeration market. It is developing electric transport refrigeration technology utilising energy prediction, adaptive battery capacity and solar power. 

This was followed by a £157,000 grant from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) in partnership with Innovate UK in November, working on projects with the Clean Energy Processes (CEP) Laboratory at Imperial College London and leading emissions research organisation Cenex. 

The grant is to develop a high-efficiency TRU that is compatible with a low Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerant, alongside the CEP Laboratory at Imperial College London.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

Sunswap has also received a £219,000 grant to develop next-generation electrical architecture for TRUs in partnership with Cenex. 

Sunswap’s co-founders: Andrew Sucis, Mike Lowe and Nikolai Tauber

Michael Lowe, Sunswap’s CEO, says: “We are delighted to be teaming up with OX. The work they are doing to create a clean transport ecosystem is fully aligned with our mission to decarbonise the cold chain globally.

“We are excited by the opportunity to be part of a project that will deliver green transport refrigeration to emerging markets. Their in-depth knowledge of Rwanda will help us to rapidly bring a solution to market. 

“The past year has been a tremendously busy period of growth for Sunswap having begun our work with Imperial College London, grown the team and developed our first-generation zero-emission transport refrigeration unit.

“We are pleased to announce the partnership with OX just as our crowdfunding campaign goes live on Crowdcube. The backing we receive from investors will help us to expedite the development of our technology and bring us significantly closer to a future with zero-emission transport refrigeration.” 

About Sunswap

Sunswap is moving quickly and achieved key milestones in 2020:

  • March: investment from Sustainable Ventures
  • June: filed patent application
  • August: awarded £217,000 in equity-free government funding, partnering with Imperial College London and Cenex
  • September: prototype testing complete

It is raising new funds to grow the team, build the next generation product and secure sales by the end of 2021.

About OX

The OX project was begun by the Norman Trust (registered charity 327288) which provided initial seed capital to develop the OX truck.

The Norman Trust established The Global Vehicle Trust (registered company 08502974) to exploit the OX intellectual property. GVT is a company limited by guarantee controlled by its directors (J. Stanger, C. Norman (also a trustee of Norman Trust) and P. Watkins). It operates on a not-for-profit basis.

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