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Off-grid solar as a ‘fueling’ source for EVs?

Ford C-Max Solar Energi
Ford C-Max Solar Energi

This week, Ford announced a new electric charging concept for its plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which utilizes off the grid solar energy through an array of high-efficiency solar cells mounted on the car’s roof top. This solution offers a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the prospect to recharge its battery without being dependent on the electric grid for energy. The solar system combines concentrating PV (photovoltaic) and autonomous driving technology as a stand-alone charging service for Ford drivers. Ford calls their solution “the first plug-in hybrid that doesn’t need to plug in.”

Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi is a plug-in hybrid model with an array of SunPower's X21 high-efficiency solar cells on the car’s roof. Since the mounted cells won’t be able to fully supply sufficient electricity to recharge the car's battery in a timely fashion, the system includes an acrylic Fresnel lens which is integrated into a canopy structure that acts like a magnifying glass. The lens directs intense sun rays onto the solar cells on the vehicle's roof top.

Ford C-MAX Energi gets a combined best miles per gallon equivalent in its class, with EPA-estimated at 108 MPGe city and 92 MPGe highway, for a combined 100 MPGe. By using renewable power, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to cut grid charging of its existing C-MAX hybrid by up to 75 percent. Further, the solar concept is expected to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions of a typical owner by four metric tons. The 2014 Ford C-Max Energi MSRP tag is $32,920. Pricing for the C-MAX Solar Energi is premature, at this point.

The new concept of Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi will be demonstrated at the 2014 International CES in Las Vegas. The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is a collaboration of Ford, SunPower Corp. and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What would consumers be willing to pay for an electric vehicle with similar capabilities to an existing gasoline-combustion car?

According to a new survey by Navigant Research (via Autoblog), 71 percent of the consumers surveyed wanted their next car to cost under $25,000. 41 percent of the total prefer to spend less than $20,000. The electric vehicles in the market today are priced way over the above noted price-points, which presents a challenge for auto manufacturers to reduce the cost. Even the popular and steady-selling Nissan Leaf starts at $29,650. The Smart electric vehicle is an exception with a price tag of $25,750. All of these prices are the MSRP and do not consider any federal, state or local incentives.

The survey found out that most consumers are not familiar with the offerings of plug-in EVs or various types of hybrids, presenting another challenge for auto makers to put more resources into public education. The good news? The Navigant survey found that 67 percent of respondents had favorable impressions on hybrid vehicles and 61 percent had positive perceptions about electric vehicles.


1. Announcement of Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

2. Navigant Research survey

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