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Coming up again with the approach of summer is the problem of air-conditioning in truck cabins during stopovers, especially at night. So it might be useful to fit the vehicle with a parking cooler

Fabio Quinto

COMING UP again with the approach of summer is the problem of air-conditioning in truck cabins during stopovers, especially at night. This certainly can’t be done by the vehicle’s system as it operates only when the engine is running. And apart from being noisy, polluting and bad for fuel consumption, in some European countries it is also forbidden. So it might be useful to fit the vehicle with a parking cooler. For companies, this isn’t just consideration for its drivers, it is also good for business: a survey commissioned by Mercedes-Benz showed that relaxed drivers drive more economically and save about 1 litre of fuel  every 100 km. And almost half of the road accidents involving heavy vehicles are due to drivers who are overtired. When assessing the cost-benefit ratio of a parking cooler, obviously a lot depends on the model. The main players in this market include German companies Webasto and Waeco and Italy’s Autoclima.
We went to take a closer look at the latest model to debut on this market,  the Cool Top Vario from Webasto. According to Webasto engineers “During the summer months the ideal temperature for sleeping in the cabin is between 18 and 20°C with draught-free air circulation”. This was the aim that led to the creation of Cool Top Vario, which has a cooling capacity of 1000 W, an almost 10% increase in cooling power compared with previous models. The air conditioner consists of a compressor, a condenser, an expansion valve and an evaporator. The Cool Top Vario’s operating principle is simple: instead of cooling down the air, it extracts the heat from it. The air conditioner can be manually controlled either from the LCD panel in the cabin or with a remote. In addition to manual control, two modes of operation can be set: AUTO, when the compressor and fan reach the set temperature automatically. As soon as the air inside the cabin has reached the set temperature, the compressor automatically stops and only the fan continues to operate. As soon as the air rises above the set temperature, the compressor cuts in again. Alternatively, auto mode can be programmed to go automatically to ECO mode after 20 minutes: in this case, the temperature is regulated only by the compressor and the fan is excluded. Because the compressor operates at a slower speed in this mode, energy consumption is reduced to less than 13 A. Eco mode can also be set by the driver. In both cases, the desired temperature can be set manually. The air conditioner also has a timer for stopping the air conditioning automatically after a set length of time, which can be from half an hour to four hours.
The fan has a six-position switch. Air circulates in the cabin by means of a system with three settings: focus, variable and comfort. In the latter case, cool air is blown evenly throughout the cabin, without creating any draughts. Although the independent air conditioner is supplied by the vehicle battery, the driver need not worry that the engine won’t start after a long stopover. Cool Top Vario has a cut-off system that is activated as soon as the battery reaches minimum voltage. Depending on the size of the battery, external temperature and the strength of the sun, Cool Top Vario will keep the cabin cool for up to 10 hours before the battery protection device is activated.
These are the characteristics of the product. But how is the parking cooler installed? There are two possibilities: behind the cabin or on the roof through the skylight. The new Cool Top Vario from Webasto can only be roof mounted. Installation takes about 2-3 hours: first, remove the skylight; lift the air conditioner onto the roof of the truck from the outside (using a forklift, for example) and position it on top of the skylight. From inside the cabin, attach the device by using the kit provided (these differ depending on the truck model). If necessary, Cool Top Vario can be removed and mounted in another vehicle. If the truck is a different model, simply buy the specific assembly kit.

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