Semi Truck Solar Panel Solutions To Save Money And Fuel (All You Need to Know)

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In the United States, the trucking and transportation industry constitutes almost a third of the country’s energy consumption. The industry has been trying hard to find a middle ground between managing travel and commodity transportation demand and minimizing diesel fuel consumption and emissions.

Luckily, there may be a way to decrease the harmful effects of fuel combustion and emission, thanks to solar-powered semi-trucks and other electric vehicles like tractors and trailers.

For those new to the above term, truck solar panels are specially created solar panels affixed to the roof of your semi-truck to use solar energy from sunlight and generate electrical energy to power it with greener electricity.

In this guide, you’ll learn about the benefits, challenges, and installation of semi-truck solar panel solutions.

semi truck solar panel

How Much Solar Power Could A Solar Cell Generate On A Semi Truck?

Since semi-trucks have a larger surface area on the top, they can fit almost 4000 watts of solar cells, which could generate energy equal to 18,000-watt hours (18 kWh) per day on average in any city in the United States.

Solar panels on a truck and a trailer could power a variety of units on the vehicles, such as lift gates, electric power jacks, fleet management tools, trucking equipment, and refrigeration when applicable.

On the other hand, tractors lack a certain amount of space to fit 4000 watts of solar cells, but they can easily fit at least one 200-watt solar cell, producing 900 watt hours of electricity per day. 

Is the frame of your semi-truck too narrow to fit the number of solar panels you require? Learn how to stretch a semi-truck and the costs involved here.

solar panel for trucks

How Do You Install Solar Panels On A Truck Or A Trailer?

Although conventional solar panels weigh around 40 pounds, a few are specially designed to sit on the top of trucks and trailers, weighing only 11 pounds.

Moreover, they’re one-tenth the thickness of conventional solar panels. It’s safe to assume that you wouldn’t face any logistics problems, operational issues, or significant load on your panels because of their weight or design.

Also, these panels contain double-sided adhesive, so users can peel and stick them wherever they want them on the semi. But, you are recommended to identify strategic positions like the ones that receive the most sunlight or the ones closer to the truck’s power units.

While solar panel installation is pretty straightforward on a semi-truck since you connect them directly to the truck’s battery, trailers demand a bit more creativity. If you have a trailer attached to a tractor, you can install either an off-grid solar system or an on-grid solar system.

An off-grid system requires you to attach the panels to the trailer and power its auxiliary battery for tasks like trailer refrigeration in a reefer. In contrast, the on-grid system sanctions a connection to the tractor’s main battery. Do you often get confused between semi-trucks and tractor-trailers? Find out the differences between these large vehicles here.

Can Truck Solar Panels Withstand Harsh Weather Conditions?

Most truck solar panels are highly robust and immune to harsh weather conditions, like the Swedish winter, meaning the extreme cold in Sweden. In addition, panel manufacturing companies provide a long-term product warranty, reducing concern about their toughness.

Typically, semi-truck solar power panels are made of plastic, so they’re more resistant to breakage than glass panels. On top of that, unlike basic panels containing a string of connected solar cells, these panels have independent solar cells.

While damage to even a single solar cell in a typical panel would disrupt the energy generation of the whole system, truck solar panels don’t face this issue.

Solar Power for trucks

How Much Do Semi-Truck Solar Panels Cost?

Truck solar panels are usually more expensive than standard panels because of their unique design. The average cost of a solar cell, the smallest unit of a truck’s solar panel, falls between $1.50 to $2.00 per watt, depending on the usage. As a result, a 200-watt panel could cost you $400, while a 4000-watt panel will set you back $8000.

Fortunately, you don’t have to pay the total cost of the panels upfront. You can choose a payback period and finance your purchase in installments. The payback period can vary anywhere between one to four years.

Challenges Faced By The Trucking Industry While Implementing Solar-Powered Trucks

Many Americans have been opting for solar-powered, fully electric, or hybrid vehicles like trucks for several years. However, the growth and adoption of this concept have been disturbed due to the following challenges:

  • Relatively short battery life
  • Lack of charging facilities
  • Battery management and maintenance issues
  • Higher sticker prices
  • Unreliable torque and power performances

Benefits Of Solar-Powered Trucks

According to the study conducted by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), businesses and operation managers agreed that solar panels are a more sensible option and truck batteries aren’t suitable for the jobs due to new rules on idling and driver comfort.

The council has brought to light the following benefits of solar-powered trucks:

  1. Drop in Idling: The solar power system aids in reducing engine idling which results in fuel savings.
  2. No Jump-Starts: Solar-powered semi-trucks eliminate the requirement of roadside support for jump-starts by discarding the cost and discomfort of downtimes.
  3. Prolongated Battery Life: Solar cells reduce the load on the inherent battery of the semi-truck, thus increasing its battery life.
  4. Enhanced Driver Comfort: For example, if you have a refrigeration system on your semi-truck, you won’t have to make an effort to unload and reload them for resets.

Even though solar cells will provide your semi-truck with more power than it can consume, here’s how you can install a power inverter on your semi-truck for emergencies.

Needless to say, solar panels can save the environment by generating additional energy to provide power to the grid and refrigerators. Hence, they’re an investment instead of a financial burden.

Solar-Powered Trucks

Solar Panels Can Save You Money On Vehicle Fuel

Although implementing solar-powered solutions on your semi-truck includes higher upfront costs, truck operators must look at the bigger picture involving fuel cost savings and other above-mentioned benefits.

The fuel cost savings are enough to justify the initial fees and financing charges related to the same. Besides, truck companies simplify the repayment process for customers by providing flexible financing options with long payback periods.

Lastly, as the world fights to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the environment, it seems reasonable for drivers, business owners, and the transportation industry to take a step towards adopting sustainable and economical technology.


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