Solar power for trailers: how to harness the sun to keep refrigerated units running

Solar-powered transportation

In a historical context in which electrification is taking a leading role within the transport sector, solar power for trailers hits the road as the ideal solution for vehicle fleets dedicated to supply chain management. 

The benefits of adopting photovoltaics are manifold – from reduced dependence on fossil fuels with a consequent reduction in CO₂ emissions, to the extension of battery life. 

How does solar power for trailers work? 

In a solar-powered trailer, photovoltaic panels installed on its surfaces convert sunlight into electrical energy that is stored in dedicated batteries and used to power the electronic systems on board. 

The output voltage of the panels, however, must be adjusted according to the battery to which they are to be connected, a task performed by the charge regulator that, duly sized, will provide the correct voltage at the battery input point.

The electricity generated by the system thus composed could potentially be utilised to extend the autonomy of an electric motor or, as is already feasible now, to meet the energy needs of auxiliary services. It can also supply other important services such as cooling systems in refrigerated trailers, increasing their range, reducing diesel consumption and consequently CO₂ emissions.

Although solar output is influenced by a number of factors such as sunlight intensity, irradiation duration, temperature and shading, advances in technology have led to cells with such high efficiency that systems built with them achieve significant power even in small spaces. This renders them advantageous not only for the reasons listed above and because they are more cost-effective than in the past but also because of the benefits associated with the batteries, whose lifecycles are lengthened due to no longer suffering from deep discharges or voltage fluctuations, which reduces maintenance costs and spreads replacement costs over a longer period of time.

What are the best solar panels for trailers? 

For mobility in general and for semi trailer trucks in particular, we need a product that can make the most of the available space. It must be light, high-performance and durable, whilst respecting the vehicle’s aerodynamics by minimising the additional load without exceeding the maximum height permitted by law due to its thickness.  

Solbian meets these requirements with a flexible solar panel with a low weight and a thickness of just 2 mm, available in different sizes and wattages to best suit all vehicles and every operating need. The Solbianflex technology avails of various types of monocrystalline silicon cells (the most efficient technology on the market) and – thanks to the company’s extensive experience in the nautical sector – is able to withstand the most intense mechanical stresses and the most extreme environmental conditions.

The example of Tesco 

When we talk about solar power for trailers, refrigerated transport is the ideal application, given the high fuel consumption of the cooling systems. Thus, it is not surprising that one of the companies with the largest distribution network in the whole of the UK, Tesco (1), has also decided to go down this route, starting with the installation on a few vehicles, with the aim of powering the refrigeration unit thanks to solar panels on the trailer.

A project in its early stages, but one that the company, through its board, has already declared of fundamental importance in the strategy aimed at becoming "net zero" by 2035. 

Tesco’s adoption of solar-powered trailers for refrigerated transport is an important piece in the larger mosaic of actions that the transport sector is enacting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet decarbonisation targets. Furthermore, the introduction of solar-powered trailers into a fleet not only reduces CO₂ emissions but can also lead to significant cost savings in the long run due to reduced fuel and battery maintenance costs.

The success of pilot projects like Tesco’s could encourage other companies to follow suit, contributing to the popularity of low-carbon technologies in the transport sector.

To access the main solar trailer studies or view similar applications, download the guide with our case studies!


Flexible photovoltaic panels: Examples of application

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


  1. https://www.coolingpost.com/uk-news/tesco-trials-solar-powered-refrigerated-trailers/

Keep up with the lates news!


La fonte di calore affidabile