Testing AI
in Smart Cities and

A new tool for assessing solar energy for vehicle integration and fleet management

VIPV AI generated bus b

Author: Ulrich Leopold

The EV market is growing quickly, but there are still problems such as high costs, limited driving range, a lack of charging stations, and the need for better power grid capacity. These challenges are especially significant for heavy-duty vehicles, which need large batteries and high-power charging to handle their demanding tasks. One promising solution is vehicle-integrated photovoltaics (VIPV) or vehicle-added photovoltaics (VAPV). This technology can provide part of the energy needed for movement or other electric systems, reducing emissions and operational costs.


The power of solar energy in transportation

A new market focusing on VAPV is emerging, particularly for heavy-duty vehicles. This technology helps extend the range and power systems like air conditioning and cooling in public transport buses or refrigerated transport units. For VAPV to be effective, it's important to measure how much energy the solar panels can generate when installed on vehicles. Unlike standard solar installations, these panels face complex shadowing effects from buildings and other surroundings as vehicles move through urban and rural areas at different times of the day.

Case study: implementing solar energy solutions in transport company

This pilot project involves developing a computational analysis tool with a public transport provider to evaluate the feasibility of VAPV for an entire bus fleet. The partner, TICE, operates a large fleet of buses in Luxembourg and wants to see if VAPV can reduce their fuel consumption and support future electric buses. The tool, integrated into a web-based platform, assesses the technical, economic, and environmental viability of using onboard solar panels. It uses global and local public transport schedules, simulates solar energy generation along the vehicle's routes, and provides detailed mapping and data analysis. The dashboard shows daily energy production and offers future techno-economic assessment statistics based on vehicle type and configuration.


Results and success

The results show that estimating the solar potential for vehicle fleets using GIS-based simulations in complex urban areas is highly advantageous. Using open data sources (like 3D city models, public transport schedules, and Copernicus services) combined with machine learning makes it possible to apply this technology across Europe. Tests in Luxembourg are very promising. The tool provides reliable technical analyses of VAPV energy production for transport and logistics fleets and helps optimize operations to reduce energy costs and CO2 emissions.