CleanTechnica readers are familiar with Sono Motors, the German company behind the Sion, an electric car powered by solar panels embedded in its roof, hood, and sides. Laurin Hahn founded the company in 2016 together with Jona Christians and Navina Pernsteiner in a garage where they developed their first prototype by hand. They wanted to see whether their vision of a Solar Electric Vehicle could come true.
“We envision a world without fossil fuel,” says Hahn. “That’s why we want to make electric cars available to the mass markets. Fossil fuels are a limited and unsustainable resource. That is why we want to use the energy of the sun to power cars as well as other commercial vehicles. With our solar technology, we want to help the logistics industry become greener and meet CO2-targets while operating as efficiently as possible.”
Sono is involved with much more than making a solar-powered car. Its Vehicle Integrated Photovoltaics division is headed by Mathieu Baudrit, who joined the company in 2018. “Our mission is to develop ViPV solutions to make mobility greener, to save energy, reduce fossil fuels (and protect the environment),” he said. “Our vision is that every vehicle consuming energy and having access to sunlight should have PV integrated on it. It is at the end the cleanest and cheapest source of energy available for years according to the International Energy Agency.”
We don’t think much about it, but the refrigerated trucks and trailers (called reefers in the industry) that transport perishables to market are cooled by diesel powered air conditioning units that run constantly, spewing plenty of nasty emissions in their wake. Sono Motors has signed a contract with the Reefer Group to supply a solar-powered refrigerated trailer to its Chereau subsidiary.
The trailer, covered in solar panels, will be used to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of integrating solar panels into this high volume transportation segment. The testing process is designed to validate the company’s energy and fuel saving estimates, which are based on internal calculations that include weather and system efficiency assumptions.
The solar panels will provide the cooling unit with up to 9.8 kW of electricity, which will save between 3,400 and 8,400 liters of fuel per year and keep about 9 tons of carbon dioxide per trailer out of the atmosphere compared to a diesel-powered cooling unit. “This partnership is a huge step for Sono Motors, since we open up a completely new industry for our highly flexible and proprietary Sono Solar technology,” says Laurin Hahn.
“We offer a lightweight and adaptable platform that is ideal for refrigerated trailers and allows customers in the transportation industry to cut costs and emissions throughout their fleet. We are very pleased for the opportunity to collaborate with such a respected industry partner like Chereau and to be able to work with them towards creating a more sustainable future. We look forward to all the opportunities that this partnership can create.”
The high efficiency, automotive grade solar modules cover an area of 58.9 square meters and will provide up to 9.8 kW of peak energy. The solar power will be used to charge the battery that operates the cooling unit. This potentially could result in approximately 3,400 liters of fuel savings and reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 9.0 tonnes per year per vehicle compared to trailers with diesel powered cooling units.
To meet the climate crisis, we need to electrify everything. Sono Motors is working to do that for one part of the transportation sector that currently gets little attention — refrigeration. The company is also intent on bringing its Vehicle Integrated Photovoltaics system to as wide a variety of cargo vehicles as possible.
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