It always happens. You wait ages for a story about electric buses, and then three come along, all at once.

On the heels of Ulster-based WightBus taking orders to build 193 amp-guzzling friendly urban elephants, and of bus builder Alexander Dennis plugging itself into the ‘electric mass people-shifter’ concept, comes news from Germany – where else? – of buses with solar PV panels retrofitted to their roofs.

Munich-based innovator Sono Motors told the world this morning that it has launched a kit, enabling conventional diesel-driven omnibuses to be retrofitted with rooftop solar PV.

Taking power load off idling diesel propulsion, and assisting the vehicles’ electrical systems such as lights and heating, are among benefits promised by Sono’s bodyshop work-around.

Based on thin-film – i.e. bendy – backing plates, the electricity-generating kits enable air-preserving, power-saving solar modules to be fitted to best-selling varieties of bus chassis. Prominent among omnipresent omnibuses are 12-metre workhorses commonly seen on European and British streets, such as Mercedes-Benz’s Citaro and MAN’s Lion City.

Sono says a “typical” 1.4 kWp installation using eight square metres of a vehicle’s roof – single-deckers included – can save up to 1,500 litres of fossil fuel per bus every year, plus 4 tonnes of carbon, depending on mileage covered.

In a “Drang nach Osten” – if not Austin – , the Bavarian firm has signed a distribution deal with an Austrian partner company to timetable deliveries in Mittel Europa and beyond.

Sono’s product lead Lars Löhle vowed: “We intend to enter into a cooperation with ÖPNV-Service to provide fast installation and maintenance for our national and international customers while meeting our quality standards.”

The transition of public transportation towards a zero-emission future will still take a few years” added his Sono Motors colleague, the firm’s co-founder Laurin Hahn.

“The Solar Bus Kit is a solution that enables an immediate response to new emission regulations, like the Euro 7 standard, and increasing energy prices”, Hahn clucked.

“To meet the needs of the industry and help our bus operators to cut costs and emissions throughout their fleets, we were looking for a partner who can support us with implementing our Solar Bus Kit” .

Nothing is new under the sun of sun-enhanced people-shifting.

Prestige British car brand Aston Martin experimented along similar lines with thin-film PV retailer Hanergy Solar Power UK, before the firm’s Chinese parent collapsed in 2015, torpedoed by financial scandal arising from its bosses’ weeks of fraudulently manipulating its share price on Shanghai’s capital markets.   [Interest declared: this author once had the misfortune to work for Hanergy Solar Power UK Ltd].

Bus operators may need coaching (sic) in the benefits of roof-top solar electricity.

But refrigeration for big trucks shifting perishable goods looks a stone-cold certainty as a  profitable application of vehicle-integrated solar panels.

As Britain today gives its cold shoulder to its disgraced head of government who famously once hid in an industrial fridge to escape scrutiny, the example offers itself of Sunswap, a Wimbledon-based clean-tech firm offering solar-charged batteries to chill truck containers.

In March, The Energyst reported how logistics firm DFDS was trialling Sunswap’s solar-powered lorries for refrigerated distribution. At that time co-founder and CEO Michael Lowe was welcoming fresh investment from CGF and Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital, to support the south-west London technologists in their mission to decarbonise Britain’s the cold chain.

Another story about solar-enhanced commercial vehicles will be along in a minute.

“Hold very tight, please”.


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