Ford Motor Company has announced a vehicle like no other: the Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept. The C-Max Solar Concept is the first vehicle to use solar panels to power the electric vehicle instead of an electrical outlet.
The C-Max concept draws power from the sun using a special concentrator that acts as a magnifying glass, directing the sun’s rays to solar panels located on the vehicle’s roof. With only a single day’s worth of sunlight, the vehicle can deliver the same performance offered by Ford’s conventional C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid. Additionally, the renewable energy source is estimated to reduce the vehicle’s emissions by as much as four metric tons.
Ford has created the solar-powered C-Max Energi in partnership with SunPower, who provided the high-efficiency solar cells used in the vehicle. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator for the vehicle that raises the impact of the sunlight on the solar panels by a factor of eight. To do this, the concentrator uses a Fresnel lens, the same type of lens originally developed for use in lighthouses. The lens acts as a magnifying glass of sorts, tracking the sunlight throughout the day. On a single day’s charge, the Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept will carry a range of up to 620 miles, with 21 of those being electric-only.
Though the C-Max Solar Energi Concept is being billed as the world’s first truly off-the-grid vehicle, drivers can choose to use the vehicle’s charge port on days when the sun cannot provide enough energy for a full charge. The solar option still makes the vehicle a very attractive choice for those who wish to live an off-grid lifestyle, or who reside in areas where the electrical grid is unreliable or expensive.
This innovative concept from Ford could be the vehicle that moves the automotive industry forward for the future, and will be shown at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas. Ford is already breaking sales records for its hybrid vehicle sales, with an estimated 85,000 plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles sold in 2013. The plug-in C-Max Energi was Ford’s leader in those sales this year, with more than 6,300 sales through November alone.3