While electric vehicles have grown exponentially in popularity in the past decade, a fully solar-powered EV has yet to make it to market. However, the technology for both solar panels and electric cars continues to improve, and one trucking company hopes to put both of those to use on a fleet of hybrid solar-powered semi-trucks.
Swedish trucking company Scania is working on a semi-truck covered in solar panels — with help from researchers at Uppsala University, it has already developed a prototype that is being tested on Swedish roads.
“We’re exploring all sorts of options and looking at solar-powered trucks was one of those options,” Eric Falkgrim, technology leader for vehicle design at Scania, told Euronews. “And for me personally, it was more thinking about the battery electric trucks that we have right now. Ten to 15 years ago they were too expensive, but with increased energy density and lower costs, all of a sudden it became interesting. And so the thought was similar with solar power — that if the efficiency increases and the costs keep decreasing, at some point it’ll be worth it. And that’s what we’re trying to explore.”
The benefits of combining solar panels with trucking are clear. Compared to passenger vehicles, trucks have a much larger surface area on which to attach the panels. They’re also outdoors and on the road for long periods of time. Further, trucks are among the most inefficient, heavily polluting types of vehicles, making them the ideal candidate to transition toward clean energy.
There are some drawbacks, however. As with all solar cars, the positioning of the panels will often be suboptimal compared to stationary panels that can be strategically oriented toward the sun. Semi-trucks also require massive amounts of fuel, meaning that, at present, a fully solar-powered semi is out of the question. Scania said that it hopes to create a solar-powered trailer that could cut emissions by 40%, but CleanTechnica’s commenters were uniformly dubious about that number.
“So this is about a 7% solution,” wrote one CleanTechnica commenter, referring to the percentage of a semi truck’s power that he had personally calculated could be derived from solar energy harvested atop the truck. “That said it may be worth doing, solar electricity is the cheapest electricity you can get. So 7% of your power comes from a very cheap source may make the scheme worth it.”
Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.