"Let the Sun In: Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept Goes Off the Grid, Gives Glimpse of Clean Vehicle Future."

Says Ford.

The C-Max Solar Energi Concept will make its grand debut at the upcoming 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 7.

Though officially a concept, Ford could quickly implement the Solar Energi's solar system if indeed the panels and special lens work as expected.

Sketch of Special Concentrator Lens Ford Solar Energi Must Park Under

Sketch of Special Concentrator Lens Ford Solar Energi Must Park Under

"C-MAX Solar Energi Concept with a solar panel roof draws power from a special solar concentrator lens similar to a magnifying glass.

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

That's per Ford, who continues by saying:

"Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept harnesses the power of the sun by using a special concentrator that acts like a magnifying glass, directing intense rays to solar panels on the vehicle roof."

"The result is a concept vehicle that takes a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electric grid."

Solar Energi

Solar Energi

We're not so sure this is the breakthrough product Ford pitches it as, but we do like the idea of combining solar with a plug.  However, previous attempts at this have shown solar panels affixed to vehicle to be very weak in terms of energy output.  Ford does say that "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."  So, even Ford seems uncertain of the usefulness of solar on the vehicle.

Solar Energi Concentrator Diagram

Solar Energi Concentrator Diagram

Solar Energi

Solar Energi

If this turns out to be a breakthrough, then a credit goes mostly to California-based SunPower and Georgia Institute of Technology, the organizations behind the unique solar panels.

"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 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 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 via the grid, if desired."

"Off-the-grid car"

"By tapping renewable solar energy with a rooftop solar panel system, C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is not dependent on the traditional electric grid for its battery power. Internal Ford data suggest the sun could power up to 75 percent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle. This could be especially important in places where the electric grid is underdeveloped, unreliable or expensive to use."