Ford Debuts Off-Grid Solar-Powered Car

by | Jan 2, 2014

Ford C-Max Solar Energi ConceptFord will debut its C-MAX Solar Energi concept, a solar-powered vehicle that doesn’t depend on the electric grid for fuel, next week at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, the concept car uses a Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight.

Fresnel is a compact lens originally developed for use in lighthouses. Similar in concept to a magnifying glass, the patent-pending system tracks the sun as it moves from east to west, drawing enough power from the sun through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kWs).

SunPower is providing solar cells for the roof of Ford C-MAX Solar Energi concept. Because of the extended time it takes to absorb enough energy to fully charge the vehicle, Ford turned to Georgia Institute of Technology for a way to amplify the sunlight in order to make a solar-powered hybrid feasible for daily use.

The result is a concept vehicle that takes a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, Ford says. Ford C-MAX Energi gets a combined best miles per gallon equivalent in its class, with EPA-estimated 108 MPGe city and 92 MPGe highway, for a combined 100 MPGe.

By using renewable power, Ford estimates that C-MAX Solar Energi Concept will reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner would produce by 4 metric tons.

After C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is shown at CES, Jan. 7-10, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin testing the vehicle in real-world scenarios to determine if the concept is feasible as a production car.

The automaker says its internal data suggest the sun could power up to 75 percent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle.

Ford expects to sell 85,000 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles for 2013 — the first full year its six new electrified vehicles were available in dealer showrooms.

In late 2013 Ford began installing electric vehicle charging stations at more than 50 of its company offices, product development campuses and manufacturing facilities. The roll out will continue through this year, the company says.

Ford already has more than 1,700 EV charging stations at its dealerships and company facilities in North America. The new workplace chargers will add approximately 200 more.

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