By on January 3, 2014


Potential owners of plug-in hybrids seeking for a way to recharge their green machine without the need for an outlet may soon rely upon the sun for power, all thanks to Ford’s debut of their C-Max Solar Energi Concept at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Monday.

The C-Max Solar Energi Concept can be plugged into a power source when convenient, but for times when outlets aren’t readily available, an off-vehicle concentrator utilizing a Fresnel lens (usually found in lighthouses) aids in drawing in and magnifying the power of the sun upon the concept’s roof-mounted solar panels. According to Ford, the power collected could be enough to cover 75 percent of any trips the owner may take, each day providing the equivalent of four hours’ worth of charging.

As far as performance is concerned, the Solar Energi is on par with the C-Max Energi currently in showrooms, which pulls in the equivalent of 108 MPGe in the city/92 MPGe on the highway. Fully charged, the concept is expected to share its sister’s range of 620 miles, 21 miles electric-only.

The project is a collaboration between the Blue Oval, San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower, and the Georgia Institute of Technology, all three of whom will begin real-world testing to determine production feasibility after the annual electronics show.

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28 Comments on “Ford Goes Solar For 2014 CES...”

  • avatar

    Also doubles for cooking your Hot Pockets.
    “Simply place on the dashboard, park under magnifying lens, and presto!”

  • avatar

    “… an off-vehicle concentrator utilizing a Fresnel lens (usually found in lighthouses) aids in drawing in and magnifying the power of the sun upon the concept’s roof-mounted solar panels.”

    So what form does this concentrator take? Is it a large lens mounted in a fixed frame that you have to park under? Can you place it on a trailer and take it with you, or will you need one at your destination?

    This is the part of the concept that doesn’t make sense; the roof alone would not have enough square footage to recharge in a reasonable length of time without a concentrator.

    • 0 avatar

      From some other site …

      “and a separate frame roofed with a Fresnel lens to concentrate sunlight”

      So you have to build a special carport to park under. Congress will soon be mandating rear-view cameras on all cars in such carports to watch for hapless children frying like ants under the lens.

  • avatar

    So, the car sits in the sun all day to charge the batteries. Now, you get into a 120 degree car with marginal air conditioning. These should sell like hotcakes (pun intended) in Arizona and Nevada.

    • 0 avatar

      With cars that already come with an OEM solar panel roof, they’re usually used to power a small vent fan to keep the interior temp down so the A/C unit won’t have to work as hard for the initial cool down.

      OTOH, imagine the sun damage to the car’s paint and interior.

    • 0 avatar

      And it’s worse than every other car parked in the sun, how?

  • avatar

    I always wanted to see a solar panel charging roof ever since I drove the Fisker Karma. Everyone told me: “it would never work”. TESLA needs to develop this type of roof ASAP. Hopefully they can make it even more efficient.

    Another option would be solar panels for MODELS/ MODEL X owners’ houses. Being able to generate 20 miles range in 6 hours would be game changing.

  • avatar

    If it was an RC car that might work. That much area of solar probably won’t generate much more than 1kw which is a little more than 1hp. At that rate of charge, you aren’t going anywhere for awhile.

    • 0 avatar

      In fairness, the roof is a supplement to thepower you’re supposed to get when you plug it in.

      This is, this would be the PERFECT vehicle for a zombie Apocalypse. Especially if you’re hiding in the desert or Florida.

      • 0 avatar

        Say three miles/kwh and a speed of 60mph…

        20kwh for one hour of driving @ highway speed

        20kwh*1000/(60secs*60mins)=5500 watts (this figure jives really well with the claim of only needing 5-15hp to cruise on the freeway)

        Given the size of a roof and inefficiencies in solar cells/batteries…

        Could probably supply 10% of the cruising needs?

        I always thought it would be interesting to see the tops of semi trailers with solar cells that just directly fed a motor that was attached to a wheel on the trailer. Would help reduce load on the diesel engine and wouldn’t need any fancy schmancy batteries or electronics (beyond a one-way diode).

        • 0 avatar

          ELECTRIC TRUCKS would make way more sense than DIESELS. The distance trucks drive is far more calculated than consumer cars and SUVs. The businesses have to do this to ensure they make profit – which is also why all trucks are tracked on GPS now.

          I forsee trucks with solar roofs and EV motors. The EV produces instant torque which would really help haul those loads. They’d charge the trucks during reload cycles.

          The only question is, will EV trucks be so heavy they destroy roads – necessitating higher taxation of companies; pr so expensive most businesses can’t afford them for decades.

          • 0 avatar

            I like the idea of electric trucks for certain applications, such as at airports. Those vehicles don’t drive very far, so range is not an issue. Same with mail trucks, it’s not like they go 620 miles a day.

          • 0 avatar

            “The only question is, will EV trucks be so heavy they destroy roads – necessitating higher taxation of companies; pr so expensive most businesses can’t afford them for decades.”

            No. The gross weight of the trailers will NOT go up, the weight of cargo they can carry will go DOWN. At least if they load it to a legal axle loading; otherwise, it is a fine for driving an overloaded trailer without a permit.

            A cost-benefit analysis would have to be done to see if the fuel saved will be worth the added cost up front AND a smaller load throughout the life of the trailer. If the users are already running at maxed loads on fixed routes; a reduced load will mean more trips; which will surely cancel out any savings.

  • avatar

    I also recall being told by a GM engineer back in the EV1 days that the added weight of the panels and wiring basically ate up any energy benefit such panels would deliver… Though that was nearly 20 years ago and the EV1 had a much smaller roof area.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That is possible.

      I’ve read that my Leaf’s solar panel delivers 5 watts. 5 Watts is hardly worth anything, but it supposedly helps top off the car’s 12V battery.

      Ford is actually proving the inefficiency of solar panels by requiring a Fresnel lens to make this thing work – seems like an expensive and impractical gimmick to me.

      • 0 avatar

        In an animation of how it operates, it gets even more interesting. Apparently, the car actually remains powered up so that it will move in small increments to maintain the proper orientation with the sun while underneath the canopy so as to maximize the sun ray focus.

        IOW, in the morning, the vehicle will start out, say, a few feet protruding from the front of the canopy. Then, as the earth’s rotation moves it around the sun, the car slowly retracts underneath the canopy until, at the end of the day, it may by a couple of feet out the rear of the canopy.

        • 0 avatar

          If a separate structure is needed, why not just make that the solar panel and plug it into the car? Then the car could sit in the shade and not be weighed down by the extra hardware.

  • avatar

    “Ford research shows that the sun could provide enough power to cover up to 75% of all trips taken by an average driver.”

    So, that’s what? Four miles a day at speeds below 35 MPH?
    Yes, this could work!

    • 0 avatar

      Purely PR fluff.

      After parking all day in the sun, you might be able to run to the local Quick check for some beer. But I guess that counts as a trip.

      There is only so much power available on those little panels. On non cloudy days, with sun high overhead (otherwise it passes through too much atmosphere). Shop around for the solar cell kits commercially available and look at the (lack of) power they generate. You don’t just need an efficiency improvement, you need a consistent order of magnitude more power. Which won’t be happening.

  • avatar

    As mentioned by the B&B, it’s a bit of a gimmick, to be sure; and it does highlight the relative inefficiency of PV cells. It will serve to drive innovation to dispense with the need for a concentrator.

    Since one of the byproducts of a Fresnel concentrator is heat, a hybrid assembly with PV’s and thermopiles would make more sense, but thermopiles are even less efficient (at this point) then PV’s. However, TP’s are powering the Voyager space probes to this day (with the help of decaying Plutonium).

  • avatar
    Frankie the Hollywood Scum

    …better not leave your dog in this thing while you run into a store for 5 minuets. A Fresnel lens + auto stop could turn them into jerky.. wait that could be a selling point. Just spice bandit before heading into the store to get some beer for the game and when you come out you also have snacks!

  • avatar

    The roof may yeild 300-400W PV capacity. With our without lens… the lens doens’t add more unless it is larger than the roof.
    thsoe lenses are used to get more power out of a small PV panel. But the lens need to be as large as the crossesction of sunlight, so you are limited by roof area.

    I’m not really sure how the lenses typically work focussing the light with a moving sun (or car). but you need direct radiation to focus and need to adjust the lens.diffuse light can’t be focussed.

    since the panel never will be perpendicular to the sun (except equator at noon) we will get less than the 300-400W mentioned above. thsi is where thelens may come in, but more info is needed.

    Are 300-400w beneficial? Probably, considering cars stand around most of the time. If you just go around for 40 miles within a sunny day, you may get 43 miles out of it. (assuming you have a 40 mile range). In winter the benefit will be less for obvious reasons.

    the article isn’t really clear on the lens. teh comparison to lighthouses is not aproppriate since a lighthouse has a ligth source fixed and throws a light beam. If i can craw parallels to concetrating power solar power (where mirrors focus sunlight to heat up water like in a coal power plant), those are huge rakcs that are movable. not really practical for a car that not only has to deal with a moving sun, but moves itself.

  • avatar

    And in further predictions:

    Dateline Jan 21, 2026 Buffalo NY

    Joe Smith, well-known local ecologist today suffered sunburn and a broken hip and ribs when he fell through the roof of his electric solar panel concentrator while shoveling the latest three feet of snow off it. He had almost finished the snow clearing when the accident happened.

    His wife discovered him writhing in agony on the car parked underneath. “I smelled something like roast pork when I came out the side door of the house. Poor Joe was slowly cooking under that freenel lens or whatever it is. I don’t know, I just wanted a Civic,” she said.

  • avatar

    Wow. Not only is the C-Max Energi Consumer Reports’ most unreliable vehicle at the moment, but also, the solar panel may not work and the interior will turn into a death trap.

    You’re brilliant, Ford (sarcasm). This is why the only Ford my family has is a basic regular cab Ranger.

  • avatar

    Why don’t they just cover the roof with pinwheels? Going 80mph on the highway could crank some serious power.

  • avatar

    The more logical leap is to house roof mounted solar panels and the car connected when parked to provide the house with a non interruptible power source/charge car, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Solar panels on the roof of your house don’t tell everyone that walks past your car how deeply concerned you are about conspicuous consumption. Solar panels on the roof of your car do.

      If logic had anything to do with it one wouldn’t have anything to do with greenbeanism in the first place.

  • avatar

    What a stupid idea from Ford. Ford must think the average American is so unintelligent they won’t recognize this PR stunt. Ford I have bad news. What the unintelligent public sees is your dismal reliability rankings in Consumer Reports.

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