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Ford C-max Solar Energi Concept
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The next step in clean automotive technology has come to life. The Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is making its debut in January 2014. The breakthrough for this model is a rooftop solar panel that can charge the hybrid battery directly from the sun without a power cable.
It is notable that this concept is making its debut at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and not at an auto show. Think of this as another step in the ongoing marriage of automotive and electronics technology.
This new model is the latest in clean energy evolution for Ford based on its popular small car, the Ford Focus. Ford first used the term C-MAX for a model introduced in Germany in 2003. Then in 2012 Ford introduced two hybrid versions in the U.S. – the Ford C-MAX Hybrid, a traditional gas-electric hybrid, soon followed by the Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. Now the hybrid concept is taken to the next level. NewsHour reports that this new concept car uses 1.5 square meters (16 square feet) of solar panels, which the company estimates can power up to 75 percent of a typical driver's trip. Solar panels today are not powerful enough to run an entire vehicle, so for the moment this model uses the panels only to recharge the battery.
The Solar Energi Concept has been developed in cooperation with SunPower Corporation and will be further tested at Georgia Institute of Technology determine if commercial production is feasible.
While solar panels have been used on vehicles before, none of those previous efforts was designed to generate actual driving power. For example, the Detroit News reports that the Toyota Prius uses an optional solar-powered cooling fan, while the Audi A8 offers solar panels to regulate cabin temperature.
The Solar Energi Concept, like its plug-in hybrid cousin, uses a gasoline engine for non-electric use and has a plug-in charge port for use when needed. A Ford statement says that about a day’s worth of sunlight will fully recharge the lithium-ion battery for its estimated electric-only range of 21 miles.
Acording to Zacks Equity Research, a special lens concentrates the sun’s rays to allow charging for four hours or 8 kilowatts. This technology is expected to reduce greenhouse emissions by four metric tons and provide fuel economy of 100 miles per gallon.
“Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” commented Mike Tinskey, Ford Global Director of Vehicle Electrification. He further said that this concept “… could be for the home, corporate campuses or developing countries where this is no grid."
Experimental cars running on solar energy have been low, flat contraptions requiring world-class engineering talent and an athlete’s skill to navigate through organized competitions. Now Ford is making the first major step in building a solar-powered car that real people can drive and enjoy.
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