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Denso on the brink of A/C electric evolution

With a commanding history in automotive air-conditioning, DENSO is teasing an exciting new electric innovation that builds upon prior successes

Not many air-conditioning companies can boast the history that DENSO does. Globally, it’s been selling HVAC systems since 1949, making it nearly 75 years since it first started as part of the Toyota Group.

Its automotive history soon transitioned to Australia, with this year marking its 51st year operating here.

In the more than 40 years since it began selling air-conditioning for buses, DENSO Automotive Systems Australia Electric and Thermal Solutions manager Matt Rizio says the brand has learnt plenty about HVAC systems for local buses and coaches.

“DENSO isn’t new to the game, we’re currently the second largest tier one supplier to the automotive industry,” Rizio told ABC.

“Globally DENSO also employs roughly 170,000 people, with 200 subsidiaries and around $50 billion US in revenue. A lot goes back into research and development to produce innovative, class leading products to enhance safety, reduce emissions, provide comfort and ensure well-being.

“If you drove to work today then the chances are that a DENSO component made that possible.”

This impressive history has been modernised in recent years as DENSO begins to look to the future with its air-conditioning suite.

As one of the larger innovators in the bus and coach HVAC industry, DENSO is focused on building relationships with its network of trusted partners. This trust has since been supplemented by a first generation of zero-emissions air-conditioning products that rolled out roughly 18 months ago.

“We’re a bit selective about what we do, we’ve always sought quality partners to work with,” Rizio says.

“We try to support our customers and form long-term relationships with key players, and this includes our entry into electric products.

“Our first generation of electric products are out in the market and are going really well.”

The electric LD9 series was first released on the Volvo electric buses provided to PTA in Western Australia as a trial of zero-emissions HVAC technology. Rizio says DENSO is very pleased with how these initial units have performed, with about 50 models now out on the road on electric buses throughout Australia.

“We’ve been receiving very positive feedback on these first-gen electric units,” he says.

“These are an electric variant of our LD9 series, using our latest e-compressors, automotive heat exchangers and high-efficiency components to fuel good performance and efficiency.

“Alongside strong OEM partnerships, we have an experienced and very capable service network and a committed sales and engineering team that completes in-house testing and training. That all comes together to provide a seamless transition to electrification in Australia.”

Leading the way isn’t new for DENSO. Its rich automotive heritage is steeped in bus expertise when it comes to HVAC systems.

This technological development isn’t solely restricted to the electric market. Rizio says that DENSO is keeping its offerings open, supplying solutions for diesel, hybrid and electric models.

“We’re expanding our product range to really cover all three spheres,” he says.

“We first introduced the LD9 series in 2019, then we had the first electric unit last year with more coming in that space.

With electric products already out on the road, DENSO isn’t stopping in its electric transition. Rizio says a new electric suite of HVAC systems are set to be released next year while DENSO continues to look at other technologies it can introduce.

All of this will be based around simplifying installation and further energy savings for operators, with the usual DENSO reliability and comfort included. The new models will expand upon the existing LD9 series, drawing on nearly 75 years of DENSO reliability and know-how.

“We’ve got a reputation for well-engineered products, for ensuring there’s quality designed  in, while core components are specifically produced and aren’t just general refrigeration products packaged into a pod,” Rizio says.

“We’ll use lightweight, high efficiency and high strength products that are durable and fit for purpose.”

Alongside new electric models set to emerge early next year, DENSO is also looking at other systems, such as front heating and driver HVAC units, that complement its product range.

Rizio says it’s all about thinking outside of the box and finding solutions from within the global DENSO group including Europe, Asia and the US.

Although it’s not just the major product release that signifies a bold move into the electric space, Rizio says the new range will gradually improve upon DENSO’s tried and tested zero-emissions systems that are already receiving rave reviews onboard Australian buses.

“The new products will mostly be in the electric or hybrid space, as our current focus is on electrification,” he says.

“We’re in touch with key players about this range. DENSO is more than just about products, we’ve been focusing on providing solutions, integration and after sales service to get the best outcome for every customer.

“DENSO is always evolving its products, making incremental improvements, some subtle and some bigger. There should be a few surprises, it’s exciting.”

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