A solar-powered trailer to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase battery life

Power efficiency

In recent years, the topic of using energy sources and reducing the consumption of fossil fuels has become increasingly prominent in the public discourse on environmental protection. The transport sector, which is responsible for about a quarter of the total CO2 emissions in Europe (1), is at the forefront when it comes to finding effective solutions that can significantly lower emissions, analysing multiple avenues and technologies to test their potential. Renewable energies play a key role in this transition, with solar having long piqued the curiosity and interest of designers and manufacturers. The topic of VIPV (Vehicle-Integrated Photovoltaics) has been the subject of study and analysis for years, with the benefits it brings being reflected in cutting-edge applications such as the solar-powered trailer.

This innovative solution for semi trailer trucks harnesses the sun’s energy to power on-board systems, reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase battery life. Let’s take a closer look at how it works and what advantages it can offer.

Reducing Fossil Fuel Consumption and Emissions

One of the advantages of the solar-powered trailer is the reduction of fossil fuel consumption. Traditionally, diesel engines provide the energy needed to power electric systems on long journeys, leading to considerable fuel consumption and high greenhouse gas emissions. With the integration of solar panels on the roof but also on the sides of the trailer, it is possible to produce clean energy that will power the electrical systems on board, thus reducing the load on the alternator and consequently the dependence on fossil fuels, with less environmental impact. In its report on the state of the art and expected benefits of PV powered vehicles (2), the International Energy Agency reports simulations showing that a photovoltaic system installed on the roof of a trailer can lead to savings of more than 5% per year in diesel and prevent 6000 kilograms in CO2 emissions per annum per truck-trailer combination.

Increased Battery Life

Another important advantage of the solar-powered trailer is increased battery life. Batteries on semi trailer trucks are essential for powering lighting systems, refrigeration and other electrical devices during periods when the main engine is switched off. However, batteries can often discharge quickly, requiring frequent charging that can reduce their lifespan. Solar energy allows for a constant charge, avoids voltage fluctuations and deep discharges whilst increasing battery life and reducing the need for frequent replacement. These factors are also highlighted in the Confidence Report on Solar for Trucks (3) produced by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) in 2018, where the numerous battery manufacturers and experts interviewed to produce the report confirm that battery life can be doubled thanks to photovoltaics. 

Maintaining a proper state of charge can thus extend the life of liftgate batteries or the refrigeration system for refrigerated trailers and can even reduce sudden stoppages and roadside assistance calls caused by dead batteries.

Sustainability and Economic Savings

In addition to the environmental benefits, which are of paramount importance today, solar-powered trailers also offer significant cost savings. 

In this sense, the direct and indirect factors contributing are multiple, if indeed a reduction in fuel consumption – especially in a historical context that witnesses significant price fluctuations – is more easily linked to the idea of savings, with it being less obvious to make this association in relation to other aspects of solar on trailers. 

Batteries are the most expensive component of the electrical system and being able to spread replacement costs over a longer period of time and keep maintenance costs down is a significant economic benefit. A single roadside assistance call to restart or replace a battery can cost up to $600, with the fleets surveyed by NACFE reporting an average of one call per year per vehicle. Being able to decrease (if not eliminate) this cost thanks to solar panels is a benefit that alone can drastically reduce ROI. If we consider that the lithium batteries that are fitted in refrigerated trailers today can cost up to 40,000 euro each, it is clear that using photovoltaics to keep them in good condition for longer and extend their lifespan can only be an advantage.


The solar-powered trailer represents an ecological and efficient innovation in the transport sector. Reduced fossil fuel consumption, increased battery life, economic benefits and versatility of use make it an attractive choice for companies wishing to adopt sustainable solutions and improve their operations. With the continued development of solar technologies and the increasing focus on energy efficiency, solar-powered trailers are sure to play a significant role in building a more sustainable future.

This is just a quick overview of the benefits and functioning of solar technology as applied to road transport. We go into further detail in our e-book containing materials, studies and data on the ROI of applying solar panels to vehicles.

Download the PDF simply by clicking below to receive your free copy.


Flexible Solar Panels for trucks and vehicles.

The most advanced technology to save money while becoming more efficient.


  1. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20190313STO31218/co2-emissions-from-cars-facts-and-figures-infographics
  2. https://iea-pvps.org/key-topics/state-of-the-art-and-expected-benefits-of-pv-powered-vehicles/
  3. https://nacfe.org/research/trailer-general/#solar-panels-trailer

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