TechnologyTell

Ford C-Max Solar. My ride with a return to 70s car ports!

Sections: CES, CES 2014, Chassis, Fuel Economy, Powertrain

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C Max Solar.  Forget frying ants- Park me under a magnifying glass!

C Max Solar. Forget frying ants- Park me under a magnifying glass!

Ahhh, nothing like the ubiquitous green corrugated plastic or tin of a 1970s carport.  Its the building material of choice for third-world condominium complexes.

Truth be told I am a big C-Max fan.  Enough that I went out and bought one with my own money.  I really like the MyFordTouch interface and how it works my digital lifestyle.  YMMV, but give the Ford a chance with a little learning curve and you’ll find too it is the yardstick to measure other infotainment systems.  I would have went Energi but the cost was too much at the time to justify the extra expense and garage retrofit.

Now Ford has come up with the ingenious idea of putting solar panels on the roof.  No big deal you say- you can get Lexus or Prius that does that.  But it just helps to power some fans- not juice up the battery).  You need a lot of current to charge those big-bottom LiIons up. Ford realized this.  Parked out in the sun for six hours, the system will get you about three miles of distance.  But when coupled with the special carport magnifier, the intense rays are captured more efficiently and you can juice up to the battery’s entirety.  The solar panels on the roof automatically adjust to aim themselves to capture the most energy.  And off you go!

Here is the scoop from 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 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.

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.

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.

The vehicle also reinforces MyEnergi Lifestyle, a concept revealed by Ford and several partners at 2013 CES. MyEnergi Lifestyle uses math, science and computer modeling to help homeowners understand how they can take advantage of energy-efficient home appliances, solar power systems and plug-in hybrid vehicles to significantly reduce monthly expenses while also reducing their overall carbon footprint.

The positive environmental impact from Ford C-MAX Solar Energi could be significant. It would reduce yearly CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions from the average U.S. car owner by as much as four metric tons – the equivalent of what a U.S. house produces in four months.

If all light-duty vehicles in the United States were to adopt Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept technology, annual greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by approximately 1 billion metric tons.

 

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