Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept goes off-grid

Solar roof panels use power of the sun to recharge hybrid's battery pack

Published: January 8, 2014, 12:00 AM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 2:49 PM

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

Ford chose the International CES in Las Vegas, formerly called the Consumer Electronics Show, to introduce the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept – a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential capability of a plug-in hybrid that doesn't depend on the electric grid for recharging.

Instead of getting its charging power from an electrical outlet, it collects energy from the sun using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof.

Ford says a day's worth of sunlight will provide the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electric grid.

By using truly renewable power, the Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner would produce by four metric tons.

The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is a collaborative project of Ford, San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp. and Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology.

Researchers 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).

With a full charge, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi, including up to 34 electric-only kilometres.

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

The vehicle still has a charge port and can be charged by connecting to a charging station via cord and plug so that drivers retain the option to power up via the grid, if desired.

Further real-world testing is scheduled to help determine if the concept is feasible as a production car.