Another cleantech departure to mourn: Union City, CA-based Glacier Bay, a maker of auxiliary power systems for Class 8 long-haul trucks, suspended operations in early 2012, according to former employees, Venture Wire, and other sources.
In late spring 2012, Cummins Crosspoint purchased the ClimaCab technology, speculatively the principal asset. As of this summer, Cummins Crosspoint has settled a pre-existing lawsuit by Bergstrom Corp., against Glacier Bay, clearing the way for further production of ClimaCab.
Glacier Bay had taken more than $55 million in investment from NEA Partners, Quercus Trust, The Westly Group, and City Light Capital. Investors and former executive staff have not responded to GTM inquiries.
Glacier Bay was founded in 1990 by G. Kevin Alston, and had its roots making specialty ultra-high-efficiency refrigeration systems. Glacier Bay technology found its way onto racing yachts and flew on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. The company claimed to be the first deployer of R-134a refrigerant, and was a pioneer user of the then newly available aerogel insulation (aerogel as a toothpaste texturizer, by contrast, has been around since the 1930s). There was a period in the early 2000s when an internet search of “aerogel” would yield Glacier Bay and Aspen Aerogels as the only current U.S. non-academic, non-governmental hits.
In 2006, Mr. Alston sold the company to new investors, and CEO Marc Hoffman (followed by Derek Kaufman) migrated into truck climate-control and auxiliary power. The ClimaCab technology is basically a deep-cycle battery system with an air conditioner, which allows truckers to maintain heating, cooling, kitchen and lighting functions without idling their main diesel through the night.
Revenue rose from $2.5 million in 2008 to $15 million in 2009, but 24 months later the company was out of fuel and on the shoulder of the road. As late as March 2010, the company had raised an additional $15 million in capital. One former senior employee described the news of the shutdown as “completely abrupt.”
ClimaCab competes with auxiliary power units (APUs) based on small engines, and potentially fuel cells and solar cells. Internet reviews by truckers have been mixed, with one individual complaining that the mount interferes with backing the rig and that the system is unreliably maintained by his company. Another replied that his mount and his company maintenance had no problems and he liked the system just fine. This may be one of those new technologies where getting unexpected details smoothed out takes time and makes all the difference.
Overnight idling of trucks is a serious issue, and is rapidly being curtailed both by noise ordinances and by rising fuel costs. Reports claim idling fuel consumption of as much as 1,800 gallons per year by some trucks. Refrigeration and cooling in general are also an issue of gravity, contributing far more to afternoon peak electric load than all the solar PV yet fielded.
At least the technology of Glacier Bay’s worthy effort appears to be living on.