Long-time Vancity member breaks new ground in clean technology

Cool-It

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We’re so happy to work with Vancity because we know how much they care about the environment and reducing pollution. That’s the best thing that connects us together. Steve Saeed Zaari, founder, Cool-It & Volta Air

If Canadian drivers reduced idling by just three minutes a day, over one year they would collectively save 630 million litres of fuel and $945 million in fuel costs (assuming a fuel price of $1.50/L), according to the Idle Free BC website. They would also save 6.3 billion kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions.

For most drivers, reducing idling time is about making conscious decisions behind the wheel. But for commercial trucking and refrigerated food delivery drivers, technology has a part to play too, and that’s where a long-standing Vancity business member is starting to make a real difference.

Steve Saeed Zaari, founder of the clean technology companies Cool-It and Volta Air, has developed and produced cooling systems for trucks and vans that eliminate idling during deliveries, reduce emissions and save users money.

“I worked hard to come up with something that would grow my business, benefit the environment and help fleet operators save on fuel costs,” he says.

His first breakthrough related to heavy goods trucking, for which he developed a cooling system that would work for up to 14 hours without the need to run the engine. He’s sold more than 1,000 units so far.

“Then I started thinking about cities being polluted by delivery vehicles and what part I could play in helping to reduce that pollution,” Steve adds. “So I came up with a similar cooling concept for smaller food delivery vehicles.”

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The problem that needed addressing was that in order to maintain food at safe temperatures, drivers of refrigerated delivery vehicles would have to leave their engines running during multiple stops during the working day. The result? Increased pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas, higher risk of theft and increased cost for operators. Volta Air’s solution was to develop battery-powered refrigeration units that would allow drivers to turn off their engines while making deliveries.

Steve’s connection to Vancity runs deep. He became a member the day after he immigrated to Canada more than 30 years ago, he has two personal and five business accounts and his daughter works at Vancity as well.

Vancity’s community investment team identified Vancity’s Eco-efficiency loan offering as a perfect fit for Cool-It and Volta Air customers. These loans offer financing for up to 100 per cent of a business’ capital upgrades. So, for example, a small food delivery company could borrow all of the cost of a Volta Air idle-free cooling system and get the extended amortization terms that come with these loans. This can reduce their payments to match the expected monthly energy savings. Cool-It and Volta Air market the loan for Vancity, which is great reciprocity from a member.

Volta-Air produces roof-mounted systems that use rechargeable lithium ion batteries to power refrigeration units for approximately one hour when vehicles’ engines are not running. They can also be upgraded to include solar panels. This means that urban food delivery vehicles can maintain their cargo at safe temperatures when parked – for example, while deliveries are made to restaurants, warehouses or grocery stores. In addition, units come with plugs that fit into any standard power socket.

Past and new collaborations are propelling Steve's business forward – he has received federal research and development dollars to scale up his ideas in cooperation with students from Simon Fraser University and the University of Waterloo. But he’s clear about the values that he will always have in common with his longest-standing partner in business.

“We’re so happy to work with Vancity because we know how much they care about the environment and reducing pollution,” he said. “That’s the best thing that connects us together.”

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