Bergstrom Inc. is no idle company, even though its claim to fame is “no idle” technology. Battery powered, and driven by innovation, the Illinois-based company keeps the highway clear for the commercial vehicle industry. At the same time, it services the heavy duty industries, as well as the military, as Dan Harvey reports.
Bergstrom “trucks” forward. The Rockford, Ill.-based company is an innovative, forward-thinking enterprise that designs and manufactures battery-powered systems that keeps drivers comfortable on the road.
It’s called the NITE technology – a no-idle thermal environment system (thus the NITE acronym) that keeps operators either cool or hot, depending on outside weather conditions.
But its application has moved beyond commercial trucks. “We serve global markets that extend beyond trucking and into buses as well as off-highway machinery, which includes agricultural, construction, mining and military vehicles,” says Bill Gordon, vice president of aftermarket and NITE sales.
Benefits are obvious and significant: No-idle technology means increased driver comfort, substantial fuel savings and reduced engine wear.
The NITE no-idle product line includes the NITE Plus, the NITE Day Cab and the recently introduced NITE Phoenix. Gordon describes the product line’s genesis: “About nine years ago, we developed a project to help us determine what would be the best technology to reduce the idle time for semis with sleepers,” he recalls.
Initially, the company looked at, among other options, fuel-driven technology based upon APUs (or auxiliary power units). “We wanted to come up with the cleanest system, as far as environmental concerns, and we decided that a battery-operated system was the best,” he says. “Such a system would also involve the least amount of maintenance of any other potentially viable system we looked at.”
This thorough analysis resulted in the original NITE system, which began as a two-battery or four-battery system. “We soon determined that two batteries wouldn’t be enough,” relates Gordon. “So we went back to the four-battery system, something that we had originally envisioned.”
The NITE system soon gave birth to the NITE Plus, which had more BTUs. “With it, we went from 3,300 to 4,600 BTUs,” says Gordon, suggesting that, at least in this area, more is better.
And it got even better. “Last year we came up with NITE Phoenix system, yet another aftermarket system, that boasts 7,500 BTUs,” reports Gordon.
He adds: “It needs to be mentioned that when it comes to BTUs, Bergstrom measures it very conservatively and honestly. Competitors use different measurements.”
The suggestion is clear.
While the NITE Phoenix uses comparable levels of battery power, it has larger compressors and controls, which results in longer run time and cooler drivers.
Indeed, this innovative system has the highest and longest cooling capacity of any battery powered, no-idle solution available on the market.
According to the company, the Phoenix was designed for drivers who travel in hot climates. This next-generation no-idling solution cools the cab in consistent, efficient fashion.
In addition to electrical system enhancements, the Phoenix also includes a new LCD digital user interface and battery monitoring system that enables drivers to better control the unit. Features include onboard service diagnostics, automatic temperature control and a check filter function.
Further, the NITE Phoenix is CARB-approved (meaning that it adheres to the strict standards of the California Air Research Board). It generates high BTU cooling capacity without polluting the air with toxic emissions. That advantage is self apparent, but it also benefits drivers and customers with anti-idling laws and financial savings.
The Phoenix was an integral part of Bergstrom’s recent major milestone. In May 2011, the company produced its 20,000th NITE no-idle system. This landmark unit – a Phoenix system – was produced at the company’s Rockford headquarters.
Even more, the milestone underscores the company’s rapid growth and productivity. “Only two years ago, we produced our 10,000 unit,” Gordon points out.
He describes how this high production level was achieved: “Our competent teams placed all of their efforts into the fabrication and then followed through with exceptional customer service.”
It’s a remarkable achievement, and Gordon underscores the importance. “While we improve driver comfort, we’re reducing harmful emissions – and those are two important elements of the Bergstrom legacy.”
When you look at the larger picture, the achievement looms even more remarkable. Consider: The NITE no-idle system has only been in production since 2004. Since then, Bergstrom has increased driver comfort, adhered to new anti-idling regulations, and offered a battery powered system that boast significant fuel savings. The company provides the specifics: Its NITE solution can reduce the average truck’s fuel usage by as much as 3,790 gallons a year. That translates into owner savings of more than $13,396 per truck each year. It’s not just about fuel savings but also reduced maintenance.
Getting back to the 20,000th unit milestone, Gordon makes it easier to wrap our minds around the impact, as he does the math: “Users now save as much as 75.8 million gallons of fuel each year. That roughly equals 1.8 million barrels of fuel, or 8,422 gasoline tanker trucks filled with fuel.”
Bergstrom was established in 1949 by Adolph Bergstrom, and it subsequently emerged as a global leader in the design, manufacture and sale of climate systems. “We eventually located to Rockford, the site of our international corporate office, the center of a strong heritage of success,” says Gordon.
Indeed, in its 60-plus years, Bergstrom has supplied the largest customers with heating and air-conditioning needs. Well-known names that have purchased company products include Navistar, Volvo, Peterbilt, and Daimler Trucks North America. Bergstrom has regional operations that cover North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific. Specifically, Bergstrom has manufacturing facilities in the United States, Brazil, China, India, Russia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The global footprint is King Kong-sized and, thus, intimidating; but anyone who gets close enough can examine the details, and then see a combination of progressive engineering talent and lean manufacturing principals.
Markets that the company services on a global basis include truck, off-highway, agriculture and construction, as well as the military.
Bergstrom is one tough organization, as demonstrated by its division dedicated to severe duty equipment. Indeed, it produces climate control systems for some of the world’s toughest environments. That’s why the military is a fervent supporter.
In less than a decade, Bergstrom has become the undisputed leader in battery-operated systems that are both factory installed and aftermarket units. Along the way, it has established many relationships with other manufacturers to offer innovative and award-winning approaches to no-idling solutions.