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Why don’t they put solar panels on top of 18-wheelers?

von Rothbart

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BMW offered it as an option on E38. But the solar panels only powered the ventilation system when cars were parked and locked to suck out the hot air during the hottest part of the day. It wasn't a very popular option and discontinued in later years models.

If BMW did it several years ago and with advance in solar technology and popluarity in the hybrid category, I don't see why not. But it's going to be expensive and unless there're some kind of government subsidies in form of tax credit it's not going to pay off.
 

Dakota rube

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The tax credit concept to which von Rothbart refers is, unfortunately, a sign of what is wrong with the alternative energy movement in the US. A great deal of the "success" of wind and solar energy has experienced in the marketplace to date is dependent almost solely on tax credits.

A manufacturing plant here in my city is one of the largest manufacturers of the towers on which turbines are placed in the wind farms sprouting up across the country. As long as the alternative energy tax credits are in place, the manufacturing company remains at full production and employment. As soon as the tax credits expire, the demand for towers evaporates and the plant is all but shuttered. A turbine blade manufacturer in a nearby community suffers identically from this boom or bust cycle.

I don't question the dire necessity of developing and adopting alternative energy sources. The addict-like reliance of the industry on these tax credits however, is disconcerting, and perhaps indicates not only the lack of true acceptance of wind and/or solar's promise, but also (sadly) a weakness in the claimed efficacy of these alternatives.
 

imageWIS

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I am not stating that solar panels would replace the ICE, far from it, but if they could power even the electrical systems on the 18-wheeler, they would help it get better gas mileage and it would be better for the environment.

Jon.
 

DNW

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It all comes down to $$$. If the truck manufacturers figure out that for the lifetime of that truck, the ROI of installing solar panels is acceptable, they'd do it. Their sales pitch is further helped by rising fuel prices. I'd imagine that isn't happening now because the cost of installing these things are still prohibitive. In addition, their customers might not understand the long run benefit (to their own pocketbooks) of solar panels. Lastly, there's a dilemma in whether you should put them on top of the trailers. The independent truckers usually just own the rigs, and haul the trailers as contracted. I'm not sure how it works with the transportation companies. So, two things that need to happen to get industry-wide adoption of solar panels: (1) their cost of installation and maintenance decrease significantly, and/or (2) fuel prices continue to increase.

As for the tax credits, they sometimes need to happen to spur technological development because the market cannot price it correctly. For environmental problems, market pricing mechanisms don't always exist. Where they do exist, such as pollution rights, they are still in not very well developed until recently. This problem is part of the phenomenon known as "tragedy of the commons" in Economics.
 

imageWIS

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Originally Posted by chorse123
Even assuming it was cost-efficient, the cab is too small for (a significant number of) panels, and the container is moved.

There's a much better solution: trains.


Huh? How long is an 18-wheeler? I mean, on top of the entire cab there should be enough room for enough panels to AT LEAST power the electrical systems and the A/C.

Jon.
 

Dakota rube

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Jon, do you mean "cab" as the tractor? Or are you referring to the roof of the trailer being pulled by said tractor?
 

j

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Originally Posted by imageWIS
Huh? How long is an 18-wheeler? I mean, on top of the entire cab there should be enough room for enough panels to AT LEAST power the electrical systems and the A/C.

Jon.

The cab is just the front part. The trailer usually doesn't belong to the trucker.

They could make panels with magnetic bases and stick them on every trailer they pick up, but that would require facilities, training, storage, etc. For most operations, it would probably be inefficient enough not to justify the cost.

The cost of the development, manufacture, marketing, facilities, maintenance, training, etc. that would have to go into the project most likely doesn't beat the cost of the minimal extra fuel to run the electrics or whatever the power can be used for.
 

DNW

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Originally Posted by Aaron
I have one problem with this whole idea, even though I really like it: hail.

A.


The solution: insurance.
 

VKK3450

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Originally Posted by DarkNWorn
The solution: insurance.

Which adds more to the total cost

Although I would presume that outdoor solar panels are already designed to withstand the elements. I mean... they are "outdoor" solar panels right?

I have another... What if we harnessed the kinetic energy of truckers hopped up on No-Doze and Meth and used that to power the entire rig?? (Not intended to offend, just playing off of a stereotype and a 20/20 story)

K
 

whoopee

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I've been researching alternative energy recently. One of the problems with solar panels is inefficiency. What would fit on the top of a truck woulnd't power much at all and would cost far too muhc money and energy to build and install.
 

j

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A better way to conserve energy might be to retrofit a similar system to the charging brake system on hybrid cars - when the truck is engine braking a lot of energy is simply lost that could be converted into stored power in batteries, etc.
 

rdawson808

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Originally Posted by DarkNWorn
As for the tax credits, they sometimes need to happen to spur technological development because the market cannot price it correctly. For environmental problems, market pricing mechanisms don't always exist. Where they do exist, such as pollution rights, they are still in not very well developed until recently. This problem is part of the phenomenon known as "tragedy of the commons" in Economics.

It's actually an externatility problem. There is a cost imposed on society that is not compensated by the perpetrators (sp?). Hence the marginal social cost is actually higher than the marginal private cost (the difference being the amount of the externality). Since people only respond to the costs they face, we see prices too low and quantities (of driving semi-trucks, say) too high.

Pollution allowance markets are fairly well advanced by this point. They are unfortunately completely inappropriate for the pollution coming from cars.

bob
 

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