Williams’ F1 technology provides energy savings on the high-street

A team of engineers from Williams Advanced Engineering have used their aerodynamics expertise to help UK supermarkets reduce energy and costs with a ‘rear wing’ design on their open fridges

Williams have been a staple of Formula 1 for over 30 years, winning nine constructors championships and leading seven different drivers to world titles, but more recently the iconic team have been making as much of an impact off the track.

Using expertise honed through years of manufacturing, Williams Advanced Engineering have been working with Aerofoil Energy to develop a new device, made of 100% recycled aluminium, that is reducing supermarkets’ energy consumption by 25% and energy costs by 30% every year.

Based on the design of a Formula 1 car’s rear wing, the Aerofoil device attaches to the shelves of supermarket fridges to keep more of the cool air contained in the unit, and prevents it spilling out into the aisles.

All typical open-fronted multi-shelf retail fridges release a wave of refrigerated air blown down across the open front of the shelves to help maintain the contents at a regulated temperature. However, much of this cold air escapes out of the front of the cabinet and into the store aisles, which not only is a huge waste of energy, but can also create a colder aisle for shoppers, therefore having a negative effect on their shopping experience.

The blade-like design was originally created by Aerofoil Energy based on aerodynamics involved in aircraft before the company partnered with Williams Advanced Engineering to further develop the blueprint. Using the innovative technology and advanced resources available to them, Williams’ engineers created simulations to put the device into practice allowing them to enhance the product and its capabilities.

Refrigerators are the largest power consumer in supermarkets, so it is easy to see why the likes of Sainsburys, M&S, Tesco and ASDA have all implemented the Aerofoil technology throughout their stores. In total, around 1.5 million Aerofoils are now installed in over 5,000 stores across the UK. The innovation was also nominated for the prestigious MacRobert Award in 2018, the UK’s longest running award for engineering innovation.

At an average energy saving of 20% per cabinet, this leads to a reduction in total energy demand of approximately 550 million kWh per annum. With the current generation mix of thermal vs. renewable sources, this means there is an reduction of over 150 million kg of CO2 each year from the UK’s total emissions, or the potential to save annually the equivalent of a month’s worth of the domestic CO2 emissions from a city the size of Manchester. With an average supermarket refrigerator in operation for ten years, this equates to over 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 over the next decade.