January 3, 2014 – At next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Ford will be showing its C-MAX Solar Energi Concept vehicle. The car features a roof-top set of solar panels combined with a Fresnel lens concentrator that increases by eight times the amount of power generated from sunlight. The concentrator and car track the Sun throughout the day to focus the maximum amount of energy on the solar cells equivalent to four-hours of battery power. The concentrator is made from acrylic (see image below) and is separate from the car. So in effect, instead of being plugged in, the car sits under it to gain power, a real benefit for those with no access to the power grid. Yet for those with access to the grid, the car comes with a plug-in port as well.
The concentrator is a Fresnel lens and has been developed for Ford by engineers at Georgia Institute of Technology. Although Fresnel lens technology has been around for centuries for use in lighthouses, in this case, instead of pushing the light beam out, the lens concentrates sunlight to produce up to 8 kilowatts of energy. Even the solar cells being used by Ford are 50% more efficient than those currently available commercially.
With a full charge the new vehicle which is a hybrid will have a driving range of 1,000 kilometers (620 miles). On electric-power alone it will be able to go 33 kilometers (21 miles).
Built using the C-MAX as its vehicle platform, the Solar Energi addition remains a concept for now but Ford hopes to start building solar power into its fleet of vehicles to help it achieve its carbon reduction targets. Ford estimates if all light-duty vehicles were to use the equivalent technology it will be demonstrating at the show, the U.S. would reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 1 billion metric tons.