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Chasing The Sun - The Solar Powered C-Max

The DriveWrite Archives Topics:  Ford C-Max

Chasing The Sun - The Solar Powered C-Max

Geoff Maxted
January 4, 2014

Solar Ford C-Max Solar Ford C-Max
Here in the wetlands that are the British Isles we yearn tragically for a glimpse of that golden orb. This is why personal solar energy is such a hit and miss affair. Our weak, watery, winter sun doesn’t have enough power to distress Dracula’s pinkie let alone charge a car.

Elsewhere in the world though they have a sun-drenched surfeit of the stuff which is why the Ford Motor Company is showcasing a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle that will be on display at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on the 7th January. Sunshine probably guaranteed. It’s called The C-Max Solar Energi (their spelling) and it uses solar panels in the roof to recharge itself.

The hybrid can travel about 21 miles (34 kilometres) using only electric power and has a total range of about 620 miles. It has 300 watts to 350 watts of solar cells in the roof and may portend a future of mass-produced rechargeable cars that don't need to be plugged in, at least according to Ford’s Mike Tinskey, director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. "We are starting to see a convergence that can make these things possible," Tinskey has said.

The concept includes a canopy-like parking structure that uses Fresnel lenses to focus sunlight on the car and boost efficiency of the solar cells. It was developed in conjunction with the Georgia Institute of Technology and shifts the car's position throughout the day as the sun tracks across the sky. "It's a tracking concentrator without the costs of one," said Tinskey.

The car also has a standard port to connect to a charging station. Ford estimates it sold more than 85,000 hybrids and electric vehicles in 2013 so they must be doing something right. They are not alone in the use of solar power however; Toyota’s Prius hybrid electric car has an optional solar panel that powers a fan to circulate air within the vehicle when it's parked in direct sunlight whilst Nissan offer a Leaf electric vehicle that uses a solar panel that helps keep the car's battery charged.

Solar power is great in countries with plenty of sunshine but in the UK, well, maybe not so much. Still, as an adjunct to plug-in it’s a worthwhile development but we continue to remain at the mercy of battery technology for now.

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