A unique hybrid truck with a solar panel covered trailer is now being tested on public roads in Sweden.
Transport company Ernsts Express AB will be putting the Scania truck to the test out in the field. “The whole industry is facing big challenges in general, and with fuel in particular. Electrification from renewable electricity is the future. It makes this project even greater for the green haulage company to be a part of,” said Lars Evertsson, CEO at Ernsts Express.
The truck features a 560 horsepower plug-in hybrid engine. On the 18-metre trailer, an area of 100 square meters is covered by thin, lightweight and flexible solar panels with a maximum efficiency of 13.2 kWp (kilowatt peak). They are estimated to deliver 8000 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually when operated in Sweden. The batteries have a total capacity of 300 kWh, with 100 kWh on the truck and 200 kWh on the trailer.
This unique hybrid test vehicle is the result of a two-year research project involving Scania, Uppsala University, Eksjö Maskin & Truck, Midsummer, Ernsts Express, and Dalakraft.
“Scania’s purpose is to drive the shift towards a sustainable transport system. Never before have solar panels been used to generate energy to a truck’s powertrain like we do in this collaboration,” said Stas Krupenia, head of the research office at Scania.
“This natural energy source can significantly decrease emissions in the transport sector. It is great to be at the forefront in the development of the next generation’s trucks.”
The truck is being used to examine the generated solar energy, and how much carbon emissions can be reduced via the use of solar panels.
Researchers have developed new lightweight solar panels designed for trucks. They are also studying how trucks can interact with the power grid.
“This is an exciting project where academia and industry together try to decrease the climate impact from truck transports. The results from this unique truck will be very interesting,” said Erik Johansson, project manager and professor of physical chemistry at Uppsala University.
The truck’s 18-metre trailer is almost completely covered in solar panels, which Scania says is the equivalent of a house equipped with similarly powerful panels. The solar energy gives the hybrid truck a driving range of up to 5000 kilometres annually in Sweden. But in countries like Spain, with more daylight hours, Scania believes the vehicle can double the amount of solar energy and thus increase its driving range.
The project team is also researching an alternative type of solar panel in the form of new, lightweight tandem solar cells, that are based on a combination of Midsummer’s solar cells and new perovskite solar cells. These are believed to be more efficient in transforming sunlight into electricity. Researchers believe that these solar panels have the potential to double the solar power energy generated, compared to the current solar panels.
“Our research towards efficient and light solar cells will be truly important, especially when it comes to applying them in future trucks,” Johansson added.
Erik Olsson, head of corporate development at Midsummer spoke of the use of thin film solar panels in trucks.
“Our solar panels are excellent for applications that make commercial vehicles sustainable. We see great potential to decrease the emissions from heavy vehicles with electrification. Electricity generated by solar panels will save fuel and carbon emissions. We want to be a partner to count on, and that is enabled by this ground-breaking project,” Olsson explained.
Daniel Sandh, CEO at Eksjö Maskin & Truck added, “The fuel is presently an increasing cost for haulage companies, and everything we can contribute with to lower this cost will benefit the society long-term.”
One part of the project was to evaluate the charging’s impact on the electricity grid and whether it would be possible to sell the surplus.
“We thought we would be able to buy the truck’s surplus, unfortunately that is not possible at the moment. But the solar cells becoming part of the truck’s energy supply is fantastic. As an electricity trading company, we see that all renewable energy sources are needed to cope with the energy transition,” explained Sverker Ericsson, electrical trade engineer at Dalakraft.
Scania has also developed a video about the project: