Refrigerated vans and photovoltaic technology for better mobility

Refrigerated trucks

In an era when environmental sustainability and energy efficiency have become global priorities, key sectors such as logistics and commercial mobility are exploring innovative solutions to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. In this context, attention is increasingly focusing on integrating advanced technologies into commercial vehicles, particularly refrigerated vans used to transport temperature-sensitive goods.

The advent of photovoltaic technology is opening up new prospects for bettering the energy efficiency of such vehicles, enabling greater range and a significant reduction in pollutant emissions.

Key advantages of solar panels for refrigerated vans

Refrigerated vans are used for medium-short journeys, with load capacities to the extent of a few tens of cubic meters. The refrigeration units are powered by the vehicle engine or by connection to the mains. Especially in the transport of frozen food, for very short-journey deliveries to restaurants, coffee shops and bathing establishments in the summer season, the frequent opening and closing of the unloading hatches requires the engine to be kept running, resulting in considerable consumption and pollution.

The integration of solar power into refrigerated vans offers a number of key benefits able to revolutionize the commercial mobility and logistics industry. The integration of solar power into refrigerated vans

✓ Lower fuel consumption

The energy produced by the panels can be stored in a battery pack that will power the refrigeration system, but potentially also other auxiliary services such as interior lighting and additional electronic devices in the vehicle. A properly sized system will be able to amply compensate for the consumption of the refrigeration unit by allowing the vehicle’s engine to be switched off between deliveries, thus greatly reducing diesel consumption.

✓ Longer-lasting batteries

Solar panels play a key role in the proper maintenance of batteries. Indeed, their presence prevents deep discharges and voltage surges that are major causes of premature replacement. This considerably reduces maintenance costs for what is the most expensive component of the electrical system, even doubling the useful life of batteries, as the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) reminds us in its “Confidence Report on Solar for Trucks” (1)

✓ Less pollution

Being able to power the refrigeration unit of the refrigerated van thanks to the energy produced by on-board photovoltaics means being able to turn off the vehicle’s engine during stops while still providing the energy needed to maintain the appropriate and legally mandated temperatures. This results in reduced emissions and even less noise pollution in urban areas. 

✓ Less wear on the alternator

With the panels contributing to battery charge maintenance, the vehicle alternator is subjected to less stress, resulting in a longer overall life of the components. 

The future is in solar

The integration of solar panels onto refrigerated vans is not just a technological innovation, but a significant step towards a more sustainable future. By reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiency, and offering economic benefits, this solution represents a real opportunity to better the logistics and transportation industry. 

In agreement is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which has identified commercial trucks, trailers, and Transportation Refrigeration Units (TRUs) as the best candidates for integrating solar power to reduce fuel consumption or increase power in electric vehicles. The DOE came to this conclusion after analyzing responses received following a request issued last year asking about the technical and commercial challenges and opportunities that exist for vehicle-integrated photovoltaic systems.

Based on the data collected, the DOE identified trucks and commercial trailers as the most important market for VIPVs (Vehicle-Integrated Photovoltaics) (2).

As the world moves toward greater environmental awareness, this convergence of technology and sustainability has the potential to become an essential element in the design of future fleets.

To learn more about this topic, you can find some case studies on the application of photovoltaic panels on refrigerated trucks and vans in our e-book.

Click below to have the PDF emailed direct to your inbox at no cost. 


Flexible photovoltaic panels: Examples of application

State-of-the-art technology applied to road transport and other vehicles.


  1. North American Council for Freight Efficiency (2018). Confidence Report: Solar for Trucks and Trailers (https://nacfe.org/research/trailer-general/#solar-panels-trailer. p. 36)
  2. Noël Fletcher/Transport Topics. DOE Says Trucks, Transport Refrigeration Units Ideal for Solar Panel Energy (March 3, 2023) (https://www.ttnews.com/articles/doe-says-trucks-transport-refrigeration-units-ideal-solar-panel-energy)

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