Scania is working at a project that aims at revolutionizing the road transport: a solar-powered truck, whose electric propulsion is generated by solar cells positioned on the trailer connected with the vehicle.
Eric Falkgrim, Technology Leader of the Research and Innovation Department of Scania and Project Manager, explained the project. “The prototype was delivered to a historical customer and partner of Scania Ernst Express, which will test it under real operational conditions on Swedish roads. When we started thinking of that over three years ago, our starting concept were lithium-ion batteries used in electric battery trucks. In the period when Scania worked with this technology, we could assess that batteries have become lighter, cheaper and denser in energy”.
A first preliminary study that lasted six months and was carried out from the end of 2019 to the beginning of 2020, revealed to the team that exploring and applying the technology of solar cells could make sense. So, once obtained the funding by the Swedish State Agency for innovation, the project started in January 2021 with the development of solar cells by the University of Uppsala.
“We knew what we wanted to do already at the beginning: positioning some solar panels on a truck and connecting it with the electric system. However, it was a bit crazy idea because its implementation implies an intense activity of systematization and the development of hardware and software to make the energy transfer and the failure management safe”.
“The hybrid truck/tractor is connected with the trailer by additional batteries, with an energy storage corresponding to 200 kWh and they act as ‘power bank’ for the truck and they are connected with the box of the solar panel that charges the power bank. Solar cells are not made to move in the city inside a vehicle. Therefore, we had to face safety problems connected with the installation of solar panels on a vehicle”.
“The data we already have at disposal say that solar panels significantly contribute in the energy attained with the truck, and it is a part of the overall puzzle when the decarbonized transport is the issue. The first thing we have to discover is “does it make sense?”. The answer? Yes, it is valid enough to operate on the scale we are assessing now”.