Swedish commercial vehicle giant Scania has announced it will develop a solar-clad truck trailer intended to power a plug-in hybrid truck, which could result in fuel savings of between 5-10% in Sweden.
Scania is partnering with Swedish haulier Ernst Express, Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova, solar panel manufacturer Midsummer, Uppsala University, and the Dalakraft energy company to develop the new concept.
As of writing, there is not a lot of specifics known about the project, although Scania has revealed that initial tests for a solar cell clad truck trailer have indicated possible fuel savings of between 5-10%.
Operations were simulated in a pre-study for the middle of Sweden. Even though Sweden does not have as many or as lengthy sunny days during spring to autumn, the pre-study concluded that there was still enough sunlight to generate electricity, an issue which became less problematic during the sunnier summer.
Unsurprisingly, however, during winter there would not be enough sunlight to generate electricity.
However, Scania also posits that fuel savings in the south of Spain – known for its sunnier conditions – could yield fuel savings twice that seen in Sweden. In winter, southern Spain has 80% more hours of sunlight.
“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,” said Eric Falkgrim, technology leader in vehicle design at Scania R&D.
Measuring in at 18 metres in length, the solar cell clad truck trailer will boast a total area along the sides and roof of 140 square-metres, and when operating in Sweden, could generate annually up to 14,000kWh.
The research project behind the trial will also examine whether the truck trailer can feed electricity into the grid when fully charged and parked.
Publicly funded by the Swedish government’s innovation agency Vinnova, the project follows in the tracks of similar research efforts, including one by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE).
Back in April, the scientific research institute announced plans to demonstrate the market feasibility of solar PV applications in the heavy-load transport industry, specifically looking to integrate solar PV modules on electrical and other commercial vehicles.
“Trucks provide lots of area with great sun exposure and electric-drive vehicles are equipped with large batteries,” said Dr. Harry Wirth, division director of Photovoltaics, Modules and Power Plants at Fraunhofer ISE, speaking back in April.
“This combination presents an ideal situation for generating valuable on-board electricity with photovoltaics. This increases the driving range and all of that is provided with 100 percent renewable energy.”
“We not only want to develop the technology, but also demonstrate that trucks can use onboard PV to meet over five percent of their energy demand,” added Christoph Kutter, project head at Fraunhofer ISE.
“Calculations show that four to six thousand kilometers additional driving range per year are possible. Vehicle-integrated PV (VIPV) is worthwhile for manufacturers and operators of solar electric commercial vehicles.”