Truck trailers with solar panels can save fuel

2 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineOctober 8, 2020

In a research partnership, Scania will develop a solar cell-clad trailer to power a plug-in hybrid truck. Initial tests indicate possible fuel savings of 5 to 10 percent in Sweden and twice that amount in sun-rich southern Spain.

“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 truck will be operated in daily transport assignments by the Swedish haulier Ernst Express, which also collaborated with Scania in trials of the world‘s first electric road with overhead catenary lines. Ernst Express will operate an 18-metre long solar cell-clad trailer with a total area along the sides and roof of 140 square metres. In total, the solar panels are expected in Sweden to annually generate 14,000kWh.

Eric Falkgrim, technology leader in vehicle design at Scania R&D.

The research project will also examine whether the trailer can feed electricity into the grid when the batteries are fully charged and the truck is parked, for example, over weekends.

In a pre-study, operations in mid-Sweden were simulated reaching a potential fuel saving of 5 to 10 percent. In Sweden, there is enough sunlight from spring to autumn to generate energy and although the sun is weak except during summer, there are more hours of sunlight. During the rest of the year, there is insufficient sun in Sweden. By contrast, southern Spain has 80 percent more hours of sunlight.

The project is publicly funded the Swedish government‘s innovation agency Vinnova, and aside from Scania and Ernst Express, also engages Midsummer who manufacture the solar panels, Uppsala University, which conducts advanced research on more efficient solar cells, and the Dalakraft energy company.