What is the Best APU for Your Long-Haul Truck Sleeper Cabin? 

Recently, several states in the United States have implemented laws regarding truck idling engines. These laws aim to reduce emissions from large engines, especially in areas near residential areas, schools, and other sensitive locations. These regulations aim to reduce the adverse effects on the environment and health caused by the extended idling of commercial vehicles. This means deciding what battery to power your fleet’s sleeper cabins have become a much more crucial choice to keep fleet drivers and the law happy. 

battle born lithium batteries used for heavy duty trucking application

Sleeper Cabs and Driver Comfort

An extended sleeper cab, also known as a luxury sleeper cab or a custom sleeper cab, is a specialized type of truck cabin designed to provide long-haul truck drivers with enhanced living accommodations and amenities. While a standard sleeper cab typically offers basic sleeping quarters and minimal conveniences, an extended sleeper cab goes beyond that by incorporating features commonly found in recreational vehicles (RVs) or motorhomes.

Long-haul truck sleeper cabs, and extended sleeper cabs, offer a whole range of amenities from mini-fridges, TVs, sinks, and stovetops. Most standard sleeper cabs come with air conditioning and heat systems. The amount of power needed can change depending on what the sleeper cab has for amenities. 

For many truckers, these added luxuries can transform their driving experience into something more enjoyable and satisfying.

What is an APU?

A truck APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) is a compact, independent unit installed on heavy-duty trucks and commercial vehicles. It offers auxiliary power to the vehicle’s cabin or sleeper compartment when the main engine is not running. By providing climate control and electrical power and reducing fuel consumption, truck APUs enhance driver comfort, minimize emissions, and promote a quieter resting environment during breaks and rest periods. There are several different power options available on the market for APUs. 

Battle Born lithium batteries being installed in long hauler truck sleeper cabin

Different Types of APUs Available Today

These systems have gained popularity as alternatives to traditional idling. However, they each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

As the industry continues to embrace technological advancements, the availability of powerful and reliable APUs dedicated to hoteling marks a significant step forward. Truck drivers can now experience the benefits of extended power supply, reduced maintenance needs, and improved comfort, making their journeys more enjoyable and efficient.

Engine Auto Start/Stop:

One significant advantage of engine auto start/stop systems is their ability to automatically shut off the engine when certain conditions, such as battery voltage, engine temperature, or cab temperature, are met. This feature helps conserve fuel and reduce emissions, as the engine only runs when necessary. The automatic restart of the engine performs various functions. It can recharge the batteries, ensuring a reliable power source for essentials. Additionally, it can warm the engine during cold temps and cool/heat the cab for the driver’s comfort. 

On the flip side, during extreme weather systems, such as summer or winter, the truck may be constantly idling to maintain optimal cab temperature. As highlighted above, continuous idling leads to increased fuel consumption and cost. With these systems, there are higher maintenance intervals required. Due to the high number of engine hours accumulated by the automatic start/stop feature, these systems may require more frequent maintenance than traditional idling practices. Lastly, to avoid the higher maintenance costs and potential component failures associated with engine hours, some fleets will opt to trade in auto-start trucks every 2-3 years. Frequent turnover can result in additional expenses for fleet owners. 

Diesel APUs: 

Diesel APUs provide essential functions such as cooling and heating for semi-truck sleeper cabins. A significant advantage of these systems is their ability to eliminate the need for truck idling. By running independently, they provide power and climate control with the truck engine operating, resulting in fuel savings and reduced emissions. 

Diesel APUs offer practically unlimited runtime for semi-truck sleeper cabins. This means drivers can use the APU for extended periods without worrying about depleting the power source. This feature is beneficial during overnight stays or when the truck is not in use. 

However, as with engine auto start/stops, there are some hangups. Diesel APUs generally come with a higher ownership cost than other power options. The initial investment can be substantial, ranging from $8,500 to $13,000. While they provide the necessary power and comfort, they are still engines. During operations, they emit constant noise. Diesel APUs produce exhaust emissions that contribute to air pollution, albeit to a lesser extent than idling the main truck engine. These APU systems also require regular maintenance intervals, similar to truck engines. Adhering to a maintenance schedule is essential for proper performance. This will add to the overall cost and upkeep of the APU. 

Electric APUs

Electric APUs eliminate the need for the truck’s main engine to idle during rest periods. By providing power independently, they reduce all the issues of wear, tear, and cost associated with an idling engine. However, unlike traditional APUs that rely on a generator diesel engine, electric APUs operate without one. 

Electric APUs have the considerable benefit of producing zero exhaust emissions, contributing to a cleaner environment. They operate quietly, creating a more luxurious long-haul trucker sleeper cabin by reducing noise pollution. They also have fewer maintenance requirements compared to traditional APUs, allowing for robust savings in the long term.

However, as with all options, there are some downsides. Some electric APUs may have undersized cooling units to achieve longer air conditioning runtime. This can result in reduced cooling effectiveness, particularly in extremely hot climates. Leaving the inverter on the starting batteries can drain their power, potentially causing issues with starting the truck. 

In certain situations, such as extreme hot or cold temperatures, the engine of an electric APU may still auto-start and idle to regulate the temperature. While this may be for a shorter time, it can still contribute to inflated fuel consumption and emissions. Electric APUs also require multiple heavy AGM batteries for power storage. This adds additional weight to the weight and payload capacity of the long-haul truck. 

Battle Born All-Electric APU installed in heavy duty truck

What Metrics Should You Consider?

It’s clear installing APUs in your fleet will save you money in the long run. However, there are some important things to consider before the final purchase. APUs can vary significantly in terms of cost. The price range can run from $8,500 to $13,000, depending on the unit installed. Although the bar to entry is high, APUs have a significant Return on Investment. They offer long-term savings through improved fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance needs. 

Some other important metrics to consider when choosing an APU for your fleet are fuel consumption cost analysis, noise level during operation, power output for HVAC systems, and battery life and charging time. 

Auxiliary Power Units come in various power configurations, catering to a diverse set of needs for drivers and fleet owners. The electric options provide backup for just a few hours, while the alternatives offer power for 12 hours or more. Considering the bulk of travel time for your operation will help you decide what option is the best fit for you. 

Optimal Performance 

When it comes to selecting the right APU for long-haul truckers, maintaining peak performance, especially during temperature extremes, is crucial. Traditional batteries may struggle in freezing conditions, necessitating the driver to turn on the engine for charging. 

Lithium batteries can withstand harsh weather conditions and maintain discharge power even in cold temperatures. This means you can use your lithium battery system without ever needing to turn on your engine, ultimately cutting down on fuel costs. 

Battle Born Battery in front of heavy duty truck sleeper cabin

Long-Term Solutions

One of the best solutions available today is lithium battery systems that provide power for long-haul trucking. At Dragonfly Energy, we a lithium power system, the Battle Born All-Electric APU, that boasts a substantial amount of usable amp hours dedicated solely to hoteling. 

This ample capacity allows for an extended runtime of appliances and amenities. This system enables your fleet drivers access to many of the amenities they have at home. This product’s high capacity virtually eliminates the need for jump starts and auto-starts, providing users a greater sense of security and reducing the risk of unexpected interruptions.

Having full confidence in the APU in their trucks allows drivers to rely on lithium batteries for extended periods without worrying about draining them or breaking idling laws. The substantial power capacity leads to doubling the runtime for 12V air conditioning, allowing truckers to enjoy extended cooling during rest periods, even in scorching weather conditions. This improved comfort leads to overall driver satisfaction and retention. Dragonfly Energy’s lithium power systems incorporate proprietary vibration protection, internal heating, and passive cooling mechanisms, protecting the system from wear and tear on the road, ultimately saving money on fuel costs and maintenance in the future. 

A Quality System

Dragonfly Energy’s Battle Born All-Electric APU separates the auxiliary power system from the starting batteries, creating a true “house bank” for all hoteling needs. This separation ensures that the power required for the sleeper cabin is independent of the starting batteries, reducing the risk of draining the main truck’s batteries. 

These lithium systems provide the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TOC) on the market, ensuring long-term savings for trucking companies and drivers. The quick Return on Investment (ROI) makes these systems an attractive solution for enhancing the power capabilities of sleeper cabs. 

Battle Born All Electric APU

Dragonfly Energy Lithium Power Systems

Dragonfly Energy’s lithium power systems provide a comprehensive and efficient solution for powering sleeper cabs. With their high usable amp hour capacity, extended runtime for air conditioning, robust protection features, and separate auxiliary power system, these systems offer superior performance and reliability. 

Dragonfly Energy’s Battery Management System safeguards against overcharging, extending the battery’s working life while allowing it to reach maximum discharge depth without any risk of damage. 

With exponential savings on the table, it’s a great time to start exploring an upgrade to lithium power systems. Call one of our technical specialists at Dragonfly Energy today to learn more! 

Featured Articles