Solar Solutions for Transportation Part 3: Battery Maintenance

Posted on 07/07/2020 at 12:00 by Seth Hansen


Solar Solutions For Transportation Part 3 Battery Maintenance Title Graphic

In our previous posts, we have highlighted the role that solar can play in transporting refrigerated goods and powering telematics solutions that help track shipments and report important vehicle information. 


This final post in our series will highlight the widespread benefits solar can have on batteries, keeping them healthier longer and saving money. 


Commercial vehicles and trailers have a surprising number of batteries to power auxiliary systems including APU (Auxiliary Power Units) battery banks, the truck battery itself, and liftgate batteries. 


APU batteries often consist of four 100Ah 12V batteries used to store energy to be used when the driver turns the engine off. APU’s will power the truck’s air conditioning, electric blankets, small fridges, etc. With growing restrictions on when, and how long a vehicle can idle, APU’s are getting more and more use. What happens when they run out of power? 


Without any other options, if your APU turns off, the motor turns on, leading to idling, which wastes diesel.


The truck battery is charged by the alternator most of the time, but what about when the vehicle is off? As we’ve discussed before, transportation companies run on efficiency, and a vehicle not starting isn’t an option. 


Liftgate batteries are a vital piece of a transportation vehicle. They assist in loading and unloading cargo quickly. Traditionally, liftgate batteries are charged via an umbilical cord that goes from the trailer to the truck. If your liftgate was heavily used on a given day, the battery could run out, rendering it useless. Drivers would then have to plug the battery into power at the station.


To see the difference a solar panel can make on your batteries lifetime, look at the graph below. 


Solar panels continuously charge batteries keeping them at a higher state of charge and preventing deep depth of discharge, which reduces battery longevity.


Lead-acid depth of discharge graphic



Batteries are a vital part of the transportation logistics process, and when they are depleted, they can cause dreaded downtime and delayed deliveries. 


Solar panels can help mitigate these issues and keep the vehicle’s batteries healthy and working for years. 


Solar panels mounted on the truck can pass energy to the APU, keeping it charged while driving, so vehicles don’t need to idle in the evening, consuming diesel, annoying other drivers, and even violating transportation emission laws. 


A small panel installed on the vehicle itself can trickle charge the battery while moving, but especially when not moving. This means no more service calls to replace batteries and a more agile fleet ready to go at a moment’s notice. 


A strategically placed solar panel on the trailer can charge a liftgate when moving or not moving to ensure that even on the busiest days, your equipment will work as intended, keeping you on schedule.


Solar solutions for the transportation industry are nothing new. A quick Google search will lead to an overwhelming number of stock solutions. In a market this competitive honesty and accuracy matter. 


We challenge you to put your solution to the test and verify the numbers that companies tout. All too often, you’ll find dramatically over-promised performance leaving you overpaying for an underperforming solution.


With all these options, and potential pitfalls, how do you decide which is right for you? At PowerFilm, our focus is on solving your specific needs whatever they may be and backing our solutions up with data (see the graph below).


Transportation solar panel comparison graph


If your needs can be satisfied by an existing product, fantastic! We offer three standard Soltronix crystalline solar panels (24W, 45W, and 100W) to charge 12V systems. If you have a battery application that isn’t 12V, we will work with you to develop an appropriate panel to give you the correct voltage and meet your power needs. We have been manufacturing custom solar solutions for over 30 years and can design a product specifically for you. 


We aren’t stuck suggesting a handful of stock options. We can consult, support, and design a completely custom product. 


Another crucial piece of a solar solution is the charge controller that regulates the power from the solar panel to the battery.


Too often, poorly designed PWM charge controllers are used in stock solutions resulting in less power to your battery than advertised. 


We avoid these issues by offering an onboard high-efficiency DC-DC converter and a proprietary power point tracking charge controller (MPPT), leading to more power generated and transferred into your battery.  


The transportation industry is all about efficiency. 


Efficiency leads to satisfied customers, increased business, and happy shareholders. 


To ensure your APUs are always operational, your trucks start the first time, and liftgates are ready for action, adopt a solar solution to keep your batteries healthy and prepared to go every time. 


Do you have a specific question or need help with part of your transportation system?


We would love to hear from you. 


Contact us, and let’s get started on your solution today.


Categories: Transportation