CV Focus episode 10 – Aaron Thomas

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Arguably, there’s been more development in vehicles and technology over the last five years, than the previous 15.

This week Matt Eisenegger talks with one of those genuinely at the cutting edge: Aaron Thomas, Co-Founder and MD of TRAILAR, which uses solar panels on the roofs of vehicles to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

He explains how, along with Co-Founder Denny Hulme, the idea was developed as part of a DHL management development program, to fulfil a brief of ideas to ‘seriously disrupt the UK transport industry’.

Having got their idea – putting solar panels on a trailer to power ancillary equipment – past first base, they then found a supplier of flexible solar mats and developed a prototype.

Having presented to the DHL UK board, who loved the idea, the project rolled on with further vehicles fitted as proof of concept. Then, testing at Millbrook proved the CO2 and fuel savings.

From here, he explains, the project went into DHL’s ‘accelerator programme’ and, rather than keeping it to itself, DHL provided funding for Oldham & Rugby-based TRAILAR to be set up as a limited company in 2018.

Aaron explains how the fit-and-forget system works and the many hidden advantages, which now has DHL, Royal Mail, Ryder and others among its customers.

It provides power for all ancillary equipment on the vehicle including refrigeration, tail-lifts, air conditioning and even takes better care of the vehicle battery..

And, despite the firm’s name, it is fitted to rigids, vans, waste collection vehicles and works on coaches and buses as well where it is especially beneficial due to passenger vehicles’ higher power requirements.

He explains how the system saves up to 2,800 litres of diesel and 8T of CO2, , per year, and how its telematics report those savings to customers.

The conversation concludes with TRAILAR’s current work with Ocado on electric vehicles, and the potential for alternative fuel vehicles.

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