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Ford's C-MAX Solar Energi Concept sports rooftop solar panels

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January 2, 2014

The C-Max Solar Energi Concept uses solar panels on its top for charging

The C-Max Solar Energi Concept uses solar panels on its top for charging

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A plug-in hybrid car sounds like an excellent way of squaring the circle between the green cred of an electric car and the range and reliability of one that runs on petrol, but what if you live somewhere that’s a bit off the grid? Ford’s answer is its C-Max Solar Energi Concept, which makes its debut at CES next week. The car uses a combination of high-efficiency solar panels and a separate frame roofed with a Fresnel lens to concentrate sunlight on the panels to give it a proper charge without using the engine or plugging into the electrical mains.

Called a “first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle” by Ford, the C-Max Solar Energi Concept is a joint project designed in collaboration with California-based SunPower Corp. and the Georgia Institute of Technology. Ford sees the concept as not only a technology showcase, but as a demonstration that photovoltaics are emerging as an economically viable source of power.

The key to the C-Max Solar Energi Concept is its roof, which is covered with 1.5 sq m (16.1 sq ft) of photovoltaic cells designed by SunPower. The cells have a metal backing for greater support and the silica cells are much thinner than conventional solar cells, making them stronger and more flexible, which allows the glassed-in top of the concept to maintain a streamlined curve.

The sun concentrator can track the sun and keep it concentrated on the panels

Ford says that the solar cells harvest 50 percent more energy than conventional cells, however, as this isn't enough to charge the concept, Georgia Tech designed a sort of car port with the flat roof made from acrylic Fresnel lenses that concentrate the sun's rays onto the top of the car. The clever bit is that the system tracks the sun to keep it concentrated on the panels for maximum effect.

According to the company, the charging system generates the equivalent of a four-hour mains charge (8 kW). Ford claims that the concept boasts the same 620 mile (998 km) range as its C-MAX Energi, with 21 mi (33.7 km) on electricity alone.

Ford estimates that the solar power hybrid would reduce a typical owner’s carbon dioxide emissions by four tonnes (4.4 tons) and would be useful for areas where the driver lives off the grid or where electricity supplies are unreliable or expensive – though it may not be so great for those of us who live in rainy climates where the sun is a rumor for four months of the year.

Ford says that after being shown at CES, which runs January 7 to 10, the concept will begin testing to determine if the design is feasible for practical applications.

Source: Ford

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.   All articles by David Szondy
10 Comments

This is something I have been hoping for for a long time. It seems to be that this can act as a range extender in addition to a green energy source. Even without the Fresnel lens, if you park it in the sun while you are at work, it will provide some charge to get you farther. If, for example, the round trip from home to where you work and back takes 10% more than the battery can hold, this might recharge the battery enough to make the round trip enitely on battery. Of course, this would be much more important on a pure electric car.

Leithauser
3rd January, 2014 @ 11:56 am PST

That is something I've been expecting for some years... Why not use the whole surface of the car? With additional spreadable panels when the car is parked?

The Sun is sending us the energy we (humans on Earth) need for a year, just for 24 hours!

Bravo, Ford.

Volodya Kotsev
3rd January, 2014 @ 12:37 pm PST

Put me into the "I've been waiting for someone to do this for years too" column. Pretty much given up on anyone from Detroit thinking out-of-the-box on this one, so I am surprised to see it. Also pleasantly surprised to see Ford producing some high mileage cars that look attractive, are well designed with premium features and might possibly be road worthy: C-Max and Fusion for example.

I've read about solar paints in the past and hope that this too could be utilized.

The goal should be to produce high quality transportation devices (automobiles now, ? in the future) priced at the same levels as their ICE counterparts to enable mass consumer adoption of less polluting technologies.

James Kelly
3rd January, 2014 @ 03:36 pm PST

Good idea, but probably only really feasible for sunnier climates.

I can't see it working very well in Britain for example. For one thing, you'd need to park it somewhere where it was not overshadowed by buildings or trees, and reasonably well orientated to the sun to make it work, and then only tolerably well during warmer parts of the year. And how much of the energy accrued by solar radiation would be consumed by having to max out the vehicle air conditioner to rid the interior of excessive heat?

bergamot69
3rd January, 2014 @ 06:15 pm PST

The fact that the solar cells are high efficiency, and the use of the Fresnal lense would increase the temperatures substantially. I would want to see how that much heat would be dissipated or the actual efficient rating of the cells. Now couple this with nano battery paint coating and you have yourself an efficient vehicle with or without sunlight. Proximity sensing and vehicle to vehicle communication would also diminish the need for collision weight constraints. As communication are faster than the eye and brain can coordinate an action (braking/excelleration).

Cmos Batteries
4th January, 2014 @ 01:11 pm PST

Why fresnel lenses can not be attached and fixed just a few inches above the solar panel? Would not be possible thereby dispense the structure under which the car needs to stay while the battery is charging?

Jairo Grossi
6th January, 2014 @ 11:40 am PST

@bergamot69:

Finally, a good car to park here:

http://www.gizmag.com/walkie-talkie-skyscraper-melts-jaguar/28917/

dalroth5
7th January, 2014 @ 01:53 am PST

Ford company use solar energy very well and use such an awesome concept. Solar energy is the future..

Brooke James
7th January, 2014 @ 02:37 am PST

@Jairo Grossi: "Why fresnel lenses can not be attached and fixed just a few inches above the solar panel? "

Because the Fresnel lens needs to have a much larger area exposed to the sun than the panels on the car roof - of course! The whole purpose of the lens and supporting structure is to capture much more sunlight.

GeoffG
8th January, 2014 @ 08:04 am PST

I think your full post is very informative about solar panel and i agree with you.It seems to be that this can act as a range extender in addition to a green energy source. Even without the Fresnel lens, if you park it in the sun while you are at work, it will provide some charge to get you farther.

Linkon Zakir
12th January, 2014 @ 11:00 am PST
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