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TRAILAR - Putting Solar to Work in the Transportation Industry

The British startup TRAILAR offers solar mat kits for commercial vehicles and aims to bring down fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by making transportation greener.

The solar mats don’t power the truck’s engine but rather accessory functions such as the tail-lift, air conditioning and so on, which would usually be powered by the vehicle’s battery. According to TRAILAR, the savings on fuel will permit customers to get a financial return on investment in less than 2 years, and that doesn’t include saved maintenance cost and longer life for the batteries.

TRAILAR’s systems are powered by SOURIAU’s UTS Series connectors, a robust and IP69K waterproof plastic connector specially designed for harsh environments.

Solar mats on the trailer power tail-lift, air conditioning, and other functions to reduce the load on the truck engine’s battery and thus save fuel. (Image source: SOURIAU)

Aaron Thomas, a co-founder of TRAILAR, explains why the UTS Series connectors were their ideal choice:

This junction box highlights the use of Souriau connectors and their use in TRAILAR solar mats. (Image source: SOURIAU)

“Originally we were looking for a high-end, quality, premium connector that best supported our needs. We made contact with a couple of companies, however when we made contact with Mark Richardson [Field Sales Engineer, SOURIAU UK], with his professionalism, product knowledge and most of all his friendly, helpful attitude, we knew from the first contact that a working relationship was going to be a good one.

The reasons why we chose the UTS connector and why it best suited our needs are multiple. We needed:

a. A robust connector that could be used in the transportation industry, that could stand up and be subjected to all types of weather conditions and vibrations.

b. A connector with a high IP rating of 68/69 to complement our enclosure.

c. A connector series that could sustain and be subjected to various current ranges from 3 to 15 amp.

d. A connector series that had reeled crimps so we could automate the process of the wire termination, which in turn would speed up production.

As part of our ongoing development, we are excited to have several future products. So the relationship we now have and the support SOURIAU has given us over the last 10 months means we will carry on working together.”

The TRAILAR Story

Born out of the DHL innovation program, and sponsored by the German transportation company, TRAILAR was inspired by the solar farms appearing in the countryside and Aaron and Denny came up with the idea of using solar energy to power fridge units on trucks.

The biggest challenge was developing the right type of solar panels for transportation, as traditional static ones are much too heavy and fragile. TRAILAR’s flexible solar mats adapt perfectly to the conditions of road transportation, including vibration and shock as well as harsh weather conditions. In the space of 1 year, the company went from 3 to 30 employees and has supplied solar kits to customers in the UK, Germany, Thailand, South Africa, and Singapore, with the Americas in their sights for 2020.

They are also looking to expand their product line to equip other types of vehicles such as buses and refuse collection trucks, as well as enrich their business model by providing data collected on the vehicles including geolocation and energy consumption.

The Technology

TRAILAR co-founders holding one of the company's solar mats. (Image source: SOURIAU)

TRAILAR has patented highly engineered flexible solar mat technology to meet the requirements of heavy-duty transportation:

  • 18% Efficiency
  • 2 kg per m² Lightweight
  • 3 mm thin Aerodynamic
  • Excellent Shade Performance
  • Shatterproof & Durable
  • CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Selenide)

They have also designed the TRAILAR Smart Charge Controller to manage the power system connected to the mats:

  • Designed Specifically for Transport
  • Outstanding Conversion Efficiency
  • Electrical Management System
  • Real-time Data Display
  • GPS Tracking
  • IP Rated Casing

With just a two year history, TRAILAR is a great example of how technology start-ups can have an immediate impact on their industry. It shows that innovation does not necessarily require the development of ground-breaking technology but sometimes comes down to applying existing technologies to new applications.

From an engineering perspective, it is important to remember that thinking about connectors from the early stages in your design is key as it can save a significant amount of trouble.

About this author

Image of Jeremy Welburn

Jeremy Welburn is Digital Marketing Manager at SOURIAU-SUNBANK Connection Technologies, and regularly collaborates with the company’s engineers and technicians to deliver interesting content on the company’s interconnect solutions as well as the innovative, harsh environment applications that they are used in.

More posts by Jeremy Welburn