In a world that is increasingly ecologically devastated and in which Technology has opened new energy routes, it seems clear that fossil fuels will end up disappearing in search of other less polluting options. In fact, the future goes through hybrid vehicles, and later all electric vehicles, which is why alternative energy sources are being sought to recharge these engines.
And what about one that will not be exhausted in hundreds of thousands of years, it is free and anyone can have it?
Solar panels in vehicles
Solar energy is there, and every day it is wasted. The problem is the way to take advantage of it technologically speaking. Automakers have been toying with solar panels on cars for decades. In sunny locations, in ultra-light and aerodynamic cars covered by them, solar cells can provide propulsion for long periods of time.
But in production cars that have safety, comfort and style considerations, there are limits to what solar panels can do. Let’s take an example of this: The sunroof of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid car is capable of providing enough power to the engine to run it for 3.2 kilometers after a few hours of sun exposure. Yes, it is limited, very limited, but what if instead of just one small solar panel, you could have practically an entire solar body?
A Solar Truck
That’s the idea behind the semi-trailer being tested by Scania, the European truck maker owned by the Volkswagen Group. The 17.9 meter long trailer has solar panels along both sides and the roof, adding up to a total of 459 square meters of solar panels covering almost the entire exterior surface of the trailer.
The trailer is being tested with Swedish trucking company Ernst Express, which will use it with a Scania plug-in hybrid semi-trailer. And while Scania did not give an estimate of how many kilometers of electric range can be added with the trailer, it does estimate an improvement in fuel economy of around 5-10%, with a total power generation of 14,000 kWh over the course of 1 year.
More autonomy if it is in Spain
It may not sound like much, but this is the estimate for Sweden, a country that is far to the north of Europe and therefore usually receives a lower percentage of hours of sunshine than other countries in the world. Scania estimates that if the truck and trailer were used in a sunny country like Spain, the improvement could double given the number of hours of sunshine – and intense depending on the declines further south – we have per year.
Scania and the companies it partners with for solar panel testing and development say the trailer could even provide power not just to the vehicle, but to a particular area’s electrical grid when it and the truck are not in use. This means that these trailers could become portable power generators for areas that could be experiencing power outages due to storms and other natural disasters.
The possibilities of this technology are enormous, it only remains to be seen whether they will be fully exploited in the years to come.