Solar panels have been installed on EVs like Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid, but they can’t boost mileage much because of the small surface area. A typical semi-truck trailer, on the other hand, has the same surface as a medium-sized house. With that in mind, Volkswagen owned truck manufacturer Scania is covering a trailer with 1,507 square feet of solar cells to power one of its hybrid semi-tractors. The goal is to see how much fuel could be saved and whether it could be connected to the grid when not in use (via Autoblog).
Full testing has yet to begin, but Scania and its partner Ernst Express figure that the panels could generate about 14,000 kWh over the course of a year. That would be enough for a 5-10 percent fuel savings in Sweden, or double that in warmer regions like Spain.
Road trials will need to bear that out, but no doubt Scania (in cooperation with the Swedish government) wants to better understand the economics, considering that the solar panels would cost well north of $50,000 if installed on a house — and no doubt a lot more on a moving truck. On the other side, big rigs can consume $70,000 worth of diesel per year and last for well over 10 years.
The potential savings aren’t just on the road, however. Scania wants to see if the trailers could provide power to the grid when they’re not in use. After all, each side of the trailer would have around the same surface area as a typical 6 kilowatt home installation.