Trailer Talk

Thermo King Solar Panels Keep Batteries Charged

Got Power? ThermoLite panels make sure you do.

April 1, 2016

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Got power? You do with a solar panel, and it delivers many benefits and pays for itself quickly when applied to transport refrigeration units, said a Thermo King representative at a press briefing during the Mid-America Trucking Show.

A single 13- by 26-inch TK ThermoLite panel costs $400 to $500 installed on a reefer unit, and it begins paying back the investment by eliminating road calls due to a run-down battery, said Paul Kroes, product manager. Return on investment is under one year.

A fully charged battery results in many benefits: It reduces the time the engine must run, which in turn saves fuel and reduces wear and tear; it will restart the engine every time, eliminating road calls and protecting perishables loads; and is cuts downtime and allows drivers to continue traveling and earning money, enhancing satisfaction and the inclination to stay with their companies.

A single 26-watt panel placed atop the reefer unit is normally enough to support a TRU’s battery, but more demands can be handled by installing additional panels on the trailer’s roof.

A single 26-watt panel is the smallest one, but two larger panels are available to generate addiational wattage, hermo King says. Photo: Thermo King
A single 26-watt panel is the smallest one, but two larger panels are available to generate addiational wattage, hermo King says. Photo: Thermo King

Larger 36- and 100-watt panels are available, and can be linked to form a power source for a specific need. Depending on a trailer’s or truck body’s construction, panels are quickly attached with adhesive or bolted to the roof.

Applications for the panels on trailers and trucks are “endless,” Kroes said. They can charge batteries for lift gates, electric pallet jacks, power supplies for “hotel” loads in sleeper-cab tractors, and industrial equipment, among other things.  

A ThermoLite panel comes with a wiring harness for TK reefers, and will work with any make of reefer back into the 1990s, he said.

Thermo King has extensively tested ThermoLite panels against snow scrapers, used in northern climes to clean off trailer roofs, and ½-inch hail fired into panels at 170 mph, Kroes said. The panels survive because the top layer is virtually impervious to impacts and other abuse. If a hole is punched into a panel, voltage will flow around it and continue sending power to the battery.

They are installed and supported by Thermo King dealers and are warranted for four years. Most will last for at least 20 years before signs of degradation being appearing, he said. 

“We’ve sold thousands of them in the past year,” Kroes said. “I really think they’re the future in trucking.”


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Author Bio

Tom Berg

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Senior Contributing Editor

Journalist since 1965, truck writer and editor since 1978. CDL-qualified; conducts road tests on new heavy-, medium- and light-duty tractors and trucks. Specializes in vocational and hybrid vehicles.


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