A report released today states that one million refrigeration units can create the health and environmental impact of 65 million diesel cars.

The analysis, undertaken by Dearman, has highlighted the damaging economic, health and environmental impact that cooling of refrigerated vehicles is having across Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of refrigerated vehicles run on European streets every day – delivering perishable (cold and frozen) goods to restaurants, supermarkets, warehouses, homes and hospitals. The cooling in these vehicles is often powered by an unregulated secondary diesel engine, which is inefficient and disproportionately polluting.

Transport refrigeration units can emit up to 29 times more potentially carcinogenic particulate matter and six times more NOx than far larger, modern diesel truck engines, and up to165 times as much particulate matter and 93 times as much NOx as the latest diesel car engines.

Launching the report in Brussels today Professor Toby Peters, Chair of Power and Cold Economy, University of Birmingham and CEO of Dearman, said that, “Until now, nobody has given transport refrigeration units a thought. We all shop at food stores, eat in restaurants or have chilled and frozen food delivered, but the impact of transport refrigeration units has never been investigated, let alone addressed.”

“They are unregulated, use out-dated fossil fuelled technology and are disproportionately polluting. What’s worse, their pollution is concentrated on city streets where it does the most damage to our health.”

He added that, “with 400,000 people dying prematurely every year in the EU as a result of air pollution, we simply cannot afford to ignore these hidden polluters any longer. Awareness is growing and the policy landscape is just beginning to change, but action is needed now to prevent further environmental damage.”

The research also finds that pollution from transport refrigeration units could cost EU countries €22bn over the next decade, as the EU fleet grows by 20% to 1.2 million by 2025. If nothing is done, the environmental and health impact of emissions will impose an annual burden of €2.5bn by 2025. The report projections are based on a conservative assumption refrigerated vehicle fleet growth of 1.5% per year, however, other studies have assumed that annual cold chain market growth could be as much as 12% YoY – therefore our forecasts could prove to be substantial underestimates.

This year alone, the cooling of refrigerated vehicles in the EU will emit 13m tonnes of CO2; 40,000 tonnes of NOx; and 5,000 tonnes of particulate matter – equivalent to the emissions from 65 million diesel cars.