U.S. manufacturer Tecumseh has unveiled a 0.4kW (0.1TR) micro rotary propane (R290) compressor under its Masterflux brand that is suited to EV (electric vehicle) mobile cooling and refrigerated “last-mile” delivery applications.

The compressor debuted during the 2022 Chillventa trade show in Nuremberg, Germany, October 11–13. Tecumseh also introduced new R290 compressors for light-commercial fridges.

Due to the recent increase in refrigerated transport of COVID-19 vaccines and accelerated adoption of e-commerce deliveries of perishable goods, Masterflux, Tecumseh’s suite of DC-powered, variable-speed electric compressor technology, has gained significant demand, according to a statement by the manufacturer.

“This [transport] market is really taking off because of electrification,” explained Hiroshi Saito, VP of Marketing and Business Development, Tecumseh, during an interview at this year’s Chillventa, adding, “Our R290-based compressors have been in high demand.”

Masterflux compressors, originally designed in 2004, have expanded their full lineup of cooling and refrigerated applications to EV and mobile refrigeration over time. Most recently, Tecumseh has developed mobile condensing units for refrigerated cargo, EV battery-cooling and mobile air-conditioning.

Tecumseh has a full range of R290 compressors for transport refrigeration, from the small last-mile delivery bicycle-type of carriers to large delivery trucks, as well as for low-temperature applications. Tecumseh’s 2kW (0.6TR) and 3kW (0.9TR) mobile compressors are not new but the smallest-size, 0.4kW micro rotary unit was unveiled at Chillventa for the first time.

“Those are definitely some things we are investing in these days,” said Lionel Audouy, Global Platform Director, Tecumseh at Chillventa, referring to the transport R290 compressor ranges.

R290 series for light commercial

According to Saito, there is a great demand in particularly India and Latin America for light-commercial R290 compressors, and “the transition is happening really quickly.” As a result, the company has been investing in this market segment too.

Tecumseh’s new Series, the propane-optimized AL compressor, made its first public appearance at Chillventa 2022. According to Tecumseh, it offers a 15% performance and energy-efficiency improvement compared to existing models in the market. It is marketed as low sound and has a small housing that is estimated to be roughly 5% shorter in height compared to competitive products.

Series AL models, providing up to 20cc displacements, are designed specifically for light-commercial refrigeration applications. The expanded operating range allows standardized use across display cases, reach-in coolers and ice machines.

Series AL has capacities ranging from 1,240 to 1,800Btu/h (0.36kW to 0.52kW) at LBP (Low Back Pressure) and from 3,730 to 4,990Btu/h (1 to 1.5kW) at MBP (Medium Back Pressure) both in EN12900 (European compressor standard) conditions. “It delivers the same capacity as a larger displacement, single-speed compressor, making more room for merchandise in refrigeration units,” said Tecumseh.

Watch a YouTube video on the AL compressor

This adds to Tecumseh’s existing propane range for light commercial applications, called the AJ2 which was introduced at Chillventa in 2014.

Earlier this year, Tecumseh explained how its R290 VCT variable-speed compressor meets the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star “Emerging Technology” award.

“Our R290-based compressors have been in high demand.”

Hiroshi Saito, Tecumseh

Future sights on the heat pump market

Although it currently has no market-ready products, Tecumseh plans on targeting the R290 heat pump market as well and has identified this as a key area of focus with great potential for growth. It is working on developing an R290 rotary compressor for this application, said Audouy.

“We are expecting a big growth in the heat pump business,” said Audouy.

Currently, the challenge is still bringing the R290 charge sizes down to an allowable limit and the Tecumseh team is working on optimizing the design of its existing models to work with R290.

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