Solar-Powered PHEV Truck Prototype Examines Solar Harvesting On the Road

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A research collaboration between Uppsala University, Eksjo Maskin & Truck, Midsummer, Ernsts Express, Dalakraft, and Scania is proofing how much solar energy can be captured by a moving semi-truck. New lightweight solar panels were fitted to a trailer and are being pulled by a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) tractor. The goal is to see how much fuel can be saved and how real-world usable this technology might be.

The truck and trailer are typical European cab-over designs with a long trailer. The truck is a 560 horsepower PHEV coupled to a 59-foot (18m) trailer that’s been fitted with 1,076 square feet (100 sq m) of solar panels. This is the equivalent of an average home’s rooftop. The lightweight, tandem solar cells are from Midsummer, using the company’s new perovskite cells. The setup should produce an estimated 8,000 kWh annually in Sweden where the truck is operating. Between the truck and trailer, a total of 300 kWh in capacity is on the truck.

Real-world, though preliminary, results so far show that the truck offers a prolonged annual driving range of up to 3,100 miles (5,000 km). That’s in the tangential and weather-related deprivation of solar energy that Sweden experiences. Countries with more overhead sun hours would see significantly more. The coalition estimates countries with more solar energy would see 6,200 miles or more from the setup.

The group did not give numbers such as the tare weight of the truck and trailer, the weight of the solar panels versus a standard cargo trailer, how reflective the panels might be to surrounding traffic, etc. Development of the solar panel truck-trailer combination is ongoing.