Swedish heavy-vehicle manufacturer Scania AB on Thursday unveiled a solar-powered truck project, where a trailer equipped with solar cells is attached to a hybrid-electric vehicle.
The finished prototype has been handed over to long-term Scania haulage customer and partner Ernst Express, which will test it on Swedish roads.
The initiative was conceived over three years ago. The project started in earnest in January 2021 following an initial six-month pre-study in late 2019 and early 2020 and the receipt of funding from the Swedish state innovation agency Vinnova. Uppsala University was in charge of the solar cell development.
Project manager Eric Falkgrim said that while the overall task may seem simple, it required a lot of new hardware and software systemisation and development.
“The plug-in hybrid truck/tractor with all the ‘regular systems’ (100 kWh energy storage) is connected to the trailer with additional batteries, which have 200 kWh energy storage and act as a ‘power bank’ for the truck, and they’re connected to the solar panel box that charges the power bank,” he explained.
Falkgrim says that this project is mainly a research endeavour aimed at evaluating the feasibility of the concept but is optimistic about the long-term prospects.
“The data we already have says that solar panels do contribute significantly to the energy you’re getting for the truck, and it’s one part of the overall puzzle when it comes to decarbonised transport,” he says.
The project, which is supported by Swedish energy company Dalakraft, could also have benefits for the energy industry. “If you scale up the solution you could have thousands of vehicles connected to the grid, so this could have implications for buying and selling electricity to and from the grid,” Falkgrim said.