As a rule, Henry Albert is more likely to see possibility than detriment.
So when the chance arose to explore the use of solar to heat and cool his rig, he was onboard immediately. He already was using a version of Freightliner’s battery-based no idle/idle elimination HVAC systems for sleeper trucks, and a visit with a solar solution provider helped him see additional opportunities.
“It seemed like it would be the perfect accessory piece to bring more capability out of that system,” he said. And he was right.
Albert, who has been driving a truck since 1983, is owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, N.C. He’s a member of Freightliner’s Team Run Smart, a community of trucking professionals offering wisdom and insight, and regularly posts a blog. Not long ago, that blog detailed his experiences with solar—as well as the company that made it possible: eNow.
It was several years back that Albert met eNow founder Jeffrey Flath at an expo in Ohio. Albert had just begun using Freightliner’s ParkSmart system, but knew it would be limited by the amount of power the battery could sustain. Flath told him how eNow could be used to keep batteries charged for lift gates, HVAC systems and other demands, and he was intrigued. He’d been a fan of environmental efforts since his grandmother got him hooked on Ranger Rick nature magazine as a child. But as a business owner, he now knows that being green isn’t enough on its own; these efforts also must be profitable.
“It’s easy to stay green until you get hungry enough,” he said with a laugh. His concern for the environment has led him to take part in Run on Less, a cross-country roadshow of Class 8 trucks exploring different methods of fuel efficiency. In 2017, he participates with three solar panels on the top of his 2008 Utility 4000 DX trailer; control equipment in the storage area of his new 2018 Freightliner Cascadia; and a combined solar output of 930 watts.
“Henry is just the kind of partner eNow enjoys working with,” Flath said. “He’s excited about exploring new opportunities as well as making a positive environmental difference. Trickle-charging solutions might generate 500 watts per day, but we joined Henry in wanting to see a stronger charge. With all of the fuel-saving endeavors Henry is involved in, we can’t wait to hear about his experiences at Run on Less.”
Albert, whose goal is to use various technologies to attain more than nine miles per gallon, said so far, he’s been impressed by the way the solar panels have worked. He details his results on an August 2017 blog. Long story short, the panels present a battery voltage of about 12.6 volts after 10 hours of overnight HVAC use, and that voltage continues to rise with increased sun. He’s also been able to keep his truck refrigerator on during time off, and he expects his overall battery life will be extended, too.
Albert has been pleased enough with the results that he’s been talking to other drivers about the possibilities. A number have tried to tell him why solar won’t work rather than considering the ways it will, he said. “But there will always be those who gloom and doom.”
While they’re at it, Albert will be busy enjoying the benefits of those panels. Today’s trucking industry has become as much about driver-centric comfort as moving freight, he said, so the technology and its advantages eventually will catch on. After all, there was time people though pneumatic tires and combustion engines were crazy, too.
“I would encourage people to try solar,” Albert said. “Naysayers of technology don’t get us anywhere.”