German VIPV specialist Sono Motors has signed an agreement with French refrigerated vehicle supplier Chereau to develop refrigerated vehicles powered by an integrated solar array. The two companies will build and test a prototype vehicle, and begin to evaluate mass production. Sono estimates that the concept could save around 3,400 liters of fuel and avoid 9 tonnes of CO2 emissions per vehicle, per year.

Sono Motors will apply its vehicle-integrated PV solutions to the commercial transport sector, as part of a new partnership with Chereau, a France-based producer of refrigerated vehicles for transport of food, medicines and other deep frozen products.

The partnership will see the two companies collaborate to produce a prototype refrigerated truck integrated with 58.9m² of solar modules, amounting to 9.8 kW of generation capacity. The trailer is expected to be on the show at a transport trade show later this year, and will then undergo further testing to evaluate its suitability for a high-volume production vehicle.

“With this partnership, we are entering a new market for our solar technology,” Lars Löhle, product group lead at Sono Motors told pv magazine. “Our goal is to bring solar on every vehicle and we therefore offer a technology solution that is suitable for high volume series production. According to the innovative technology, energy savings of up to 80% compared to diesel can be achieved.”

In conventional refrigerated vehicles, cooling is powered either by a diesel generator separate from the truck engine, or an additional battery. By instead powering this through an integrated PV array, Sono Motors estimates that it can save 3,400 liters of fuel and avoid 9 tonnes of CO2 emissions per vehicle, per year. Sono has further calculated that production emissions for the solar integrated trailer amount to approximately 6.5 tons, which could be offset after less than one year.

After its unveiling in September, the truck will undergo a trial for several months in use by a Chereau customer in France. One of the goals of this trial is to verify Sono’s calculations regarding the energy yield and emissions reduction potential.

Charge control

The system will be fitted with Sono Motors’ solar charge controller, which optimizes individual module energy yields to help the installation deal with shading. And the company has developed a manufacturing process specifically tailored to integration into the surface of the trailer, differing from the processes used in its Sion passenger vehicle, where more focus is required on integrating solar into the vehicle’s curved surfaces.

“The solar integration solutions provided by Sono Motors are the perfect fit for our trailers. We are pleased to be able to work with Sono Motors to create the future prototype that will be part of our demo fleet of sustainable reefer trailers,” said Damien Destremau, CEO at The Reefer Group and Chereau. “This is a big step towards making commercial mobility more sustainable and reducing emissions.”

Finally, Sono Motors notes that it expects strongly growing demand for refrigerated transport in the coming years, with increasing demand for deep frozen good, fast food and medicines. Increasing fuel costs and growing restrictions/penalties being applied to CO2 emissions make the case for vehicles like this even more compelling.