Thanks to “dramatically improved” technology, the CO2 (R744) equator – the latitude below which CO2 refrigeration is thought to be less effective due to higher ambient temperatures – no longer exists for its condensing units, according to Benjamin Tissot, CO2 Business Development Manager at Panasonic Europe.

With only minor changes to system settings, additional insulation for tubing and 10–15% capacity safety margins, the Japanese manufacturer’s CO2-based outdoor condensing units are running well in hot climates like southern Europe and Australia, he explained during an interview with at the recent EuroShop 2023 trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany.

“The CO2 equator is over,” said Tissot. “To me, it’s no longer an excuse.”

“The CO2 equator is over. To me, it’s no longer an excuse.”

Benjamin Tissot, Panasonic Europe

The technological progress, in addition to increasingly stringent regulations and a growing interest in sustainability – both among companies and their customers – explains the clear trend of more retailers wanting to transition to natural refrigerants, he added.

Because of this trend, 100% of Panasonic Europe’s refrigeration portfolio uses natural refrigerants, with a growing focus on R744.

“We are definitely moving towards becoming a CO2 company,” explained Tissot. “Our path is clear; natural-only is the key message. I don’t want to hear about any other solutions.”

In Japan, Panasonic is already the leading provider of outdoor condensing units, with 13,800 units for medium- and low-temperature applications installed at 4,500 stores in as of March 2022.

To meet the growing demand in Europe, Panasonic is working to add a 20HP outdoor condensing unit to its portfolio of 2HP, 4HP and 10HP models.

While Tissot was unable to share much information about the new product, he said it should be available from the beginning of 2024 and will include some “interesting features” that make it easier to work with.

High efficiency

Despite the energy efficiency of refrigeration systems always being important to end users, it became particularly significant for many European retailers last years as energy prices spiked following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, explained Tissot.

Based on feedback from customers, Panasonic conservatively estimates that its CO2 condensing units can reduce energy consumption by 15–20%, with one client in Portugal seeing 50% energy savings.

With the use of multiple Panasonic R744 condensing units, Bofrost Italia – part of German frozen food distributor Bofrost – will achieve a 30% reduction in energy consumption at its new headquarters in Montirone in northern Italy, compared to other sites that use HFC-based refrigeration systems.

Bofrost Italia has installed three of Panasonic’s 10HP units to supply 8kW (2.3TR) in low-temperature cooling capacity (-25°C/-18°F) for the site’s 600m3 (12,200ft3) freezer and one 2HP unit to supply 3kW (0.9TR) in medium-temperature cooling capacity (8°C/46°F) for its 30m3 (1,060ft3) cold room.

The adoption of CO2-based refrigeration is part of Bofrost Italia’s strategy to become climate neutral by 2035.

Diverse applications

According to Tissot, Panasonic’s condensing units are perfect for urban convenience stores due to their compact size and low noise levels. However, the units are also well-suited to a number of non-food retail applications, which makes up 40% of the company’s business in Europe.

Other suitable applications include data centers, canteens, warehousing and healthcare, the last becoming a big market for Panasonic, with over 2,000 of its condensing units installed in healthcare facilities across Europe.

While cost and efficiency remain important, in the healthcare market reliability is key, said Tissot.

“CO2 is a very reliable option for the healthcare market,” he explained. “With CO2, if there’s a leak, you just get dry ice. Whereas with other refrigerants, if there’s a leak, products are spoiled.”