Solar power supports battery of 18-tonne truck

October 25, 2021 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Solar power supports battery of 18-tonne truck
Solar power as a supplementary energy source has been a reality for some time - but so far only for passenger cars and smaller vehicles. Fraunhofer has now equipped a full-grown 18-tonne truck with a solar system on the roof. It supplies up to 3.5 kW of energy - enough to extend the truck's range by 5 to 10%.

Together with industrial partners and the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has developed a system of solar modules and power electronics for integration in commercial vehicles for the first time in the "Lade-PV" project. The vehicle has now been approved for road traffic - the Fraunhofer researchers see this as a milestone towards more climate-friendly road freight transport.

"With the successful commissioning of our high-voltage photovoltaic system, we have achieved our goal of demonstrating the feasibility of vehicle-integrated photovoltaics for heavy-duty e-commercial vehicles," explains Christoph Kutter, project manager at Fraunhofer ISE. The particularly light and robust PV module prototypes developed by the institute were built by Sunset Energietechnik GmbH. TBV Kühlfahrzeuge GmbH then integrated the modules into the box body of a Framo electric truck, which serves as the first demonstrator vehicle.

To ensure that the electricity yields are high but the material and cabling costs are low, the solar modules were connected in series in the roof. The resulting voltages of up to 400 volts could pose a safety risk in the event of an accident. To prevent this risk, Fraunhofer ISE has developed a disconnection device. It is located in the junction box of each PV module and is able to disconnect the power connection decentrally within milliseconds and without additional communication channels in the event of an accident. Only harmless extra-low voltages are then present in the entire system.

Just like the PV modules, the power electronics were also adapted to the requirements of the commercial vehicle. The research consortium therefore developed a DC power controller that communicates with the vehicle control system via CAN bus and is integrated into the vehicle's safety concept. The photovoltaic power from the roof is fed directly into the on-board network of the commercial vehicle.

The truck with the photovoltaic system is now


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