Using solar power to keep truck drivers cool

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The truck used in the trial of the i-Cool solar-powered cabin air conditioning unit

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A trio of companies has joined forces to develop a truck cabin air conditioning system that uses solar energy generated from panels on the trailer’s roof area for its power.

ICL Co Ltd, Mitsubishi Chemical Corp and Nippon Fruehauf Co Ltd co-developed the air conditioning system and the companies plan to conduct field tests of the i-Cool Solar system shortly. If the trials go well, we could see these units on highways in spring 2012.

The "i-Cool Solar” system stores electricity via the photovoltaic panels in special on-board batteries and uses the stored energy to power the cabin air conditioner when the truck is idle.

The system is made up of the i-Cool air conditioner from ICL, the installation mount for the PV panels from Nippon Fruehauf's, and the PV cell modules from Mitsubishi Chemical.

The companies claim the i-Cool Solar can save roughly 1.8 liters of light oil per hour when the truck is not moving and reduce fuel consumption by about 1 percent when the truck is moving (based on calculations made on a standard 10 ton truck).

This results are fuel savings of around 1,500 liters of light oil per year.

The i-Cool Solar unit also makes it possible to operate other equipment on trucks, such as moving up and down the tail gate. The air conditioning system can also reduce the over-discharge of the storage battery which increases its lifespan.

A smaller version for use in cars is also in development.

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