Ford Motor Company announced on Jan. 2, 2014 that they have developed and are testing a - uniquely new - solar energy concentrator system on, what they call, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept vehicle.
Integrated into the power train system of a Ford C-MAX Energi Hybrid, Ford calls it a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers – all without depending on the electric grid for power.
Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept captures the power of the sun by using a special concentrator in the roof mounted solar panel that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to the solar panels on the vehicle roof no matter where the sun’s rays are in the sky relative to the direction of travel of the Energi.
Using the concentrator, Ford says the concept vehicle can take a day’s worth of sunlight and deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electric grid.
“Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. “As an innovation leader, we want to further the public dialog about the art of the possible in moving the world toward a cleaner future.”
Ford says they expect 2013 be a record year for sale of electrified vehicle sales. Hybrid sales for 2013 are expected to be in the 85,000 range for hybrid, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles for 2013.
C-MAX Energi is Ford’s plug-in sales leader, with sales of more than 6,300 through November and has been a key driver in helping Ford sell more hybrids than any other automaker in the United States, second only to Toyota.
We did an extensive ride and drive of the 2013 C-MAX Energi in August of 2013 and said it was a best choice in the market for a highly efficient plug-in hybrid vehicle. Not only did it excel in the power train, but it was cleanly styled with solid ride engineering and loaded with consumer friendly features. The C-Max is a good development platform for this new concept by Ford.
SunPower, which has been Ford’s solar technology partner since 2011, is providing high-efficiency solar cells for the roof of Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept. Because of 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.
Researchers developed a 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. Using the concept of 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 says the 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 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 (plug-in) via the grid, if desired.
The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, will be shown at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, is a collaborative project of Ford, San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp. and Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology.
After C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is shown at CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will 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.
No timeline for making that decision was given, but if this comes to fruition, the C-MAX Solar Energi (or whatever vehicle it is introduced on) will significantly revolutionize the hybrid and plug-in electric marketplace.