The road transport sector is trying different solutions to lighten its emission weight. There are those, like Tesla, who focus on battery-powered vehicles, while others are focusing on fuel cell mobility solutions.
Volkswagen owned truck manufacturer Scania is betting on solar energy to reduce fuel consumption in its trucks. The company is testing a concept of a solar cell clad trailer to power a plug-in hybrid truck. The truck trailer is covered with solar panels, which will be used to recharge the horsepower’s batteries, powered by electricity.
The trailer is being tested by the Swedish haulier Ernst Express, which will be using Scania’s 18-meter long solar cell clad trailer with a total area along the sides and roof of 140 square meters. The solar panels are expected in Sweden to annually generate 14,000 kWh and double that in places with more sunshine. Scania did not provide data on how much the mileage will increase with this trailer.
A preliminary study has calculated the possible fuel savings of around 5-10% in Sweden. This may not seem like a lot, but we are talking about an estimate taking into account the conditions of Sweden, which is in the north and has much fewer sunny days than most countries in the world. Scania believes that if the truck and trailer were used in a southern country like Spain, the fuel economy could be doubled.
“Solar cells have previously been employed on boats and caravans but then only to power auxiliaries such as refrigerators and cookers and not the actual powertrain,” says Eric Falkgrim, Technology Leader in Vehicle Design at Scania R&D.
The research project will also analyze the possibility of using the stationary truck as a stationary generator to supply the carrier’s building, for example when the vehicle’s batteries are already fully charged. This is possible, especially on weekends, when the truck is not on the road, and also during maintenance.
The project is funded by the Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova and, in addition to Scania and Ernst Express. It also engages Midsummer that manufactures the solar panels, Uppsala University, which conducts advanced research on more efficient solar cells, and the Dalakraft energy company.