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.

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