Trucks with on-board solar power become a thing


Whenever I write about solar vehicles, I get the same from people in comments and on social media, like:

“It’s a stupid gadget that will add a mile a day.”

“What a joke. It can’t even run the air conditioning.

While these claims have been true for decades, solar technology and the efficiency of electric vehicles have slowly reduced the problem. Now vehicles like the “never charge” Aptera and Sono Sion prove that solar power can power at least a good deal of people’s driving – but can it work for bigger vehicles?

The answer is not a harsh “no” like it used to be. The number of “yes” is increasing, even for people who do not want to drive a “clown truck”.

Sono and ARI light delivery truck

The Sono / ARI 458 box truck with solar system. Image provided by Sono Motors.

Earlier this month, Sono Motors worked with ARI to add solar power to a 458 “Box Body” truck. While it’s not a full-size truck, or even a full-size truck, it’s still an incredibly useful little beast. In cities, airports, or just for the last mile of parcel delivery, the 458 Box Body can carry nearly 531 kg (1,200 pounds) and up to 2.8 cubic meters (about 100 cubic feet) of cargo. . It can go up to 80 km / h (around 50 MPH) and has a range of 75 to 300 miles on one charge.

At full throttle, the 458 Box Truck uses only 7.5kW of electrical power, but most trips will be done with much less power. So it really is an ideal platform for experimenting with solar energy.

Sono took the stock 458 Box Truck and added solar modules made with ultra-thin, chemically stressed front glass to deliver up to 450 watts of power at peak performance. Under normal conditions in Munich, they estimate that it will add 20 km of range per day without plugging in, and up to 45 km of range in more ideal conditions like in the southwest of the United States.

The Sono and ARI team are working to add solar power to the 458 Box Truck. Image provided by Sono Motors.

“Sono Solar – the B2B unit of Sono Motors – is a one stop shop for Vehicle Integrated Photovoltaics (ViPV) and our goal is to make every vehicle a solar vehicle. The Intersolar exhibition is the ideal platform to show our technology and our exclusive services and we are very happy to be able to present existing partnerships and prototypes like the electric transporter ARI ”, said Mathieu Baudrit, head of the Sono Solar group at Sono Motors.

Fraunhofer tests a bigger solar truck

When it comes to freight trucks, Justin Hammer was right. Size matters. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. In ‘Murica we need a big 9,000 pound truck just to go to the store and buy some kitty litter. Do not believe me ? Ask GM about the Hummer EV. Clown cars like the 458 Box Truck can come in handy at city parks and the recreation department to get around baseball diamonds, or at the airport to cram small meals on planes, but don’t expect to see them on the road.

When it comes to doing a real man’s job, we want to be like Rubber Duck in the 1978 movie. Convoy. “My dad always told me to be like a duck. Stay smooth on the surface and paddle like the devil below! “If we can’t push 80,000 lbs on the road while being stuffed with caffeine and modafinil (among others) while eating an echoing radio microphone and saying” Breaker one nine! ” on 27.185 MHz AM with an illegal 600 watt linear amplifier dimming the lights when you press the key, just not good enough.

I’m kidding on most of the above, of course. While the Hummer EV weighs 9,000 pounds and we really love our big vehicles, hardly anyone even knows what most of the last paragraph means. You just have to watch the YouTube video and hang around the truck stops a bit more to see if I make things up.

There are many reasonable and sane people who wouldn’t want to rule out the New Mexico State Police or the Illinois National Guard, and who want to transport goods for an honest living, really need to. a larger vehicle than the 458 Box Truck. Where is the solar panel for us “Rubber Ducks?” “

Image provided by Fraunhofer.

Fortunately, the industry is working hard to give even the biggest trucks juice from the giant thermonuclear fireball in the sky. Fraunhofer currently has an electric truck driving on German roads with 3,500 watts of solar power on the trailer. Of course, it’s not an 18-wheeler, but an 18-ton GVWR isn’t to be sneezed at either. The 3.5 kilowatts of power only cover 5 to 10% of the energy needs of the electric truck.

“By successfully commissioning our high-voltage photovoltaic system, we have achieved our goal of demonstrating the feasibility of vehicle-integrated photovoltaics for heavy-duty electric vehicles. The technical components integrated into the truck are performing as we expected, ”said Christoph Kutter, project manager at Fraunhofer ISE.

There is, however, a small security risk. To directly charge the truck’s traction battery, the panels are wired in series and deliver power from 3,500 watts to over 400 volts. In the event of an accident, it is a lot of juice to return to chance in front of the rescuers and the Good Samaritans. Fraunhofer thought ahead and installed an automatic disconnect that cuts off every solar panel in the entire system, reducing the voltage to safe levels.

Powering 5-10% of the vehicle’s needs from solar power might sound a bit silly, but Fraunhofer plans to run the truck carrying live loads for a year on German roads to collect data. By collecting data on how much solar energy ends up being generated, used and replaced, they can get a much better idea of ​​how to build better solar vehicles in the future as technology improves.

After all, solar panels are improving all the time, and eventually it will be possible to take over a significant portion of the truck’s energy. In addition, trucks in cities and trucks that spend a lot of time sitting during the day will benefit even more from this technology.

So fear not, Rubber Ducks. The power of the sun will soon be yours!

Featured image provided by Fraunhofer.

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