Volkswagen owned truck manufacturer Scania will start testing solar cell clad trailers to power plug-in hybrid trucks.
In this publicly funded project, Scania’s 18-meter long trailers will be used as test subjects, providing a total solar-panel-covered roof area of 140 square meters that could produce 14,000 kWh annually.
Initial studies estimate fuel savings of 5-10 percent when used in a plug-in hybrid truck. Though the sun is relatively weak in Sweden during spring to autumn, sunlight is enough to generate energy. When used in more photovoltaic countries like Spain, for example, fuel-savings are expected to nearly double.
Apart from supporting the hybrid systems, the goal is to determine if a fully charged trailer can feed electricity to the main grid when the truck is stationary on weekends.
“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,” claimed Eric Falkgrim, Technology Leader in vehicle design at Scania R&D.
The truck is to be operated in daily assignments by Ernst Express, a Swedish hauler, and the project is publicly funded by the Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova. Other stakeholders include solar panel manufacturer Midsummer, Dalakraft energy company, and Uppsala University, which conducts advanced research on efficient solar cells.
On the other hand, apart from resulting in a massive increase in weight, the solar panels are said to cost more than $50,000 for each trailer. It remains to be seen if such a high initial investment can be justified by the fuel-saving achieved by implementing this technology. However, if successful, the technology could have a significant impact and help in reducing emissions caused by the transport of cargo.
To be continued…