Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
A BOX VAN
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/157510
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A box van having at least one chilled compartment for storing chilled goods, comprising a ladder chassis, a forward cab mounted on the chassis and a rear box body for storing the chilled goods mounted on the chassis behind the cab in which the rear box body comprises side walls and a roof each construed from one or more structural panels. Characterized in that each structural panel comprises an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by a perimeter wall, and a protective outer shell of carbon fibre composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and perimeter walls of the foam core, in which the outer shell comprises a first skin that covers the first surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and a second skin that covers the second surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material, the sheets forming the outer shell comprising layers of elongate composite fibres, the sheets being impregnated with a cured resin.

Inventors:
HURCOMBE DANIEL SPENCER (GB)
Application Number:
GB2020/050223
Publication Date:
August 06, 2020
Filing Date:
January 30, 2020
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
PENSO LTD (GB)
International Classes:
B62D33/04
Foreign References:
EP0215652A21987-03-25
EP2436505A12012-04-04
US6375249B12002-04-23
US3671355A1972-06-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BARKER BRETTELL LLP (GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
18

CLAIMS

1. A box van having at least one chilled compartment for storing chilled goods, comprising:

a ladder chassis

a forward cab mounted on the chassis; and

a rear box body for storing the chilled goods mounted on the chassis behind the cab; in which the rear box body comprises side walls and a roof each construed from one or more structural panels,

Characterized in that each structural panel comprises an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by a perimeter wall, and

a protective outer shell of carbon fibre composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and perimeter walls of the foam core, in which the outer shell comprises a first skin that covers the first surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and a second skin that covers the second surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material , the sheets forming the outer shell comprising layers of elongate composite fibres, the sheets being impregnated with a cured resin.

2. A box van according to claim 1 in which a side panel is connected along an edge to a base panel and on a further edge to a roof panel, and to one or more of an adjacent side panel, a front panel and end panel.

3. A box van according to claim 1 of claim 2 in which the foam core comprises low density closed cell foam.

4. A box van according to any preceding claim in which the thickness of foam used in at least one of the panels is graded according to the required insulation properties of the portion of the box covered by the panel.

5. A box van according to claim 4 where the panel has one portion that has a first thickness of foam and a second portion having a second, higher, thickness of foam, where the second portion forms a panel portion of a first enclosed region of the box 19 that in use is kept at a lower temperature than a second enclosed region covered by the first portion of the panel.

6. A box van according to any preceding claim in which the panels are constructed so that one or more layers of the second skin extend beyond the edge of the second major surface to cover the perimeter wall, and one or more of the layers of the first skin extend beyond the edges of the first major surface to cover the part of the second skin that overlaps the perimeter wall and additionally extend beyond the perimeter wall to cover the second skin over a perimeter region of the second major skin.

7. A box van according to any preceding claim in which the panels are connected together using any suitable structural adhesive. During assembly the adhesive may be applied between portions of structural panels that contact portions of adjacent panels, the adhesive being cured prior to use of the box.

8. A box van according to any preceding claim in which one or more of the panels are shaped to follow the profile of the cab when viewed from the front of the vehicle.

9. A box can according to any preceding claim in which the box body is arranged to hold in racks at least 120 fully laden totes.

Description:
A BOX VAN

This invention relates to box vans of the kind typically used to deliver groceries directly to the homes of customers.

A typical box van is shown in Figures 1 and 2 of the accompanying drawings. The van 1 comprises a ladder chassis 2 and a cab 3 located at the front of the chassis for a driver. The chassis supports a separate rear mounted fully enclosed box body 4 or cargo space which is fixed onto the chassis. Figure 2 shows the box van prior to the construction of the rear box on the chassis 2. A petrol or diesel engine of the vehicle is normally located at the front of the vehicle below the cabin but it is envisaged that future box vans may use electric drivetrains where the motor or motors could be located in a variety of locations on the vehicle.

To maximize the storage capacity of the box body it usually approximates to a cube in shape with substantially vertical walls and a generally flat horizontal roof and floor. Access doors may be located in the rear wall or the side walls or both. For transporting chilled goods the box body 4 is typically lined with insulation (not shown) and a chiller unit fitted that draws air through a roof mounted condenser 5.

Box vans vehicles are widely used by supermarkets and other companies for the home delivery of products purchased by customers over the internet. This is a rapidly expanding market and many supermarkets now run very large fleets of box vans to meet the customer’s needs. Because the box part is not integrated to the chassis, i.e. it is not a monocoque construction of chassis and body, the box can be built up onto a variety of different chassis and manufacturers will generally purchase the chassis and can and then add their own box to the chassis.

In the example of Figure 1, the box is made up of relative flexible and heavy glass fibre panels forming the walls and roof. These panels are joined together along their edges by a lattice frame of aluminum extrusions 6. Where the box is to be refrigerated, for delivery of perishable good, separate foam insulation panels are fixed to the inside of the glass fibre panels inside of the box. This form of construction is generally relatively weak and so the box will be built up from multiple parts directly onto the chassis of the vehicle. Typically this will also require an intermediate steel base structure to be first be formed on the chassis to give a strong based onto which the frame is then added and the side walls, front and rear walls are built up by fitting the panels onto the supporting frame. Rivets are commonly used to secure the walls to the frame.

The reader shall understand that where the term box van is used this may be substituted with the alternative terms box truck or cube truck, the reader understanding that different terms are used in different countries to describe the same type of vehicle.

The applicant has appreciated that conventional box van construction is both labour intensive and also leads to an end vehicle in which an excessive portion of the weight is contained in the box and the necessary steel supporting floor. It is highly desirable to ensure the overall weight of the vehicle and the contents falls below certain weight limits. For example in the UK, the licensing of vehicles falls into multiple categories based on a number of factors including the weight of the vehicle, the length and the frontal area. Keeping the box van and the contents below an upper limit for a vehicle category can make the van much cheaper to run and also allow drivers with lower category licenses to drive the van. In the UK at the time of filing of this application, box vans for home deliveries are all designed to fall into the 3.5tonne Gross Vehicle Weight van segment, and this has been driven by changes in drivers licensing meaning that drivers licensed after 1996 may only drive up to 3.5t GVW without an HGV license. This licensing requirement reduces the available driver pool for larger vans, over 3.5t GVW and increasing labour costs for drivers.

For many current box vans, the amount of weight capacity available for goods without the vehicle exceeding 3.5 tonnes is quite low. As little a 500kg of payload may be added to the empty van before the 3.5 tonne limit is reached. This in practice will mean that vans are being dispatched which are only part full of goods, increasing the number of trips needed to deliver goods. If more weight capacity was available by reducing the overall weight of the van then more goods could be carried at once. This could increase the operating efficiency of a home delivery operation considerably.

An object of the present invention is to ameliorate these problems with prior art box vans. According to a first aspect the invention provides a box van having at least one chilled compartment for storing chilled goods, comprising:

a ladder chassis

a forward cab mounted on the chassis; and

a rear box body for storing the chilled goods mounted on the chassis behind the cab; in which the rear box body comprises side walls and a roof each construed from one or more structural panels,

Characterized in that each structural panel comprises an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by a perimeter wall, and

a protective outer shell of carbon fibre composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and perimeter walls of the foam core, in which the outer shell comprises a first skin that covers the first surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and a second skin that covers the second surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material , the sheets forming the outer shell comprising layers of elongate composite fibres, the sheets being impregnated with a cured resin. Providing a box van in which the is constructed from structural panels having a resin impregnated carbon fibre composite shell made up of sheets of material brings the potential for substantial weight savings compared with prior art box van construction. Using carbon fibres in the shell imparts great strength to weight, allowing the panels to be far lighter than prior art glass fibre panels.

Preferably the panels are self-supporting panels connected directly together without the need for any additional supporting framework to form the box body. A side panel may therefore be directly connected along an edge to the base panel and roof panel, and to one or more of an adjacent side panel, a front panel and end panel.

Construction without a frame is possible using carbon shell panels due to their potential great strength. Prior art boxes require an extruded aluminium frame to hold the panels in place and impart the required structural rigidity. The box may comprise an arrangement of separate interconnected structural panels which provide a self-supporting box structure. This is achievable using carbon composite shell panels which can be made very rigid at low weights, whereas prior art glass fibre sheet panels cannot self-support and need extra framing along the edges or internally.

The box may be self-supporting such that it can be removed from the chassis and reused on a different chassis. The box may be assembled remote from the chassis prior to fixing to the chassis. The box may therefore include a plurality of releasable fastenings that secure the base of the box to the chassis.

This structure also allows the box to be removed at the end of the life of the van, enabling the chassis and cab to be reused as a different type of vehicle in the aftermarket. Prior art fiberglass bodies are insufficiently rigid to be reused in this way, and are generally constructed directly onto the chassis.

The foam core may comprise low density closed cell foam. This ensures that any water penetrating the outer skin, for example where the skin has been damaged in surface, will not soak into the foam core. In the prior art, low cost open cell foam has been used.

The foam may comprise a fire retardant material.

The foam core may have a thickness of at least 25mm at all points across the component, and in places may be at least 50mm or at least 100mm thick.

The foam in the panels may provide all of the required insulation for the box so that no other additional insulation is provided inside of the panels.

The foam within the panels may provide the sole or primary thermal insulation for the interior of the box. This removes the needs to add extra insulation inside the structural panels, reducing the construction time and optimizing the internal volume of the box. The thickness of foam used in at least one of the panels may be graded according to the required insulation properties of the portion of the box covered by the panel. By this we mean the foam thickness may vary at different locations across the panel.

The panel may have one portion that has a first thickness of foam and a second portion having a second, higher, thickness of foam, where the second portion forms a panel portion of a first enclosed region of the box that in use is kept at a lower temperature than a second enclosed region covered by the first portion of the panel.

By grading the foam thickness throughout a structural panel, the optimal insulation properties can be achieved for the use of the box. In the prior art, a grading of the foam insulation of the box is not possible due to the need to slot the panel into an extruded frame section. It is not possible to extrude a frame section with a varying width to accommodate portions of a panel with graded foam thickness.

By optimizing the thickness of the foam it is possible to optimize the weight of the box.

The outer surface of the panels that form the exterior of the box may be painted or covered by a removable protective film referred to as a wrap. Alternatively they may be left at least partially uncoated to expose the skin of the outer shell of the panels.

To help prevent water ingress into the panels, the panels may be constructed so that one or more layers of the second skin extend beyond the edge of the second major surface to cover the perimeter wall, and one or more of the layers of the first skin extend beyond the edges of the first major surface to cover the part of the second skin that overlaps the perimeter wall and additionally extend beyond the perimeter wall to cover the second skin over a perimeter region of the second major skin.

By wrapping the layers around the ends, water ingress into the shell is minimized.

One or more of the layers may be overlapped onto a portion of an adjacent panel.

The body may be formed from any number of structural panels, although a preferred number is between 5 and 20. Larger panels require very large presses to be used which is costly, and smaller panels require more assembly time. Of course, in other arrangements more or less panels can be used.

The panels may be connected together using any suitable structural adhesive. During assembly the adhesive may be applied between portions of structural panels that contact portions of adjacent panels, the adhesive being cured prior to use of the box.

Although a box without any of the heavy framing used in prior art boxes is preferred, optional non-structural connecting elements may be provided between adjacent panels so that panels are fixed to adjacent panels only indirectly through the connecting elements. These may help maintain alignment between panels. However, this does increase the number of parts needed and so it is preferable to connect them directly.

The box may define a self-supporting structure that may be separable from the chassis and retain the required box shape. This allows it to be assembled away from the chassis. As such the box may comprise a retro-fit assembly that may be added once constructed onto a pre-assembled van chassis. It may be secured using bolts or other fastenings to the chassis.

Careful selection and design of the structural panels brings further benefits. The applicant has also found that it is beneficial for the overlap of the first and second skins to be provided on the second major surface because this facilitates curing of the skin in a press where pressure can then be applied to the overlapped joint giving a more reliable finish. It is conventional when providing glass fibre panels of the prior art to leave the foam core exposed at the edges and cover them with the structural frame extrusions but this does not give such a neat finish and can allow water to enter the foam core and increase the weight of the box.

For example, the second skin may extend beyond the edge of the second major surface by a distance sufficient to extend at least 10 percent, and up to 100 percent, of the way across the perimeter wall. It is preferred that the second skin does not extend in any region over the first major surface.

The first skin may entirely cover the first major surface with no inclusions and may extend over the end of the core all the way around the core. Similarly the second skin may extend beyond the second major surface and overlap partially the perimeter wall all the way around the core. The two skins may together seal the core from the external environment.

The second surface may form a side of the structural panel that is inside of the box and therefore protected from the elements, and the first surface may form an outer surface of the box that is exposed to the outer environment. This ensures that the region of overlap is kept away from the outside, safely inside the box, in the event that there are any imperfections in the finish of the overlap portion. This reduces the possibility of any refinishing of the exposed outer surface being needed during post production and also reduces the risk of water penetrating the panel. All of the portions of the perimeter wall of the panel of the foam may be wrapped by layers of composite sheet material.

The outer skin may comprise a continuous skin that wraps the foam core with no requirement for any mechanical or adhesive connection of portions of the outer skin to other portions. The impregnated cured resin provides a continuous skin with no joints that require such mechanical or adhesive fastening.

The sheets may be impregnated with a heat cured resin. The resin may comprise a phenolic resin. This type of resin performs well in the event of a fire as it does not give off the high levels of toxic smoke that other resins give off.

In addition to having at least one chilled compartment the box may comprise at least one ambient compartment and may include at least one refrigerated compartment. The box body may therefore further comprise one or more internal dividers that each comprise at least one further structural panel, the dividers splitting the interior of the box body into at least one separate chilled compartment, at least one ambient compartment and at least one refrigerated compartment. Each of these panels may be of the same construction as the outer panels of the box. The box may include at least one further divider that defines a further compartment for the storage of dry goods, for instance parcels.

The dry goods compartment may have one or more shelves. The shelf of shelves may be adjustable for height within the compartment.

In a preferred arrangement the shelves may be removable or may be capable of being folded out of the way.

Unlike most good delivered to a consumer as part of a grocery shop, dry goods such as parcels can be bulky and in many cases can be long. The dry goods compartment may extend longitudinally along the box body and may have a length of at least 2 m.

The divider panels may extend transverse of the box and chassis for the ambient and chilled and refrigerated compartments.

Where a dry goods compartment is provided this may be divided from the other compartments by one or more panels that extend longitudinal of the body.

Each divider panel may be substantially vertical.

Each divider panel may be capable of supporting racking for boxes. This strength primarily comes from the shell of the panel, which should be self-supporting and form a box resistant to racking during use.

The box may comprise structural panels that are directly bonded to adjacent panels to form a unitary body defining the box body.

The vehicle may include at least one chiller unit that is operable from a battery source. An exemplary chiller unit is an engine driven chiller compressor unit.

The battery source may be located within or fixed to the box, or may be a separate auxiliary battery for the vehicle. To optimize the storage volume of the box body, the box body may overhang the rear of the chassis of the van by the maximum amount permissible within the warranty provided by the manufacturer or reseller of the chassis.

The box body may include a structural floor panel which comprises an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by a perimeter wall, and a protective outer shell of carbon fibre composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and perimeter walls of the foam core, in which the outer shell comprises a first skin that covers the first surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and a second skin that covers the second surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material , the sheets forming the outer shell comprising layers of elongate composite fibres, the sheets being impregnated with a cured resin.

Additional strengthening bars may be located within the outer shell, to take the load where the floor overhangs the chassis. Strengthening bars are not required in any of the other wall or roof panels and adding them would add weight so is not preferred.

The box side walls and front facing wall may protrude from the sides of the cabin by less than 100mm when viewed from the front of the vehicle. The box body may extend above the cab of the vehicle by less than 200mm and preferably less than 100mm. This ensures that the box does not significantly increase the frontal area of the vehicle which negatively impacts fuel consumption.

The side walls may be substantially planar and substantially vertical. However it is preferred that one or more of the panels are shaped to follow the profile of the cab when viewed from the front of the vehicle.

The box may be shaped with a tumble hone to follow the tumble hone of the cab. One or more of the structural panels may therefore have a non-planar profile to follow the tumble hone. Prior art side panels have been entirely flat due to the process used to manufacture glass fibre panels which does not lend itself well to forming non-flat panels. The panels may be rigid so as to retain the non-flat shape when in use. Reducing the amount the body protrudes from the top and sides of the cab reduces the overall frontal area of the box van compared with a box body that protrudes a long way past the side and top. This reduces drag and this reduces fuel consumption making the box van more economical and therefore cheaper to operate.

The box body may be arranged in a variety of configurations but preferably has an internal volume sized and shaped to hold in racking at least 120 fully laden totes, each measuring approximately 60cm long by 45cm wide and a depth of at least 20cm.

The body may be provided with one or more access doors, which may be in the side or the rear walls or both. Each door may comprise a structural panel with the same construction described above for the rest of the box body.

The interior of the box body may include a racking system for the storage of tote boxes.

It is important to keep good fresh inside the box body, especially when delivering chilled or frozen groceries on a hot day where the ambient temperature may exceed 30 degrees. To achieve this box body may include an air inlet that feeds a chiller located rearwards of the front most part of the box body. This is further back than conventional box vans which secure this to the top of the cab.

Preferably the air inlet is located rearwards of the front most edge of the box body by at least 100mm or at least 300mm.

The vehicle may comprise a front wheel drive vehicle, or a rear wheel drive vehicle, or an all-wheel drive.

The vehicle may include a diesel engine that drives the driven wheels, or a petrol engine or may have one or more electric motors that drive the driven wheels or may include a hybrid drive train with an internal combustion engine and a motor that work together. The vehicle may have a weight when unladen of less than 2.5 tonnes and preferably less than 2.3 tonnes . The vehicle may have a 1,250kg payload whilst remaining below a total GVW of 3.5 tonnes.

In a preferred arrangement the vehicle has 3 compartments within the box, a fresh good compartment which is chilled but above 0 degrees Centigrade when in use, a frozen goods compartment which is chilled to below 0 degrees Centigrade when in use, an ambient compartment which has no chiller and will remain at ambient temperature when in use. Access to these three compartments may be through opening in the side of the box that is accessible through side doors.

The vehicle may have a frontal area less than 6m2.

The vehicle chassis and cab may comprise a Mercedes Benz ® Sprinter ® van. The current generation of Mercedes Sprinter ® van in the L2 FWD chassis cab. This offers the maximum box length with front wheel drive architecture. A van based on this sprinter van may be constructed with a box length of greater than 4m whilst remaining within Mercedes Benz ® own Body Builder standards.

In accordance with a second aspect the invention provides a method of constructing a rear box of a box van comprising:

forming a plurality of panels by the following steps:

(a) forming a plurality of panels, each panel comprising an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by an end wall, and

a protective outer shell of carbon fibre composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and end walls of the foam core, in which the outer shell comprises a first skin that covers the first surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and a second skin that covers the second surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material , the sheets forming the outer shell comprising layers of elongate composite fibres, the sheets being impregnated with a cured resin, and

(b) Subsequently joining each panel to at least one adjacent panel to form the rear box. The step (a) of forming a plurality of panels may comprise for each panel the steps of: (c) Providing an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by a perimeter wall,

(d) Forming a first skin and forming a second skin that each comprise a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and each have a size that is greater in all dimensions than the respective first and second major surface;

(e) Placing the second face of the foam core onto the second skin and folding the edges of the skin up onto the perimeter wall of the core,

(f) Placing the first skin onto the first face of the foam core and folding the edges down over the perimeter wall of the core, and

(g) Placing the core and two skins into a split mold and applying pressure and heat to the split mold to cure the skins to form a rigid protective outer shell of composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and perimeter walls of the foam core.

The step (g) of applying heat and pressure in the press may comprise pushing the foam core wrapped with the two skins first into an upper mold part that is complimentary to the upper surface followed by pushing the lower part of the foam core and second skin into a lower mold that is complimentary to the lower surface of the core.

The pressure should be sufficient, when combined with the heat, to cure the resin, but not to crush the foam core. The sheets used for the skin may comprise sheets of elongate fibres pre-impregnated with resin. Alternatively, the skins may comprise at least one layer of elongate fibres laid against at least one layer of resin, the resin impregnating the layer of fibres when heat and pressure is applied. The fibres may comprise carbon fibres or glass fibres or other suitable fibres, and may comprise one fibre type or a mix of different fibre types.

The method may comprise laying up sheets of pre-preg material in which the resin is already impregnated in an uncured or partially cured form in the sheets of composite fibres. The method may comprise providing a foam core which in a relaxed state is oversized in at least width relative to the mould, the foam being compressed into the mold prior to curing such that a pressure is applied by the edges of the foam onto the portion of the skins that wrap over the ends of the core. The applicant has found that this improves the finish of the edges of the pressed component, because the foam core will apply an outward pressure onto the perimeter walls which is not otherwise compressed by the downward/upward pressure of the press. The method may, for example, comprise applying a pressure of at least 4 bar, or at least 6 bar, and a temperature of approx. 155 degrees, where the foam is rated for autoclaving at temperatures of up to 130 degrees, the method preventing the majority of the foam core from exceeding 130 degrees in temperature. The method steps (b) listed above may be performed directly onto a chassis of a van to construct the box in situ. However it is preferred that they are performed remote from the chassis and once formed the box may be lifted and lowered onto the chassis and then fixed in place. The method may comprise fixing a panel to an adjacent panel by directly abutting a part of one panel to a part of an adjacent panel and fixing in place by applying an adhesive to the interface between the panels. This may be a thermally cured adhesive which may be heat cured once the panels are in the correct position. The method may include a step of securing the box to the chassis.

The method may comprise fitting a chiller inside or outside of the box and connecting the chiller to a battery source mounted to the chassis. There will now be described, by way of example only, one embodiment of a box van in accordance with an aspect of the present invention of which:

Figure 1 is a view of an typical prior art box van, Figure 2 is a view of the van of Figure 1 prior to addition of the box; Figures 3 to 5 show three different embodiments of a box van in accordance with a first aspect of the present invention; Figure 6 shows the different structural panels that can be carried used to form the box of a box van of the kind shown in Figure 5; and

Figures 7 to 13 show the method steps of construction of a structural panel for use in the walls and dividers of a box van.

Figures 3, 4 and 5 show three alternative embodiments of a box van within the scope of the present invention. In each case the vans 10,20,30 comprise a ladder chassis although only the chassis 34 on the van of Figure 5 is visible with the chassis of the vans of Figures 3 and 4 not visible. A cab 11,21,31 is mounted on the chassis at the front of the vehicle, and a separate rear box body 12,22,32 for storing the chilled goods mounted on the chassis behind the cab. The box body and chassis do not form a monocoque structure, a key differentiator of a box van from other, generally smaller, light commercial vans such as the Mercedes Citan ® range of vans. The rear box body comprises side walls and a roof each construed from one or more structural panels. Each panel is shown using a different shade of grey in the figures. These panels are generally planar and constructed from an insulating closed cell foam core surrounded by an external shell of resin impregnated fibre sheet. The panels abut one another and are secured using a cured structural adhesive.

The vans 10, 20, 30 differ in the layout of the doors that allow access to the interior of the box body, the location of an inlet for a chiller unit, and the arrangement of racking inside the box body. The choice of layout will depend largely on the end use of the vehicle and the reader will understand that the number of variations is limitless.

The van may have various combinations of inner compartments selected from:

- ambient compartment, not chilled or refrigerated;

-chilled compartment, optimized for fresh perishable goods;

-refrigerated compartment. Optimized for frozen groceries; and

-parcel compartment; include shelving for parcels. There may be none, one, two, three or more of each of the four types of compartment. The departments are separated from adjacent compartments by a divider structural panel having the same construction as the outer panels.

Each compartment in the exemplary vans is bounded by at least one outer structural panel forming a side of the box body, a divider structural panel, a floor panel and a roof panel and in some cases either a front panel or a rear panel. Two divider panels 23, 24 can be seen in Figure 4 running front to back along the interior of the box. Two panels 13, 14 can be seen in Figure 3 running side to side across the interior of the box. Note that for clarity the second image in Figure 3 shows the side of the box removed allowing the location of totes 15 supported on racking inside the box to be seen. These totes allow good such as groceries to be easily loaded into and unloaded from the box body.

Figure 6 show how a separate box body 40 can be constructed using a set of self- supporting structural panels. The panels are placed in position and joined directly to adjacent panels using the adhesive, with edges of the panels shaped to abut and in some cases wrap around the edges of adjacent panels to give a large surface area for the adhesive. Once stuck together the resulting box become self-supporting.

Note that the thickness of foam used within a panel can vary across the height or width of the panel depending on the insulating properties that are required. In this example a central roof panel 41 has less foam in the region covering the ambient storage and more in the region covering the refrigerated storage. Also note that the end panels have curved edges so that the sides of the box have a tumble hone that follows that of the cab.

The structural panels are a key aspect of the vans as they are both strong and light due to the rigid outer shell of woven sheet material and also are good insulators due to the foam core. This allows for a box van in any of the configurations shown in Figures 3, 4 and 5 to be constructed where the box has an overall weight of less than 500Kg. When fitted to a conventional van chassis such as the Mercedes Sprinter this produces a box van with a large available payload whilst remaining below a 3,5 tonne GVW, for instance up to 1250kg of payload. Figure 7 shows a representative panel 100 in cross. The panel 100 is shown is laid down with the outer surface of the panel facing upwards, this surface forming an external face of the final box body. As can be seen the panel 100 comprises a central foam core having a first major surface 100a and an opposing second major surface 100b. A wall extends around the edges of the core to join the two major surfaces. As shown in Figure 16 the first major surface is at the top and defines the contours of the outside of the panel in this example. The second major surface is at the bottom and defines the general profile of the inner face of the panel. The foam core comprises a closed cell PET foam.

The core 100 is surrounded by two skins 101,102 a first skin 101 completely covering the upper surface of the core and the second skin completely covering the lower surface of the core. The second skin 102 extends upwards to partially overlap the ends of the core all the way around, and the first skin completely covers the end and wrap around so that it also extends over a perimeter region of the second surface of the core.

Figure 8 shows in more detail the region B enclosed by the dotted line in Figure 16 to show how the two skins are arranged around the edges of the core.

A method of manufacture of the panel is illustrated in Figures 9 to 13.

In an initial preparatory step, shown in Figure 19 (a), a sheet of suitable foam is cut to size to form the core 100. In cutting it is provided with a slight oversize so that the width of the core (from end face to opposing end face across the upper and lower surface) is slightly greater than the final size of the foam core in the finished product. As will become apparent the core 100 is compressed slightly during production of the finished product.

In a next step shown in Figure 19(b), although the step can be performed in parallel or before the above step of forming the core, the two skins 101, 102 that will cover the upper surface and lower surface are cut to shape. Each skin may comprise multiple layers of sheet material, preferably pre-impregnated sheets of fibres and uncured or partially cured resin. Each sheet may extend continuously across a width of the skin. Each of the skins 101, 102 may be laid up in a suitable pre-form mold (not shown).

In a next step, shown in Figure 10 the second skin 102 is placed onto the second surface of the core 100. In this example this is provided with the second surface of the core facing downwards although it can be placed over the top before the core is inverted to leave the second skin at the bottom. The ends of the second skin 102 are folded up onto the end faces of the core.

The first skin 101 is then placed onto the top of the upper, first, surface of the core as shown in cross section in Figure 11. The edges are pushed down to over the perimeter walls of the core and as can be seen are long enough to hang down below the perimeter walls.

The wrapped core is then moved into an open press as shown in Figure 12 that has been preloaded with two mold halves 201, 202. One half is placed in the upper part of the press and the other below it on the platen of the press. The core wrapped in the first skin is pushed into the upper mold half compressing the ends of the foam as indicated by a set of arrows in the Figure.

The press is then closed as shown in Figure 13 moving the core 100 and skins 101,102 down into the lower mold half 202. As this is done, the parts of the first skin that hang down beyond the edges are guided into the lower mold half until, when the mold is fully closed, the lower edges are flush with the outer face of the second skin where it overlaps the lower surface of the foam core.

The core and skins are held in the press under pressure of approximately 6 bar and elevated temperature of around 130 degrees to cause the resin in the skins to start to cure, and held there until fully cured or until sufficiently cured that when removed from the press the resin will continue to cure until fully cured. CLAIMS

1. A box van having at least one chilled compartment for storing chilled goods, comprising:

a ladder chassis

a forward cab mounted on the chassis; and

a rear box body for storing the chilled goods mounted on the chassis behind the cab; in which the rear box body comprises side walls and a roof each construed from one or more structural panels,

Characterized in that each structural panel comprises an inner foam core having a first major surface and an opposing second major surface connected around their perimeter by a perimeter wall, and

a protective outer shell of carbon fibre composite material which totally surrounds the first and second surfaces and perimeter walls of the foam core, in which the outer shell comprises a first skin that covers the first surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material and a second skin that covers the second surface and comprises a plurality of layers of composite sheet material , the sheets forming the outer shell comprising layers of elongate composite fibres, the sheets being impregnated with a cured resin.

2. A box van according to claim 1 in which a side panel is connected along an edge to a base panel and on a further edge to a roof panel, and to one or more of an adjacent side panel, a front panel and end panel.

3. A box van according to claim 1 of claim 2 in which the foam core comprises low density closed cell foam.

4. A box van according to any preceding claim in which the thickness of foam used in at least one of the panels is graded according to the required insulation properties of the portion of the box covered by the panel.

5. A box van according to claim 4 where the panel has one portion that has a first thickness of foam and a second portion having a second, higher, thickness of foam, where the second portion forms a panel portion of a first enclosed region of the box that in use is kept at a lower temperature than a second enclosed region covered by the first portion of the panel.

6. A box van according to any preceding claim in which the panels are constructed so that one or more layers of the second skin extend beyond the edge of the second major surface to cover the perimeter wall, and one or more of the layers of the first skin extend beyond the edges of the first major surface to cover the part of the second skin that overlaps the perimeter wall and additionally extend beyond the perimeter wall to cover the second skin over a perimeter region of the second major skin.

7. A box van according to any preceding claim in which the panels are connected together using any suitable structural adhesive. During assembly the adhesive may be applied between portions of structural panels that contact portions of adjacent panels, the adhesive being cured prior to use of the box.

8. A box van according to any preceding claim in which one or more of the panels are shaped to follow the profile of the cab when viewed from the front of the vehicle.

9. A box can according to any preceding claim in which the box body is arranged to hold in racks at least 120 fully laden totes.