Next week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford will be showing an innovative solar roof array that it says can fully recharge a C-Max energi plug-in hybrid in four hours.
The 1.5 square-meter array made by SunPower uses latest-tech solar cells combined with a special Fresnel lens “concentrator” – effectively a special carport – to direct sunlight to the photovoltaic cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight, says Ford.
SunPower’s adaptation of the lenses came by way of Georgia Institute of Technology which Ford says it turned to for a way to amplify the sunlight in order to make a solar-powered hybrid feasible for daily use.
Fresnel lenses were originally designed for use with lighthouses. They act like a magnifying lens, but also redirect and maximize light intensity on the photovoltaic cells as the sun moves east to west – and as the car moves around in any normal orientation on the streets.
Ford says the adaptation of the Fresnel lens in low-cost acrylic form draws enough power from the sun through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge at 8 kilowatts.
Normal recharge times for the car’s fully depleted 7.6-kilowatt-hour battery are estimated at 7 hours at 120 volts, and around 3 hours at 240 volts.
Ford estimates that by recharging instead with renewable power, the Solar Energi Concept will reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by four metric tons compared to a typical usage pattern with the conventional C-Max energi.
The company says also that if every light-duty vehicle in America were to adopt this technology, it would reduce yearly greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 1 billion metric tons.
“Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. “As an innovation leader, we want to further the public dialog about the art of the possible in moving the world toward a cleaner future.”
The company notes also that its data suggests the sun could power up to 75 percent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle.
“This could be especially important in places where the electric grid is underdeveloped, unreliable or expensive to use,” says the company.
Expect more details at the CES January 7-10.