Sustainable America Blog

Our Latest Investment: eNow

eNow solar panels for trucks

eNow's solar panels help trucks power auxiliary functions without wasting fuel.

As you may know, Sustainable America is on a crusade to get American drivers to stop idling their cars. But did you know that a large segment of the driving population in the United States has to idle to do their jobs properly? The 1.7 million truckers in the U.S. travel 256 million highway miles per day delivering the cargo and goods that we all consume. Yet they must take federally mandated breaks to rest and sleep and need HVAC to keep them cool or warm in their cabs in all kinds of weather. What’s more, delivery trucks need to idle their engines to run their lift gates, refrigerated trucks need to idle to keep food from spoiling, and emergency vehicles need to run their flashing lights to keep us safe.

All told, this functional idling accounts for 8% of the diesel burned each year in the U.S. — that’s 2 billion gallons!

How can we reduce this diesel burn from functional idling? Fortunately, there are smart and dedicated entrepreneurs out there trying to solve this problem through technology. We’re proud to announce that we’ve just made an investment in one of these companies: eNow, Inc.. eNow is a Rhode Island-based clean technology company that integrates thin-film solar panels and auxiliary power management systems into long-haul and delivery trucks, reducing the need for those trucks to idle their engines to power auxiliary functions.

Joining to form the company in April 2011, eNow’s founders have backgrounds in solar energy, grid applications and flexible composites. They used their collective experience to create a system that stores solar power in an on-board battery system and distributes it to various truck and trailer functions, including HVAC.

Solving the truck-idling problem can have a significant impact on fuel consumption and emissions, but truckers don’t have to be environmentalists to want to reduce idling—it can also help them comply with strict new anti-idling laws and save them a lot of money, too. eNow’s testing of its solar product shows that it can save about 1 gallon of fuel per hour. For a trucker who’s on the road 300 days a year, savings could amount to as much 3,000 gallons and $13,000 worth of fuel per year.

“We knew that diesel fuel cost in the U.S. and around world was rising, and the cost of converting diesel engines into electricity was not efficient, so we concentrated on that,” says eNow president and CEO Jeffrey C. Flath, one of the company’s founders. At 22.2 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions for every gallon of diesel fuel burned, the product could also prevent about equal 66,600 lbs. of emissions per truck annually.

eNow Solar panels for trucks are 1/8 inch thickThe first challenge for eNow in developing the solar-powered auxiliary unit was creating a panel thin enough to fit on top of trucks they can drive under overpasses safely yet generate enough power to offset that of the engine and the alternator. They succeeded—eNow’s solar PV module is only 1/8-inch thick. The system is also reliable at night and in cloudy or rainy conditions.

After beta-testing the solar-powered auxiliary unit on three vehicles for two and a half years, eNow introduced the product to the market in March and has been setting up the infrastructure for dealers and installers. Flath says the fuel savings it generates means that customers can get a return on their investment in a year or less. “You’re saving fuel and operating costs because hours-on-engine increase maintenance costs,” he said. “Solar is basically a receptor that takes photons and turn them into electricity with no moving parts, so there is no maintenance required.”

In addition to powering no-idle HVAC and other systems—such as lighting or refrigeration—on medium and heavy-duty trucks, eNow’s solar-based product can also provide auxiliary power on commercial, transit and school buses. eNow has already had some early sales and is building a robust pipeline of potential clients spanning corporations, municipalities and auto parts companies. With 24 million trucks and 1.2 million buses on the road, the system has the potential to significantly reduce fuel use and emissions caused by idling.

“We are very excited about the investment Sustainable America has made in eNow,” said Flath. “Their commitment to sustainability around the globe was a big reason for working with them. We all believe, that better use and a reduction of our precious resources is critical for the survival of future generations.”

If you’ve been following Sustainable America, you know that we invest in early-stage businesses that have the potential to be profitable, and to effect positive change. We’re excited about eNow’s strong business potential, as well as its potential impact on our nation’s fuel system. Now that we’re invested in eNow, you can expect to see them from time to time at events that Sustainable America participates in. We continue to seek investments in innovative companies like eNow as part of our mission to create a broad impact on food and fuel here in the U.S.

Gray Peckham
Director of Investments

Help us support the sustainability of food and fuel systems in the United States. Donate to Sustainable America.

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.


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