Changes to global food consumption habits have had a huge impact on modern supply chains. This has led to a rapid growth in the need for refrigerated freight, which is only set to continue as these systems become more indispensable for vital products and services including food, medicines and chemicals. However, as the EU looks to cut CO2 emissions by 15%, the diesel motor used to keep refrigerated trucks cool are increasingly seen as problematic, with small and medium-sized haulage companies challenged to reduce the weight of their vehicles to save on fuel.

Vehicle weight can be reduced by substituting standard trailer panels with lightweight and thermally efficient insulation panels using extruded polystyrene to help reduce weight whilst maintaining low temperatures with minimal energy expenditure. Extruded polystyrene is currently the primary core material for sandwich panels used for the walls, floors and roofs of refrigerated vehicles due to its energy efficiency and lightweight qualities.

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About This Guide

This guide will look at the benefits of Ravatherm XPS extruded polystyrene as a core material for sandwich panels, its uses and how it is applied to reduce energy use within the refrigerated vehicle sector.

The benefits of extruded polystyrene

Some of the biggest benefits of extruded polystyrene include:

Weight savings — when looking to reduce the weight of refrigerated vehicles, extruded polystyrene is the perfect option due to its lightweight qualities. Replacing heavier plywood materials (traditionally used to build refrigerated vehicles) with extruded polystyrene panels creates much lighter vehicles that require less fuel and are more economical to run.

Cost savings — lighter vehicles save on fuel costs, which allows companies to keep costs to a minimum. In addition, the higher thermal efficiency offered by extruded polystyrene helps to keep containers cooler for longer, preventing products from exceeding their required temperature. This results in fewer spoiled and wasted products. ,

Environmental savings — increasingly, environmental concerns require materials and structures that offer long-term performance. The qualities of extruded polystyrene such as Ravatherm XPS make it highly effective for long-term use, allowing refrigerated vehicles to pass regulations and tests over a much longer period of time. In order to be as cost efficient as possible, refrigerated vehicles must be insulated with durable materials that are long lasting.

Increased strength — the manufacturing process of extruded polystyrene results in a closed cell structure which provides additional strength over other materials. As a result, extruded polystyrene used within floor panels for refrigerated vehicles provides much greater support for heavy cargo loads.  . When used in wall and roof panels, the material absorbs dynamic loads caused by wind and vibration.

Stiffness and stability — due to its manufacturing process, extruded polystyrene is more stable than other materials, making it a durable and stable long-term solution for building refrigerated vehicles.

Thermal efficiency — extruded polystyrene has excellent thermal efficiency properties, allowing the cargo space within refrigerated vehicles to be maintained at a cooler temperature more economically, providing a layer of insulation which reduces the movement of warmer air through the walls.

Water resistance — the insulation properties of extruded polystyrene are key for maintaining low temperatures when storing and transporting goods in refrigerated vehicles. The closed cell structure of extruded polystyrene ensures that its performance is maintained within the panel structure. This water resistance is vital to the long-term performance of the panel and reduces both repair and maintenance costs. A lack of water resistance can damage the panel over long periods of time, allowing water diffusion. Water conducts 25 times more heat than air, hugely impacting thermal efficiency.

Introducing the technology

Ravatherm XPS (formerly Styrofoam Xenergy) is an ideal core material for sandwich panels. These panels are strong and durable with an excellent thermal performance, making them ideal for refrigerated vehicles and contributing to a lower weight and lower fuel costs.

Manufactured from a new formula of extruded polystyrene, Ravatherm XPS has an Ozone depletion potential of 0, and a global warming potential score of less than five. The manufacturing process of extruded polystyrene produces a material with uniformly small closed cells. This process makes the material more thermally conducive; rather than trapping air in its pockets like other materials, extruded polystyrene traps the blowing agent which is less conductive than air, giving extruded polystyrene its excellent Thermal resistance.

As a result, extruded polystyrene has been used successfully for years to insulate areas of high moisture such as low-temperature warehouses and refrigerated vehicles. Combining low thermal conductivity and low water absorption, extruded polystyrene has become the first choice for specifiers in a wide range of insulation applications.

What other panel core materials are available?

Alongside our Ravatherm XPS  Panel Cores, we also offer other panel core materials:

Larcore Aluminium Honeycomb Panels — Larcore is manufactured in a continuous process combining an aluminium honeycomb core with aluminium skins. These panels are extremely lightweight and rigid, A2 Reaction to fire classification, non-toxic, recyclable, insulating and energy efficient, making them ideal for numerous sectors including marine, railway and industrial applications.

ThermHex — Our ThermHex panel core is a polypropylene honeycomb core used in the production of lightweight sandwich panels and fibreglass components. These are suitable for a range of applications including automotive, truck bodies and industrial equipment.

Comparison Table

15mm ThermHex polypropylene honeycomb15mm Larcore aluminium
extruded polystyrene
15mm plywood15mm MR MDF
Weight (kg/M2)1.636.780.511.2511.6
Compressive strength (KPA)12002000300--
Thermal performance (W/mK)0.0601.780.031 to 0.0330.130.12
Moisture resistanceExcellentExcellentGoodFairAcceptable

Who can benefit from extruded polystyrene?

Truck panels — one of the industries currently benefitting most from the use of extruded polystyrene is the refrigerated truck industry. In order to be as cost effective as possible and to meet regulations, refrigerated truck bodies must be effectively insulated while also being lightweight and highly durable.

Caravans — leading manufacturers have been making use of extruded polystyrene as a core material in the composite panels used in the structure of caravans and motorhomes. They benefit from the high strength-to-weight ratio of extruded polystyrene, giving them the ability to withstand typical vibrations and stresses that occur in the units. This rigidity can also help to   reduce the amount of timber used within the bodies without compromising on strength. Particularly in campervans and portable cabins, extruded polystyrene provides excellent insulation performance during the colder winter months.

Underfloor heating — due to its high compressive strength and insulation properties, extruded polystyrene is perfect for both water and electric matting underfloor heating systems. In addition to high levels of impact resistance, extruded polystyrene is waterproof, making it resistant to rot and mould. Insulation boards made with extruded polystyrene provide a flat, strong and stable base on which to fix pipe, reducing the likelihood of defects in the floor’s finish.

Domestic & commercial refrigeration — extruded polystyrene is used within the insulated panels used to build commercial, large-scale refrigeration applications. In particular, the performance and maintenance of the temperature in walk-in freezers and refrigerators is extremely important for maintaining the optimal temperature and preventing food wastage. These appliances can be found in supermarkets, schools, hospitals and restaurants where a standard fridge is not sufficient to keep large quantities of food cold or fresh.

Need more help?

Panel Systems offers a bespoke approach suitable for a variety of industrial and transportation-related applications. We also CNC machine, cut and supply the raw panel cores to your design, size and thickness requirements. Our technical team is here to help with its experience across a wide range of industries.

Further resources

Technical brochures for all our lightweight cores are available upon request.