Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept Recharges Via Sunlight


Ford C-MAX Solar Energi ConceptSolar-powered cars have long been a dream of futurists across the world, and in 2014 we get one step closer thanks to a new concept car. The Ford C-Max Solar Energi, which debuts as the Consumer Electronics Show later this week, can deliver the same all-electric driving range and performance by recharging via the sun. It does this by using a clever system that magnifies the sunlight and moves the car, capturing the most power possible.

The C-Max Solar Energi Concept uses advances in photovolic cells, as well as a clever sunlight magnifier to extract the maximum amount of power possible from the average sunny day. The C-Max actually moves itself underneath the magnifier in opposition to the sun to ensure that the car captures the most power possible. This allows the C-Max Solar Energi to achieve the same 21 miles of all-electric driving range and 100 MPGe as the standard C-Max Energi. And yes, it can still be charged with the standard charging port, and it retains its gasoline engine as well, allowing for a total driving range of around 620 miles.

It’s a very cool concept, one that brings us a step closer to solar-powered cars, though not without its drawbacks. The large magnifier would take up a lot of space in even a sizable driveway, and it’s unlikely most buyers are willing to make such a commitment to a car. Hence why it’s just a concept, and one unlikely to ever make it into production.

If, however, Ford can significantly shrink or altogether eliminate the need for the magnifier, suddenly you’ve got a car that charges on its own, for free, without the need for any special infrastructure or plugs; all it would need is about eight to ten hours of sunshine.

Most amazingly of, such technology isn’t nearly as far off as it seems, as solar power installations are growing at an exponential rate both in the U.S. and the world at large. It only makes sense that cars should adopt solar power too, and plug-in hybrids are the perfect setup for this kind of technology. Maybe one day soon, the C-Max Solar Energi Concept won’t just be a concept.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • UKGary

    It’s unlikely that on board solar could ever carry the whole load of charging an all electric vehicle, however it may one day be possible to add a few miles of range whilst the vehicle is parked in the office car park!

    Possibly a more near term use for solar power on vehicles (Combined with Lithium batteries) would be to power the refrigeration system on refrigerated trucks where there is a large area available on the truck roof, and the vehicle engine might otherwise have to be kept running on tickover to power the cooling system

  • jkw

    Most solar panels have an efficiency below 15%. There is about 1kW/m^2 of energy in sunlight, if the panels are pointed straight at the sun. That means you get about 150W/m^2 with solar panels that track the sun. Sitting flat on a roof, you only get that power at noon. On average, you get about 50-70W/m^2, when you park in the sun. If you cover a car with solar panels, you could charge it at an average of about 150W on a sunny day, with peak power of maybe 250W when the sun is directly overhead. That would give you less than half a mile an hour of additional range. The only reason this concept works is that with the solar concentrator, it has a much larger collection area. With ten times the collection area, you get 5 miles an hour of range, or about 40 miles in 8 hours.

    Solar panels on cars don’t make sense until solar panels are so cheap that they don’t noticeably increase the price of the car.