Ford Motor Company announced today that at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) it will present the C-Max Solar Energi Concept, a sun-powered vehicle that has a potential to deliver the best of a plug-in hybrid without depending on the electric grid for fuel. So, what’s the catch? Well, instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, the C-Max Solar Energi Concept uses a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof.
The new concept car is a collaborative project of Ford, SunPower and Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology. SunPower has been Ford’s solar technology partner since 2011.
If SunPower provided the high-efficienty solar cells for the roof of the C-Max Solar Energi Concept, the researchers from Gergia Institute of Technology developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator that uses a special 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 kilowatts).” said the press release.
According to Ford, the fully charged C-Max Solar Energi Concept has a range of up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles. After C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is shown at CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios.
SunPower, which has been Ford's solar innovation collaborator since 2011, is providing high-efficiency solar cells for the roof of Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept. Due to the extended time it takes to assimilate enough energy to completely charge the car, Ford went to Georgia Institute of Technology for a means to intensify the sunlight with a specific goal of making a solar-powered hybrid practical for day-to-day utilization.
Researchers built an off-car solar concentrator that uses a unique Fresnel lens to guide sunlight to the solar cells while stimulating the impact of the daylight by a factor of eight. Fresnel is a compact lens first created for use in beacons. Just like the concept of a magnifying glass, the patent-pending system tracks the sun as it travels from east to west, generating enough power from the sun through the concentrator every day to equal a four-hour charge for the battery (8 kilowatts).
With a full charge, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is evaluated to have the similar overall range like a traditional C-MAX Energi of up to 620 miles, which includes up to 21 electric-only miles. Likewise, the car still has a charge port, and can be charged by linking to a charging station through a cord and plug so that drivers maintain the choice to power up by means of the grid, if desired.
After Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept will appear at CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will start testing the car in various real-life conditions. The result of those tests will help to decide if the concept is practical as a production vehicle.