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Ford to debut solar concept car

A solar powered concept car from Ford aims to take green motoring a step further by lessening reliance on grid electricity. 

The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, which Ford believes has the potential to ‘deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers’, uses a concentrator to direct the sun’s rays to the solar panels on the vehicle’s roof.

C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, which will be shown at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas this week, is a collaborative project of Ford, San Jose, California-based SunPower Corp and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

SunPower has provided the solar cells for the roof of Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept. Due to 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. 


Source: Ford Motor Company

A solar powered hybrid concept car from Ford aims to take green motoring a step further by lessening reliance on grid electricity

According to Ford, researchers developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator that uses a Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight. 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).

With a full charge, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi of up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles. Additionally, the vehicle has a charge port, and can be charged by connecting to a charging station via cord and plug. 

Following CES, Ford and Georgia Tech plan to begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios. The outcome of those tests will help to determine if the concept is feasible as a production car. 

A radical new design could help propel a Cambridge University team to solar car glory. Jon Excell reports

Readers' comments (12)

  • It's a clever idea, but - "drawing enough power ... each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts)." Please could The Engineer clearly discriminate between power and energy - is this 8 kW for 4 hours i.e. 32 kWh, or only 8 kWh? Describing "charge" in kW is not what I expect from a serious journal.

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  • I like this. These could be installed cheaply in supermarket and office car parks, although they do need direct solar.
    I wonder if anyone is working on concentrating diffuse solar such as we commonly get in the UK.

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  • Well spotted & well said anonymous.

    Moving away the point of the article (which was quite interesting to be fair) I think a widespread inability amongst Joe Public to differentiate between energy and power is hampering efforts to seriously reduce household energy consumption. All the time we hear whinging about escalating energy costs, but if for example a householder cannot do the calculation to work out for how long they can run say a 7 watt low energy lamp to use the same energy as spending 5 minutes under a 10 kW electric shower, then it is not surprising they cannot readily assess how best to cut their energy use. Yet I cannot recall any calculators from energy suppliers to help people out – such a pity. After all, not everyone is an engineer or otherwise technically trained! So what about HM Gov. getting to grips with this problem and providing a free service for people to help them do those calculations so they can then make informed decisions about what appliances to switch off & when? Then we might start to get some real energy reductions, with less un-helpful advice such as turning appliances off standby rather than spending less time in the shower!

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  • A solar concentrator in the form of a Fresnel lens. This must mean an 'umbrella like static device so collecting solar energy 'on the move' is not possible. I did some calculations assuming maximum sunlight and efficiency which shows a total gain of energy for an 8 hour charge of c.24KwH. Enough to power a 125bhp car for about 20 minutes. I'm fairly convinced the cost/benefit calculations do not stack up and this is just a marketing exercise by Ford.

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  • For a fast charge, spaces could be allocated in Fenchurch street opposite the Walkie Talkie.

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  • Take the money that's spent on trying to develop these earth hugging ideas and the country could be out of debt.

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  • Absolutely brilliant - trust Fords to take the lead

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  • Clever idea, part way to a solar concentrator. I wonder what they've done with the associated heat that comes with concentrating the sunlight? However many times you concentrate the light, for the same unit area, you got the same multiple of heat. I thought that typical crystalline solar PV didn't tolerate heating and reduced output in a manner inversely proportional to panel temperature rise? Without clever insulation or cooling, that roof will get very hot indeed! Other minor trouble is that where previously you required just one parking space, you now would require the equivalent of perhaps three spaces whilst the car tracks the sun. Surely it would be better to make the Fresnel lenses track the sun and keep the car stationary? It is however pleasing to see investment in these sorts of technologies. Well done Ford.

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  • I doubt they will get their patent as the system of using fresnel lenses to concentrate the sun onto an array that tracks east to west has already been done by Whitfield Solar where I used to work a few years back (company is now owned by Frazer Nash who I used to also work for decades ago!)

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  • Hmmm. I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade....but....
    Ford is adding how many $Thousands so that a car that charges all day will have enough electricity to go....21 miles?
    Nope. 21 Miles is with a full charge. A full day of charging provides what 4 hours of plug in charge would be...presumably less than a full charge and not even 21 miles.
    ....where exactly is the bright side we are supposed to be looking at?

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