MAN Truck & Bus and Sono Motors have signed a letter of intent to investigate the technical and economic feasibility of integrating Sono's solar technology into MAN's eTGE electric transporter.

The companies said they would focus on three separate applications: the MAN eTGE panel van; the MAN eTGE combi, which has a powerful on-roof air conditioning system; and the MAN eTGE which has a refrigeration system.

The priority will be to either achieve additional range or use the acquired solar energy to power auxilliary elements such as an air conditioning system.

Similar technology launched by Deutsche Post DHL Group in September 2018 reportedly saw fuel consumption cut by 5%, prompting industry claims that it could be used on trucks operating in the UK. It has since been made available to third-parties to purchase.

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Commenting on the new deal, Sono Motors co-founder and chief executive Jona Christians said: "This is a great opportunity for Sono Motors to team up with a respected industry partner and to work together for a more sustainable future. Our Sono solar technology offers a lightweight and adaptable platform that is ideal for light commercial vehicles such as MAN's battery-powered eTGE. We look forward to all the opportunities that these two sustainable technologies can bring together."

Added Dennis Affeld, senior vice president & head of sales truck & van at MAN Truck & Bus: "We will pool our joint know-how and expertise to test various prototypes with vehicle-integrated photovoltaic (PV) technology. The aim is to find out how much energy can be gained from PV technology over the year. Using this insight, we can then assess whether the technology pays off for our customers and at the same time helps to protect the environment."

MAN describes the eTGE as its answer for urban and regional operations. It reportedly does not cause on-site emissions and is significantly quieter in operation than an internal combustion engine drive. Depending on the annual mileage, the company says the eTGE can be operated more economically than a comparable diesel TGE and pays for itself after about four years.

Sono solar technology offers a lightweight, robust and cost-effective solar solution that can adapt to a range of complex geometries thanks to its polymer-based design, MAN added.

Due to the larger surface area compared to passenger cars on vehicles such as trucks, vans or buses, the panels are particularly suitable for commercial applications like last-mile delivery, it said, but the technology is not intended to replace existing energy storage systems such as batteries or fuel cells. However, energy requirements and the number of charging intervals required can be reduced, thus extending the range.