Electrical power, as most South Africans know, is not something you should take for granted. It can be turned off with the flick of a switch, leaving you with melted ice cream and warm beer at a time when you really need both of those things. So you might be a little concerned that we’re increasingly starting to use electricity to power cars. So’s Scania, the Swedish truck-maker. So much so that they’re testing whether putting solar cells on its trailers will help make plug-in hybrid trucks more efficient. (Spoiler: it will.)
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They’re not looking for massive gains though, bro. The Swedes don’t have the same issues with electricity we do here at home. Scania’s plan, which is a research effort in conjunction with a company called Ernst Express, is just to make its hybrid trucks less fuel-hungry.
They plan to do this by covering an 18-wheeler trailer, on its top and sides, with 140 square metres of solar cells. The test trailer, in Sweden, is expected to generate 14,000 kWh of power over the course of a year. Which translates to a five to ten percent improvement in fuel efficiency in Sweden, a country that… doesn’t have a massive amount of sunlight. Long story short, this plan won’t completely power the truck but it’ll be more effective in countries with more sunlight — like Spain or, say, South Africa? It might also lead to less strain on power grids
And that’s because Scania also plans to see whether its truck can feed power back into the grid when the batteries are full and the truck is parked — overnight or on weekends. Might as well make use of that electricity if you’re a rolling power station. Nissan’s Leaf is also capable of this, but it doesn’t generate its own power.
We can see a few obvious challenges to this experiment right off — a solar-panel trailer is bound to be more expensive, it’ll be a nightmare to repair if the truck is flipped or is wrecked, and reflective panels in a very sunny climate…? Yeah, that’s going to blind more than a few other drivers. But it’s a decent way to get more mileage without burning more dead dinosaurs. We’re keen to see how the experiment pans out. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a solar panel you can cover with Coca-Cola branding out of it.