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Ford reveals solar-powered C-Max hybrid concept

Ford is to reveal a new solar-powered hybrid concept vehicle at the International CES in Las Vegas next week. Based on the C-Max plug-in hybrid, the new Solar Energi Concept can achieve its full electric driving range from solar power alone under the right circumstances (when it is left in the sun for long enough). 

C-MAX Energi Solar concept

With a unique solar concentrator lens— which works similar to a magnifying glass—the new concept’s roof-fitted solar panels are exceptionally efficient, meaning that achieving full electric range from solar power is much easier than it may sound. A day’s worth of sunshine is enough to deliver 21 miles of emission-free motoring, the same mileage that the conventional C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid can achieve when charged from mains electricity.

Increasing electrification

Ford’s C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid launched in the US in 2012, and is one of a range of ‘electrified’ vehicles expected to arrive in Europe in the next couple of years as part of the carmaker’s pledge introduce five such models to the market by 2015.

In the US, the model is the most efficient in its class, rated as achieving 100mpge on a combined cycle according to EPA figures.  But the new solar version is even better for the environment, estimated to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions compared to a comparable, conventional vehicle by four metric tonnes.

The new concept is revealed as its maker marks a record year for electrified vehicle sales. Ford expects that it will have sold 85,000 hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles  through 2013, once total sales have been added up.

The C-MAX Energi is Ford’s plug-in sales leader, with sales of more than 6,300 through November. As well as the C-Max Energi, Ford also sells a non plug-in version called the C-Max Hybrid, the Fusion Energi and Fusion hybrid, the Focus Electric and the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Here in the UK, the Ford Focus Electric—the brand’s only fully electric car— has only just arrived, as the carmaker’s first electrified vehicle to make it here, but is expected to be followed by the C-Max Energi later this year.

As for the solar-powered version, Ford intends to begin testing the model after its show debut to determine the feasibility of a production version. Working with its solar partner, SunPower, the concept uses a special Fresnel lens—originally developed for lighthouses—to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight.

Similar in concept to a magnifying glass, the patent-pending system tracks the sun as it moves from east to west, drawing enough power from the sun through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts).

With a full charge, Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi of up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles.  Additionally, the vehicle still has a charge port, so it can be connected to a charging station so that drivers retain the option to power up via the grid, if needed.

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Faye Sunderland

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