Big rig builder Scania puts solar panels on truck trailers to save fuel


Scania is one of the largest big rig makers in Europe and has announced a research partnership that will develop a trailer covered with solar panels designed to power a plug-in hybrid truck. The automaker says initial tests have found a potential for fuel savings of 5 to 10 percent in Sweden. In areas that receive more sun, such as Spain, the fuel savings could be twice that amount.

The truck used in the research partnership will be used in daily transport assignments by the Swedish freight hauler Ernst Express. The same company collaborated with Scania in trials of the world’s first electric road and overhead catenary lines. Ernst Express will operate a truck with an 18-meter long solar cell clad trailer with the total area along the sides and roof of 140 square meters.
The solar panels are expected to generate 14,000 kWh of electricity annually when used in Sweden. The project also examines if the trailer can feed electricity back into the electrical grid when batteries are fully charged, and the truck is parked. The pre-study looked at mid-Sweden operations and found in simulations a potential fuel savings of 5 to 10 percent. Sweden has enough sunlight from spring to autumn to generate electricity, and while the sun is weak, except during summer, there are more hours of sunlight.
Scania says that southern Spain has 80 percent more hours of sunlight than Sweden. The project is being publicly funded through the Swedish government innovation agency Vinnova. Midsummer manufactures the solar panels for the project, and Uppsala University is conducting advanced research and more efficient solar cells.
It’s not clear when tests will move into the real world or when solar cell clad trailers might become commonplace. There is also no mention of how much battery power the plug-in hybrid big rig would feature.

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