Are solar powered trailers the next new thing?

Having experienced an unusually hot summer in Europe this year, it is only natural to consider how trailers might benefit from solar power. Such a consideration is timely because there have been several striking developments in the world of trailers and solar power.

Reefers and solar

Thermo King, the transport temperature control provider, recently launched an addition to its ThermoLite solar panel range. They designed this new 110w model to supply a sustainable power management solution for reefer units while cutting fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. (source: Fleet Transport)

Even in low light, the solar panels collect energy to keep the reefer unit’s battery fully charged and take away the need to use the engine for recharging. Thermo King claims that these new panels will reduce fuel consumption by up to 23% and CO2 emissions by 560kg when compared to reefer units operating without the ThermoLite solar panels. You can also link the unit to telematics and manage the refrigeration and other functions remotely. (source: Thermo King)


Shell Lubricants and the AirFlow Truck Company have collaborated under the Starship Initiative to develop a hyper-fuel efficient US Class 8 semi-truck, Starship, which they designed to “explore the future of what’s possible in truck design, fuel economy savings and CO2 reduction”. This next-generation truck has a radical custom aerodynamic design. It features significant numbers of solar panels. There is a 5,000-watt solar array which covers the entire roof of its trailer, measuring 25 metres long by 2.6 metres wide. The solar panels charge and store power for normal electrical components. (source: Shell)

In May 2018, a laden Starship semi-truck drove 3,700 km (2,300 miles) from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida to test its energy efficiency. Shell and the AirFlow Truck Company make impressive claims, reporting that the Starship truck demonstrated a 248% improvement in freight tonne efficiency on the trip.(source: Shell)

Solar powered electric trucks?

At the futuristic end of the “trailer and solar” related spectrum is a concept discussed by Rick Mihelic of Mihelic Vehicle Consulting in Freightwaveswho advocates turning trailers into electric truck charging units. His vision is to have the roofs of large warehouses covered with solar panels. The energy they generate could then be transferred to batteries integrated into trailers sitting in the yard. This way, a truck will have an energy source when connected to a fully-charged trailer.

“If most of the energy power is [stored] in the trailer, you could talk about extending the range,” he said. “The tractor [truck] drops that trailer and picks up another trailer that is now fully-charged and goes to drop that at a regional outlet”, where it collects another fully-charged trailer and so on.

Mihelic says much innovation is still required to turn this vision into reality. Innovation needs to occur in technologies such as zero-emissions vehicles, fuel cells, batteries, regulatory changes such as weight and size limits and automatic data mining. One also needs to consider the extra costs of adding new technologies.

TIP and solar power

TIP Trailer Services celebrates its 50thanniversary this year. Our commitment to industry innovation and new technology has been a major part of our success. TIP’s Research & Development teams are researching the impacts of technologies such as solar power on trailers and look forward to delivering their benefits to our customers.

TIP reefer rental solutions and solar power

Solar power is often associated with reefers or refrigerated containers. TIP offers flexible reefer or refrigerated container rental and leasing solutions at competitive rates to support your fleet. In addition to the standard reefer which keeps the container load at a single temperature, we can provide reefers that are suited to very specific customer needs including dual compartment reefers, double stock reefers, multi-temp & double stock reefers, flower-specific reefers or reefers with meat rails.

Keeping reefers roadworthy

We can maintain and repair your reefers and refrigerated containers. We are vendor neutral but have all the expertise and specialised workshop tools, diagnostic equipment and technology to help you keep your equipment in top condition to maximise their time on the road.

Other TIP trailer rental options

In addition to reefers, we offer trailers on a rental basis in all forms including flatbeds, curtainsiders, box trailers, tankers, tipping powder, non-tipping, containers, moving/walking floor, waste and chemical to fill gaps in your fleet, as well as light commercial vehicles and trucks. This is an extremely useful option for fleet managers needing to fulfil a last-minute customer delivery request.

For fleet managers looking for a longer-term trailer solution, we can provide trailers on a lease basis.

Trust us with your trailer maintenance and repair

TIP Trailer Services includes trailer maintenance and repair management services as a part of our trailer rental contracts. Whilst your rental trailer is being serviced, we supply you with alternatives to ensure that your business continues to operate as usual. For further information on flexible trailer rental with TIP Trailer Services rental fleet, please this form.