GENEVA, Switzerland – Ford Motor Company today reveals at the Geneva Motor Show the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, a first-of-its-kind sun-powered vehicle with the potential to deliver the best of what a plug-in hybrid offers – without depending on an electricity grid for fuel.
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 electricity grid. 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 tonnes.
“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 dialogue about the art of the possible in moving the world toward a cleaner future.”
C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is a collaborative project of Ford, SunPower Corp based in San Jose, California, and Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology. Ford has produced the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept to investigate the positive environmental impact of solar powered vehicles and to offer a glimpse of how Ford’s clean vehicle future could look.
Strong electrified vehicle sales
The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept debuts as Ford caps a record year of electrified vehicle sales in North America. Ford has sold close to 88,000 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles in North America in 2013, the world’s biggest market for electrified vehicles.
In Europe, Ford will launch the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle later this year to offer a choice of three distinct electric vehicles in its European showrooms in 2014. The zero emission Ford Focus Electric last year became the first full-electric vehicle to be built by Ford in Europe – in Saarlouis, Germany – and the all-new Mondeo Hybrid also will be launched in 2014. Complementing a full range of fuel efficient petrol and diesel powered vehicles, the electrified line-up is being delivered amid growing interest in hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles in Europe.
Breakthrough clean technology
SunPower, 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 full battery charge from the grid (8 kilowatt-hours).
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 998 km (620 miles), including more than 30 electric-only kilometres (18 miles). Using the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept to drive more than 30 km every day on sun power, an average European customer could save more than €1,000 per year in fuel.
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.
By tapping renewable solar energy with a rooftop solar panel system, C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is not dependent on the traditional electricity grid for its battery power. Internal Ford data suggests the sun could power up to 75 per cent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle. This could be especially important in places where the electricity grid is underdeveloped, unreliable or expensive to use.