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Here Comes the (Value of the) Sun

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) is showing confidence in the sun as a practical power source for trucks and trailers.

“Fleets should seriously consider investing in solar systems,” the council said this week in the launch of its Solar Confidence Report, the latest in a series of studies that explore fuel-saving technologies and practices.

“The application of solar panels on trailers with extra electrical loads like telematics, refrigeration units, and liftgates make sense as a means of improving battery life and reducing the need for roadside assistance. This is especially true if the trailer spends long periods without being attached to a tractor. And the opportunity to extend the run time of battery HVAC systems makes installing solar for battery HVAC support a good solution,” it said.

Today’s solar panels are flexible, thin, easily installed, and reliable, the report found. Although, potential fuel savings were seen to be “a very small part” of the overall benefit.

The panel installations should be sized for their intended application, NACFE stresses. “For example, the size of a solar panel to support a battery HVAC system on a tractor might be limited by the area available on the tractor fairing, whereas a solar panel to support a refrigeration unit only needs to be large enough to provide a small trickle charge to the refrigeration unit starting battery.”

Still, it’s not yet known if the paybacks will match claims by manufacturers.

“We have verified that the benefits fall in several categories with the biggest benefits being from extending battery life and avoiding emergency roadside assistance for dead batteries. Many fleet users are happy with the investment they made and intend to continue to use solar panels in the future,” the council concludes.

The report comes with a payback calculator to help to evaluate whether a system makes sense.

For more on the use of solar power in Canada’s trucking environment, view the full article here.

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