Solar-powered reefer breakthrough to decarbonise road transport industry

A recently announced partnership details cooperation between two prominent manufacturers to test and deliver solar-powered refrigerated trailers.

Munich-based firm, Sono Motors, signed a purchase contract with The Reefer Group with the aim of building its first trailer vehicle with Reefer Group subsidiary, CHEREAU, for extensive testing to further evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of integrating a custom solar solution to a high volume series vehicle.

The solar integration, according to Sono Motors, will provide the trailer’s cooling unit with an additional 9.8 kW peak, offering possible fuel savings of approximately 3,400 litres (up to 8,475 under peak conditions), while providing the potential to reduce local carbon emissions by approximately 9.0 tonnes per year per vehicle compared to trailers with diesel-powered cooling units.

“This partnership is a huge step for Sono Motors, since we open up a completely new industry for our highly flexible and proprietary Sono Solar technology,” said Sono Motors co-founder and CEO, Laurin Hahn.

“We offer a lightweight and adaptable platform that is ideal for refrigerated trailers and allows customers in the transportation industry to cut costs and emissions throughout their fleet.

“We are very pleased for the opportunity to collaborate with such a respected industry partner like CHEREAU and to be able to work with them towards creating a more sustainable future.

“We look forward to all the opportunities that this partnership can create.”

The CEO of The Reefer Group and CHEREAU, Damien Destremau, said the solar integration solutions provided by Sono Motors are a perfect fit.

“We are pleased to be able to work with Sono Motors to create the future prototype that will be part of our demo fleet of sustainable reefer trailers,” he said. “This is a big step towards making commercial mobility more sustainable and reducing emissions.”

On show at IAA Transportation 2022 later this year, Sono Motors will be equipping the roof and sides of an existing CHEREAU trailer with 54 solar modules using the VaPV (vehicle applied photovoltaic) process that was developed specifically for the use in cargo-box vehicles like the CHEREAU refrigerated semi-trailer.

The high efficiency, automotive-grade solar modules cover an area of 58.9 square metres and will provide up to 9.8 kW peak of energy in total at peak performance. The solar power will be used to operate the cooling unit through charging the battery. This potentially results in approximately 3,400 litres of fuel savings and provides the potential to reduce the local CO2 emissions by approximately 9.0 tonnes per year per vehicle, compared to trailers with diesel powered cooling units.

The solar trailers ‘CO2 backpack’, i.e., emissions caused in production, amounts to a one-off of approximately 6.5 tonnes of CO2 and could be offset after a short runtime of just less than one year.

The planned premiere of the trailer at the IAA Transportation 2022 in Hanover will be followed by intensive tests during a several month-long field trial by a CHEREAU customer in France. Part of the testing process is validating the numbers for energy earnings and fuel savings that are based on internal calculations including weather and system efficiency assumptions.

In other news, last year, CHEREAU launched a test vehicle at Solutrans which featured solar panels and an energy recovering axle.

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