Ford’s C-MAX Solar Energi Concept marks the first time a major automaker has unveiled a car that can harness enough energy from the sun to power its electric motor. The vehicle was developed in collaboration between Ford, SunPower Corp, and the Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology.
The roof of the C-MAX Solar Energi features a set of high-efficiency SunPower photovoltaic panels. In order to generate enough energy to propel the car, Ford teamed up with Georgia Tech to develop a special off-vehicle Fresnel lens (similar to the lenses used by lighthouses) that tracks the sun and concentrates available sunlight by a factor of 8. A full day of solar exposure can generate the equivalent of a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts), and Ford estimates that the sun “could power up to 75% of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle.” All told, the C-MAX Solar Energi stands to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner would produce by four metric tons.
Of course, the vehicle is based on Ford’s C-MAX Energi car, which at 100 MPGe is one of the most fuel-efficient plug-in hybrid vehicles in the US. The solar vehicle also comes with a standard charging port for days when the sun isn’t shining, and a full charge will net the car the same total range as the conventional C-MAX Energi – an impressive 620 miles with 21 electric-only miles. The C-MAX is Ford’s plug-in sales leader, and the automaker expects to post record sales of over 85,000 hybrid and all-electric vehicles in 2013. Ford plans to begin real-world testing this year to determine if the C-MAX Solar Energi is fit for commercial production.
Photos by Mike Chino for Inhabitat