Companies in the trucking and trailer industry are always trying to find new ways to save money – everything from changing aerodynamics to using 6×2 drive trains. Five years ago, Royal Jones – President and CEO of Mesilla Valley Transportation – installed solar panels on the cabs of his trucks to try to extend the operation time of electric auxiliary power units. He quickly ditched the effort because there was too much drag. However, he realized that with solar panels, the truck batteries were lasting a lot longer than normal.
Today, the aerodynamic problem has been solved by using thinner and more flexible panels. The Texas-based company now uses auxiliary solar power on several hundred of their trucks. It has resulted in increased driver satisfaction, longer battery and alternator life, and less engine idling. They are using the power of sunlight to improve driver comfort, improve up-time, reduce maintenance costs, and save money on fuel. And because the solar panels provide four to six more hours of cooling time, the APU lasts longer.
Return on Investment
Because it’s not an exact science, measuring the return on investment is difficult. It’s hard to determine the price of driver comfort and satisfaction. Nevertheless, solar panels help by allowing drivers to stop replacing eight batteries each year and keep their batteries charged in sub-zero weather. And by not needing to jump-start, the yearly savings can be at least $600 per truck.
A single solar panel mounted on the truck’s roof helps to extend the life of the battery to eight hours. By adding six solar panels with four deep-cycle batteries, it gives drivers a full, ten-hour night of noiseless sleep by charging the batteries for in-cab HVAC systems. However, drivers need deep-cycle batteries to restore reserve power in areas of rainy and overcast weather.
There is yet another application of solar panels for driver comfort. If a driver is going to be away from his truck for more than 24 hours, the standard policy is to empty the refrigerator and turn it off. By using solar panels, drivers don’t have to shut down their refrigerator, allowing them to keep healthy food readily available.
Solar Power on Trailers
Trucking companies are using solar panel technology for truck and trailer refrigeration, lift gate applications, HVAC for emergency vehicles, and safety lights. The panels can power any battery system, and can be mounted on either the trailer or the tractor.
By putting panels on trailers, truckers can keep batteries charged for pallet jack chargers, refrigeration units, lift gates, telematics, and more. For example, over long periods of time, solar panels allow telematics systems to monitor assets even when the trailer is untethered and the refrigeration is off.
In addition, if a truck’s battery goes dead, the GPS tracking will no longer work. And trailers with tracking systems have a tendency to drain the batteries within a few weeks. Battery life can be significantly extended by using solar panels. They also eliminate the need for jump-starts in the middle of the night.
Mickey Genuine Parts
We at Mickey constantly have our finger on the pulse of the trucking and transportation industry. We will do our best to continuously update our techniques, equipment, and services to stay in tune with the every-increasing and evolving industry. Contact Mickey today to see if there is something we can do for you to update your truck, van, trailer, etc.