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CES 2014: Ford developing solar-charged car

C-MAX Solar Energi Concept employs special lens directing sunlight to rooftop panels.

By Douglas Newcomb Jan 10, 2014 8:53AM

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept. Photo by Ford.Unlike previous solar-powered concept cars from university research labs, the Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept unveiled at International CES doesn’t get all of its power from the sun. And like the regular C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid on which it’s based, the solar-powered concept car can be plugged in to recharge its battery.

But the battery can also be recharged via a special concentrator that directs sunlight to the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept's rooftop solar panels. And with a full charge and a full tank of gas, the Solar Concept is estimated to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi: up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles.

The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is a collaboration between Ford, SunPower Corporation of San Jose, Calif., and Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. SunPower provided the high-efficiency solar cells, while Georgia Tech devised a “concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof,” Ford said.

The concentrator — actually an outdoor canopy that covers the car when parked — uses a special Fresnel lens that, according to Ford, boosts “the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight." While parked, the car can slowly reverse itself as the sun moves across the sky to align its solar panels with the most direct rays. This magnifying canopy allows converting a full day of sunlight into the amount of energy it would take to charge the battery of a conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid from an electrical outlet. The patent-pending compact lens, originally developed for use in lighthouses, helps the car draw enough solar power through the concentrator in a day to equal a four-hour plug-in battery charge (8 kilowatts).

While hybrids and plug-in vehicles are seen as being greener than gas-powered cars, they still consume energy from electrical grids, many of which are fueled by gas or coal. Ford estimates that by using solar power instead of the electrical grid, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept could reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner produces by four metric tons — the equivalent of what the average U.S. household produces in four months.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept. Photo by Ford.

Ford said that if all light-duty vehicles in the U.S. used the technology found on the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, annual greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by approximately 1 billion metric tons. And it added that its data shows that “the sun could power up to 75 percent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle” and that the technology could be especially useful in places where the electric grid is underdeveloped, unreliable or expensive to use.

Following CES, Ford will join with Georgia Tech to begin testing the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept “in numerous real-world scenarios” to determine if the concept is feasible for production. And the vehicle still has a charge port so that the battery can charged via the electrical grid for owners who live in not-so-sunny regions of the world.

[Source: Ford]

Jan 10, 2014 10:41AM
How much does it cost and when can I get one?
Jan 10, 2014 12:00PM
Finally a great idea from an American Manufacturer.
Jan 10, 2014 10:58AM
Why not put panels in place of the hood. At the end of the day I don't care how the vehicle looks as long as it gets me where I want to go in a reasonable length of time safely. Why not put a generator on each wheel as well?
Jan 10, 2014 11:08AM
I like the consept.I live in the South and we have lots of sunlight,this will be great for our area.
Jan 10, 2014 11:31AM


looks like the power company will be handing out electric bills to all who buy these solar cars

they think they own the sun now


Jan 10, 2014 12:10PM
It only took imagination and bingo, someone introduced solar power to autos. I'm looking forward to the purchase of one of these vehicles, if it is affordable.
Jan 10, 2014 12:34PM
25 gallon fuel tank and can get up to 620 miles on a tank, cool.
Jan 10, 2014 12:32PM
surely what our colleges of engineering should be researching, free energy from the sun!, But politics is not free and big oil will have to be convinced that there will be a profit. A Harvard dropout perhaps?Think Bill Gates. 
Jan 10, 2014 11:24AM
My fellow Americans....Please wake up and smell the oil tankers. There will never be a real alternative to gasoline cars until there is not one single drop of oil left on this planet. They will squeeze every last nickle out of the ground. Instead big oil and the automakers will tease everyone with BS!
Jan 10, 2014 1:43PM
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