Scania testing solar-powered hybrid electric truck

Fossil fuel was a practical energy source for the internal combustion engine for a long time. But it is the product of dead plants and dinosaurs from millions of years ago and it will run out. Worse, it also generates by-products that pollute the atmosphere and cause climate change. So in recent times, efforts have been stepped up to use electric power for the vehicles we need to use.

Clean energy but…
Electricity is ‘clean’ energy but how it is produced can also be unclean. Hydro-electric and wind power are clean but much of the world’s electricity is generated by plants using coal – which is also a product of dead dinosaurs and plants from long ago and also generates its own pollution.

Scania solar-powered truck

Solar power – energy from sunshine – has long been considered ideal except that we still have not reached the stage of technological development where it can be obtained cheaply and in quantities that can be supplied to the millions of electric vehicles.

Nevertheless, research is ongoing and there are already prototype vehicles running on solar power. Most have strange shapes due to the need to maximise surface area to capture sunshine on the solar cells for conversion. There are some which look like conventional cars – like the one developed by students at the Eindhoven University of Technology in Holland.

Scania R-series solar-powered truck

Trailer covered with solar panels
Scania also has a project to use solar power to run large trucks. Its unique hybrid truck has a solar panel covered trailer and is the result of a 2-year research collaboration involving the Swedish manufacturer, Uppsala University, Eksjo Maskin & Truck, Midsummer, Ernsts Express, and Dalakraft.

Scania solar-powered truck

The truck, which is now being tested on public roads, is used in a research project to examine the generated solar energy, and how much carbon emissions decrease via the efficient and lightweight solar panels. The researchers also study how trucks can interact with the power grid, and bring forward new models for what will happen if several trucks like this one are connected to the power grid.

5,000 kms prolonged driving range annually
The truck’s 18-metre trailer is almost completely covered in solar panels, equivalent to a house equipped with similarly powerful panels. The solar energy gives the hybrid truck a prolonged driving range of up to 5.000 kms annually in Sweden. In countries like Spain, with more hours of sunshine, the vehicle would be able to double the amount of solar energy and thus driving range compared to Swedish conditions which have long and dark winter months.

Plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Scania truck.
Plug-in hybrid powertrain in the Scania truck.

The new tandem solar cells are based on a combination of Midsummer’s solar cells and new perovskite solar cells. These enable a higher efficiency in the transformation of sunlight to electricity. Such a solution could double the solar energy generation, compared to the current electric energy generated by the panels.

Scania solar-powered truck
The solar-powered truck (R-series) has a 560 bhp plug-in hybrid powertrain. On the 18-metre trailer, an area of 100 square metres is covered by thin, lightweight and flexible solar panels with a maximum efficiency of 13.2 kWp (kilowatt peak). They are estimated to deliver 8,000 kWh annually when operated in Sweden, greater in regions with more sunshine. The batteries have a total capacity of 300 kWh, with 100 kWh on the truck and 200 kWh on the trailer.

Using solar energy obviously decreases operational costs and local emissions significantly because of the truck’s self-produced energy. One part of the project also evaluates the charging’s impact on the electricity grid and whether it would be possible to sell the surplus.

“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. 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,” said Stas Krupenia, Head of the Research Office at Scania.

Scania R-series solar-powered truck

Dutch students drive car 1,000 kms in North Africa – on just sunshine

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