Published on January 2nd, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept Car Coming To CES 2014 (VIDEO)

January 2nd, 2014 by  

Ford has just announced the Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept. The day after Christmas, I had the chance to talk with Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and vehicle infrastructure, about the concept car and other electric vehicle matters. Below are a number of details about the Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept that you won’t find anywhere else, as well as some other Ford electric vehicle matters. Enjoy!

C-MAX Solar Energi


To start with, yes, the hunch you’d get from the name (Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept) is correct — this is a concept plug-in electric car that includes solar cells. In particular, it includes SunPower’s X21 solar cells on 1.5 square meters, for a power capacity of 300-350 watts. But that’s not all. The car also includes a solar concentrator and sun-tracking technology that together allow for more electricity generation from the highly efficient X21 solar cells. “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 kWh),” Ford writes.

“The result is a concept vehicle that takes a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which draws its power from the electrical grid. The C-MAX Energi gets a combined best MPGe in its class, with EPA-estimated 108 city/92 highway/100 combined MPGe. By using renewable power, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from a typical owner by four metric tons.”

C-MAX Solar Energi back

C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

Ford C Max Energi Concept Car

Here’s perhaps the most interesting statistic Ford released: “Internal Ford data suggests the sun could power up to 75 percent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle.” That’s quite impressive.

I asked Mike where the inspiration for this solar concept car came from. He first noted the long partnership Ford and SunPower have had (which we’ve covered for years), working together on programs like Drive Green For Life and MyEnergi Lifestyle. When news came out about SunPower’s record-efficient X-Series, Ford really started to think that solar technology was getting to a place where it could possibly “soon” be incorporated into cars. But the efficiency for such use was still way to low.

However, a long partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology gave another strong push. This long relationship ended up leading Ford to some researchers at Georgia Tech who were working on concentrating solar technology.

“But the real kicker,” as I think Mike put it, was the ability to autonomously move the vehicle underneath the battery, in order to track the sun. Pretty cool idea. The supporting infrastructure, being developed by Georgia Tech, is actually quite simple and cheap — largely acrylic & aluminum.

C-MAX Solar Energi Front

I asked about overall cost for such a vehicle, of course, since that is what really matters. The idea of solar panels in cars has been brought up many times. One of the key points skeptics/critics bring up is that cars are often shaded, and it seems to make much more sense to simply put solar panels on your roof or a carport in order to get solar power for your car. (Furthermore, there’s a much greater risk of the solar technology being damaged in a car than on a house.) Unfortunately, Mike said that the C-Max Solar Energi Concept was really too early in the concept phase for them to have any estimates on price.

I also asked if Ford perhaps had any far-off target date in mind for actually bringing such a car to market — 2017? 2018?…

Again, this concept is far too nascent for anything like that, Mike indicated. It’s just a concept at this point, and it may never make it to market. But Mike was still quite enthusiastic about the possibility. With the more efficient cells, the concentrator boost, and the ability of the car to autonomously move, this could be approaching a point where solar-EV driving actually comes to commercial life — that’s the message that was being promoted.

“With a full charge, the 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,” Ford notes. (It is pretty cool that we’ve even gotten to this point.)

Nonetheless, I can’t help but get the impression that this is simply a fun “science experiment” that won’t get far beyond the PR world. Call me a cynic. (I’m actually not the cynic type, but I have a hard time seeing solar-EVs becoming competitive with conventional rooftop solar + EVs.) However, there may well be some markets where this type of vehicle makes sense. “This could be especially important in places where the electric grid is underdeveloped, unreliable and expensive,” Ford wrote in the press release published moments ago. “After C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is shown at CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios. The outcome of those tests will be used at a later date to help determine if the concept is feasible as a production car.”

solar car C-MAX Solar Energi

(Jump on over to Page 2 for Ford’s full press release.)

Other EV Matters

I also used the valuable time with Mike to ask about some other EV matters. For example, I asked whether or not Ford had any plans for long-range battery-electric vehicles (100% electric vehicles) — cars with 150 miles or 200 miles of range, for example. This is a target GM has been very vocal about, and Tesla’s obvious focus. Mike didn’t have anything specific to share regarding long-range EV plans. He noted Ford’s policy of not discussing next-generation vehicles, and he noted that they were keeping a close eye on the development of EVs’ core technology — the batteries — which are improving but are not yet at the level where a long-range battery-electric vehicle can be sold for a very affordable price. (The Model S — which isn’t just long-range but also has perhaps the best performance of any car on the mass market — sells for $71,070 before the $7,500 federal tax credit; the Model X can be preordered for $60,000; the BMW i3 is about to hit the market at $41,350.)

I also asked about the possibility that Ford might be looking into developing an electric light-duty truck. Again, Mike noted that it really comes down to a business equation (natch). We need battery prices to come down in order to make some of these heavier/larger vehicles electric in a cost-competitive way. Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything was around the corner on this, but was just looking to get a sense for how Ford is thinking about this. The sense I got here again was basically just that Ford is watching what is happening with battery prices/improvements, and waiting to work on any major new designs. (Of course, that last bit doesn’t really match well with Ford’s rather radical Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept….)

The electric truck idea isn’t new, and my question was driven by the reader interest I’ve seen in this. Ford’s take on this option seems to be the norm. However, Bob Lutz (the key figure behind the Chevy Volt) recently wrote in an op-ed that GM should have started its plug-in vehicle push with a plug-in electric truck. So, the conventional wisdom on this matter might be changing….

One last thing I’ll note is that Ford seems to have a strong focus on the development of EV infrastructure. As I’m sure you noticed in the title at the top, Mike is the global director of Ford’s vehicle electrification and vehicle infrastructure programs. I’m going to dig into what Ford is doing on the EV infrastructure side of things in a coming post. I also have a short post coming on Mike’s response to Big Auto criticism from Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning. Stay tuned.

Check out our new 93-page EV report, based on over 2,000 surveys collected from EV drivers in 49 of 50 US states, 26 European countries, and 9 Canadian provinces.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • I respect for Ford working hard to create new energy-efficient vehicles. My wife and I just traded our 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid in for a new 2014 Ford C-MAX and both vehicles are quite impressive in their own ways. I believe the Escape was the first hybrid SUV marketed in the US in 2005 and it got 29 to 33 mpg.

    But to address this issue of solar and vehicles being combined in some way, our other vehicle is a Chevy Volt which gets up to 40 miles range in electric mode. We charge the car from our 5.6 kW solar array. This array provides all of the power for our home and has sufficient additional power to charge the Volt. The net result is that we are effectively driving for free (and carbon neutral) for most of the year within the electric range of the vehicle. I admit that this is an expensive proposition and not something that most people would choose to do, but solar panel costs are continuing to drop – as are the costs for electric vehicles due to decreases in battery prices.

    I fully expect Tesla to come up with an affordable fully electric vehicle in the next few years, and by that time solar power will be even more affordable and thus the ideal solution should exist for carbon neutral driving with a range of 200 miles or so.

  • lauralouise90

    Love this idea! It was great to see all these cars at CES this year and just how the car battery tech has gone forward. I’d love to see some test drives though to see if the solar power effects the speed and length of time the car runs for.

  • Tinlady529

    The entire reason they put the effort into researching ideas like this is in order to keep them off the market. Car makers, oil producers, and governments across the world (including our own) do not want us to have solar powered vehicles. They develop the research on already existing technology (the sun), then patent the idea so that no competitors can enter the market with it. Thus keeping the average American unable to own it, forcing us to be reliant on fossil fuels and lining their pockets. This is not rocket surgery by any means.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Car makers don’t give a tinker’s damn about what powers our cars. They make the same money whether the car runs off gasoline or batteries.

      They build cars. They don’t own oil wells and refineries.

      Some governments, including ours and China, want us to move to EVs. The US subsidizes their sales. China is supporting EVs in a variety of ways.
      Take off your tinfoil hat once in a while. It will do your hair a world of good….

      • Tinlady529

        I disagree. They are all in bed together, scratching each others backs. I can only assume you are one of those that haven’t acknowledged the direct correlation between number of soldiers who die in the middle east and American oil production. Cars currently need oil. If they didnt need oil, people who produce oil lose money. The people who produce oil run our government, who runs fair trade. These are powerful people you dont want to piss off. If they will send our children to die in order to increase profits, what would they do to a car manufacturer that is telling America we dont need oil.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Car companies are not oil companies.

          Oil companies are not car companies.

          I very well understand our oil wars.

          • Tinlady529

            We can settle this intelligently. The day our government allows mass production of a solar powered vehicles that can actually serve their purpose and that more than twenty percent of Americans can afford to buy, I will personally clean your solar panels for a week with my own toothbrush. If it doesnt happen in the next 7 years you wear my tinfoil hat for a week. Deal?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see.

            Might we agree that 20% of Americans can afford to purchase an average priced car?

            The average price of a new car in the US is $31,352. The top 20% of US households earn $101,577 or higher.

            The MSRP for the Nissan LEAF (an EV) is $28,800. $2,552 below the average price of new US cars.

            That’s without subsidies. Our government is supporting the sale of EVs by offering $7,500 subsidies for those who wish to purchase them, bringing the cost down to $21,300. That’s 68% the price of an average new US car.

            Now, thanks for the offer but my solar panels rarely need cleaning. Mostly after I do a bit of weed eating but that happens only a couple times per year. And once or twice during blackberry season after the birds have perched on the tops for a while and left me some presents.

            BTW, if you’re going to get off on the Leaf not having enough range to get from the shooting range to the American Legion Hall, the Government Motors Volt lists for $34,185. Just $2,833 over the average cost with that difference paid back in a couple years of driving.

            Or $26,685 after the federal government subsidy. $4,667 less than the average new car.

          • Tinlady529

            Oh, my goodness you are ate up. I fully support your desire for clean. I get it. The car in this article is solar-ev, possibly pv. Not really the same, or even remotely comparible to a Nissan LEAF. Slap yourself for even making the comparison. There are currently at least 20 PVs manufactured for every day road use. None of them are manufactured in the United States or even allowed to be sold here and won’t be as long as our government has money to be made from non-renewable energy consumption.  

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suppose you understand that there is not enough area on the top of a car for solar panels that would power it more than a few miles per day on sunny day?

            Do you know of a highway legal solar powered car anywhere in the world?

          • Tinlady529

            I understand. If the vehicle itself were available, and as you mentioned previously had decent range I think solar panels on my house would be the way to go and charge the car battery at night. It would take several years for everything to wash energywise, but worth it. Off the top of my head the only solar power vehicle that I can say is “highway legal” with any confidence is the SolarTaxi. I dont think any of the others drive far enough or fast enough to bother wasting time installing rear-view mirrors or seat belts. The technology is there and its very possible, more cost effective and environmentally responsible, but its not going to make rich men richer so it will continue to fail until it is more profitable than oil or we run out of options. There is a small car company in California I am rooting strongly for, but they have been met with constant challenges and set backs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Wait! You just told me “There are currently at least 20 PVs manufactured for every day road use” but all you can identify it the Solar Taxi?

            That’s a hand made car that tows a trailer covered with solar panels. It’s not a PV manuractured for every day road use.

            Where’s the 20?

            And explain how you know “The technology is there and its very possible, more cost effective and environmentally responsible”.

            How does one power a car for use on the highway with solar panels on its roof? ‘Spain that please.

  • jairogrossi

    Why fresnel lenses can not be fixed just a few inches above the solar panel? Would not be possible thereby dispense the structure under which the car needs to stay while the battery is charging?

    • Bob_Wallace

      What they are doing with the canopy is greatly enlarging the area hit by sunshine. Then ‘compressing’ that energy onto the car’s solar panels.
      If the area of the canopy is 5x that of the car panels we would say that the panels are receiving “five Suns”.

      Car rooftops have much smaller area therefore much less energy would be hitting them. Panels would be getting only one Sun.

      • jairogrossi

        Thanks, Bob, for clearing my doubt.

  • bloggin

    First off….Nice job with the article. Well Done!

    It may be that the solar concentrator is more of an option(especially since the car has to move back and forth) but adding solar panels on the mid model refresh MY2016 to be available 2015 or next gen C-MAX may be the target.

    The Prius offers two panels along with the front section as a sunroof. But those panels are very weak and can only power an interior fan.

    But based on the new SunPower panels and the current calculations without the concentrator, just 2 panels would offer 2 EV miles based on a full days sunlight. About 10 hours. Which means your C-MAX parked or driving around in the sun, would constantly be charging it’s battery.

    2 miles daily is 60 miles monthly. In CA or AZ where we have about 300 sunny days, that’s 600 miles of free EV driving.

    And if it’s priced about the same as the fixed panoramic roof at $1,300, but include a sunroof + 2 solar panels, that would be a deal and eliminates the concept of trying to gain a ‘pay back’. Since no one tries to obtain a payback from a sunroof.

    The solar panels should also be available on the C-MAX Hybrid without a plug to extend it’s EV range and hybrid mpg.

  • juggernaut866

    Is it going to work in Florida? The interior of the car could become blisteringly hot because of the concentraters. I am envisioning something similar to a magnifying glass and ant.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The amount of sunlight (energy) hitting the roof will be the same whether the roof is lens or painted metal. The lenses will concentrate the energy onto small highly efficient solar cells.

      Depending on how efficient those cells are (let’s say 30%) some amount of the energy hitting the roof will be converted to electricity. That’s energy that won’t get turned into heat.

      Whether the car would be 30% cooler than a non-solar car would depend on how reflective the lens and painted roofs would be.

  • Saloni

    Will it be able to compete with efficiency of cars running on fuel?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Energy efficiency? Absolutely. Internal combustion engines are incredibly inefficient.

      Efficient in terms of being able to drive long distances? Nope. We need EVs with ~200 mile ranges to match ICEVs.

  • Melinda

    I support productivity that makes a difference economically and environmentally. This new technology is what we needed in the countless efforts we have made in renewable energy research. Hard work is truly paying off.

  • exdent11


    This is off the topic but I wish you would rebut an article I just read on Real Clear Energy titled the ” The Solar Swindle” by Norman Rogers. of the Heartland Institute. They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that pseudo factual garbage.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What! You want to subject our Zach to that much pain?


    • Oy… don’t think i can bear to look at that one. And think it’s less and less important to deal with such posts unless they are on mass media sites.

  • Henry2000

    Its suspenseful depends very much on the cost of such automobile, the efficiency and durability of the solar panels.

  • Benjamin Nead

    I’m skeptical of this one as well. As others have already mentioned here – and backed up with numbers – an EV paired with a properly designed and more conventional PV structure (ie: carport/garage, grid tied and with panels properly directed towards the sun) makes far more sense.

    Also . . . for the Ford concept to work as envisioned, these concentrating lens structures would need to be installed at workplaces (not at home,) where the cars would be parked most of the day. I’m sure it’s far easier to sell a business on the idea of conventional rooftop PV and EVSEs for employee parking than a system such as this.

    I do wish Ford would finally get its feet wet in the EV game, rather than sidestepping the puddles. We had the Focus EV, but most dealers were either unaware of it or simply didn’t want to sell it. While it had some features that bested the competition a few years ago (6.6kW charger, liquid thermal management of the battery cells, etc,) it was essentially a converted ICE platform with a battery pack that consumed most of the cargo space.

    The C-MAX appears to be a purpose-built PHEV/EV platform from the start. But when are we going to finally see a pure EV version of this car? Come to think of it, when are we going the see ANY of the US branded OEMs offer a pure EV that can be purchased in all 50 states?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think it won’t be hard to sell companies on (metered) outlets in their parking lots. Trying to get them to put panels on their buildings to power those outlets would be harder. More likely they are going to use their roof space to generate the power the building needs.

      Outlets at parking spots is all that is needed. Make them smart outlets.
      People who have no place to charge at home can plug in and the grid can make sure they get the charge they need. Since they won’t need a full 8 hours of charging in most cases the grid can use them as dispatchable load and charge them less than peak TOU prices.

      People who plug in at home can get the cheapest TOU prices pretty much 24 hours a day. They will be very valuable dispatchable load for the grid.

      • Benjamin Nead

        Agree, Bob, that workplace EV charging is a good idea. If the top of a large workplace parking garage has its rooftop covered with PV
        panels and a few EVSEs within the structure (such as the one at my place of employment,) it makes sense to grid tie all
        those panels and distribute the power where it’s needed to most at any given moment, whether its charging that EV on the lower level or powering computer terminals in the building next door. I’m also up to speed on how net metering works for nighttime residential EV charging. It’s all good.

        What I have issue with (and I think you and most who have commented here would agree) is an EV charging system that works only with the proposed Ford scenario described in the article. It’s not only a less-than-optimal use of PV technology (at least when it comes to shoehorning it onto the rooftops of cars,) it essentially locks out all other established systems for integrating solar PV with EV charging . . . ones that already work pretty well.

        If I was designing a parking/charging installation at a workplace garage, would I want to have a special “Ford-only” area with these curious lens focusing structures for a minority of solar roof C-MAX cars and regular EVSEs for all other EV owners? Or . . . would I simply install as many grid-tied rooftop panels on top of the parking garage as possible and also provide as many garden variety J1772 plugs that the budget allows?

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’d probably just provide outlets. Then people could decide to purchase their power from the grid (what apartment dwellers with no nighttime place to charge would do) or put panels on their own roof, put power into the grid and “net meter” it out.

          Pretty much a KISS approach.

          I suspect that over the next 20 years some parking spaces with outlets will become the standard for most parking lots. A section set aside for those with no place to plug in at night.

    • Agreed, on all fronts. Excellent comments.

  • I think its good idea “EV with Solar PV”. We are now thinking towards the environment. Hopefully we will save something as something is better than nothing.
    Adward Wilson

  • Senlac

    Thanks Zachary, things just keep getting better. Soon we’ll get some nice efficiency increases with muti-junction solar at 30%+. The concentrator is really interesting, something I’d like to take a look at. If they can get 8 kWh in a day, that is a third of the Leaf’s battery of 23 kWh. Having a car that can charge itself is way cool.

    • Bob_Wallace

      8 kWh per day would give about a 25 mile range. That would work for some people. Except on cloudy days.

      I think this is more a cool idea than a practical idea. It’s kind of like the laptops with solar panels on their lids. If you take your laptop outside and sit with it with the lid closed while it charges….

      • Senlac

        Dear Bob, why so negative. As solar gets better so will solar on EV’s get better. This is just the start. It’s about the future, Ford is taking a first step, which may not seem very practical now, but just like EV autos were some years ago, it’s idea worth pursuing. At present it’s nice to have a little extra power capacity on an EV, and can get you home in a pince.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’m not being “negative”. I’m doing the math.

          Even when solar gets more efficient it will still produce more power when pointed toward the Sun and not parked under a tree.

          It would be “cool” if we never had to plug our cars into the grid but until we get “1,000 mile” range EVs we’re going to have to cover cloudy days.

    • Thanks. The biggest take-home point from this concept car, imho, is that both EV & solar PV are advancing… and it’s fun to dream about solar cars. 😀

    • wattleberry

      Hear,hear. Along with the Australia challenge,it’s helping to fix the concept of self-containment as a practical target.

  • Many are asking the wrong question: why put solar in the roof?

    I would ask: why not? If you don’t, you’re throwing away free energy.

    The main issue is cost. This implementation is clearly too expensive to make economic sense. But it is a concept and the idea of letting the car move with the sun is a brilliant example of out-of-the-box thinking, although not practical I’m afraid.

    This should be done using a thin film technology which hardly adds weight and is easy to apply onto a curved surface. It looks much better too.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The “Why not?” is answered in most efficient use of money.

      Putting panels flat on a car roof that may at times be parked in the shade (tree, parking garage, next to a tall building) will almost certainly produce less electricity than putting them on a properly oriented, unobstructed, sloped roof.

      Unless the car is driven only a very few miles per day it’s going to have to be plugged in anyway. There would be no money saved on outlet avoidance.

      • My guess is the yield is something like a third or a quarter of the energy from a solar panel mounted on the roof of a house.

        So what? Solar PV (especially thin film) is very cheap and will be much cheaper. I can easily see this being economically viable. You don’t need a full fledged grid converter to generate AC. A simple, efficient and lightweight DC-DC converter suffices.

        The energy payback time of thin film is also very good. Better than crystalline silicon. So over the lifetime of the car you will be net energy positive (unless you always park your car in a garage during the day).

        I don’t suggest put them on the roof of the car INSTEAD of the house, but to put them on BOTH roofs. You know, all you can eat.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If it costs $1 to put thin film on the top of a car, then who cares?

          But since solar still costs more than 10 cents a square meter people making ‘best use of money’ decisions will put the solar on rooftops.

          (And now it’s you who is shouting…. ;o)

  • Jouni Valkonen

    better leave car window open when car is left charging. . .

    Otherwise it might get quite hot inside.

    • Less hot than with a normal roof. 21% of insolation is converted into electricity, not heat.

      • Jouni Valkonen

        There is concentrating lens that increases the insolation more than 21 %. There is also tracking that optimizes the angle. And most importantly, traditional car roof-top is designed to reflect as large portion of solar radiation as possible. If I remember correctly Tesla’s roof reflects 90 % of solar radiation away. Instead solar panels are designed to absorb 90 % of solar radiation.

        Therefore solar panels on roof will cook the car. I hope that they demonstrate this with prototype first before committing to commercialize it.

  • Marion Meads


    “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 kWh),” Ford writes.

    They rated 300-350 Watts of solar power being collected during sunshine hours. In order to collect 8 kWH, they would need 22.9 hrs to 26.7 hrs of FULL Strength Sunlight per average day!!!!. Where in our planet is this happening??????

    The solar panels need threshold radiation to produce power. Early morning hours and late afternoon sunshine hours are not included in the counting. At best, you would get on the average about 6 hours of useful sunshine radiation per day. Now substract the cloudy and rainy days for the entire year. The average drops down to about 5 hours, a number used by many solar PV companies in California to estimate electricity production.

    I am for solar, but these are misleading OUTRIGHT LIES by Ford to the detriment of the concept.

    • Omega Centauri

      Yes. Something is missing here. If the surface that collects sunlight is only 1.5 meters squared, you wouldn’t get close to 8KWhours. I suspect maybe the car is parked in some solar concentrating structure, which concentrates sunlight on the roof. [There could be overheating issues] Maybe thats what those X diagrams on the graphic are depicting???

      I love the idea of adding PV to a plugins roof. But something sounds bogus about this. It also sounds very pricey. Panels may soon be cheap enough, that adding them to a plugin makes sense (for those who can’t recharge at work). Power at the vehicle is more valuable than power on the grid, and PV is already cost competitive on the grid, so it might make sense on a vehicle. Assuming two condtitions are met:
      (1) The cost of mounting it on the car is low.
      (2) The amount that is wasted because the cars battery is fully charged and it can’t take anymore, is minimized.

    • Instead of shouting you might devote some time to reading the article first…

      • Marion Meads

        I read the article, tell me which part of my analysis is incorrect?

        • The canopy contains fresnel lenses that concentrate the light. 20 m² aperture area.

          • Marion Meads

            It was implied that you don’t have to lug around the Fresnel lens canopy so it doesn’t count. So you cannot simply state that the system can automatically save you 8 kWH per day without saying that every place you park should have installed a Fresnel lens and in a sunlit area.

          • The ‘How it works’ illustration suggested otherwise to me,
            but I’m glad we have found the source of the confusion.

  • Marion Meads

    So what is the price of the solar option? At 1.5 m2, delivering 300 – 350 Watts, that would be an estimate efficiency of 21% to 23%, so I am sure these solar panels aren’t cheap.

    • They are the top of the lnie SunPower cells. The best price I found for an X21-345 W panel was € 448 ex VAT.

      • Marion Meads

        I estimate that it could be more than that, at about $2500 including the installation and solar based profit.

        Granted that it would cost Ford $1500 the solar option should be evaluated for the life of the car and not for the usual 25 year warrantied life of the panels. So even at this price, it would not let you recoup the money from saving you electricity.

        Realistically, the panels can produce 640 kWh/year, which is about $44.71/year worth of electricity at $0.07/kWh time of use metering price. It would take 33.55 years for simple payoff at $1,500 and for the realistic pricing of $2,500 it would take 55.9 years to pay-off.
        With finance charging of 2.99% and above, it takes infinity to pay-off from the power it produces.

        • Omega Centauri

          The real vaue would come from being able to charge when grid power isn’t available -not from not having to pay for grid power to charge.

          I can’t plug my plugin in at work, and burn more fuel because of that, so I would be willing to pay a premium for power to charge. If you have power available, then solar on the vehicle roof makes no sense (except maybe for the coolness factor). I’d rather have the PV connected to the grid, that way juice created from the PV is never thrown away.

          • Marion Meads

            That is why the EREV approach of GM and iBMW are more practical than the solar car roof top. You can be the generator that supplies electricity even when the grid is down.

    • “Unfortunately, Mike said that the C-Max Solar Energi Concept was really too early in the concept phase for them to have any estimates on price.”

      We could do a survey and see what CT readers come up with. 😉

      • Marion Meads

        My guess is that for a 350 Watt system installed on a car, the option will cost $4K.

        I would prefer to buy a foldable solar panel system that you can take with you when you are camping or hunting. A small 1,000 Watt system, you can get for under $2,500. You go out and stay put in a week, and that would be enough time to recharge your batteries for the trip back home when you deploy that portable solar PV system. You don’t pollute as you visit and get back from the hunting or fishing grounds, and you don’t smell like diesel engine or gasoline when hunting.

  • driveby

    I can’t help but think the resources would be better spend by building a car port that is 10 m long and 4 m wide (their 5×4 m moveable thingy essentially) and be plastered with 15%+ efficient solar modules.
    Would be around 6kW peak and over 4-5 hours you get 24-30kWh.
    If Sunpowers 20% cells are being used you’d even get 32-40kWh..

    I got a shed, really no kidding here.. 10 m x 4 m base (roof is 10.7m x 5.4 m) and it’s covered with 24x 250W solar panels (1m x 1.6m each), which cost just a third of the Sunpower modules of same wattage.

    If the car isn’t parked there you can use the collected power elsewhere.
    The panels on the car roof aren’t enough for standalone recharge anyways and they will get hot as they’re not air cooled, which reduces efficiency (the solar concentration will make this even worse).

    All up a pretty useless idea.

  • John

    Thanks for this investigative journalism! This is great news that the industry is finally beginning to truly consider mobile solar as an option for EVs. i know it is a way off, but i appreciate your enthusiasm. Keep it up!

    • Conrad Clement

      Yeah, John, but most contributors seem to sense something suspect behind this scoop — reading between the lines tells us indeed Ford isn’t that much keen on producing electric cars, as is also denoted by Bob Lutz’s statement that they should have pushed electric trucks first…

      So, why waste time on conjectures about a concept so much doubted about by its very inceptor?

      Here’s a fresh, genuinely out-of-the-box idea:

      Preamble: The first round-the-globe tour in a solar car was achieved by Swiss technical college teacher Louis Palmer with his solar taxi ( equipped with a PV cell-clad TRAILER!-

      Conclusion: The trailer is the solution (which, BTW, is the reason why the automaker-sponsored trans-Australian solar car race doesn’t allow cars with trailers to compete…).

      Idea: imagine intercity traffic by electric cars pulling fairly long solar trailers (no problem driving on highways) — at the urban periphery, the trailers are hooked-off and left behind (where there’s plenty of parking space) with the trailers’ on-board battery continuing charging, and the cars heading downtown on their own batteries…

      I shouldn’t have published such a damned good idea — and Ford shouldn’t have published their damned concept flawed on purpose…

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