CES: Ford demos solar-powered plug-in car

LAS VEGAS — In the future, you’ll be able to recharge your electric car for free — using only the sun.

That’s Ford’s vision, at least. At the Consumer Electronics Show here, Ford is showing off a prototype of a solar-powered plug-in hybrid. The company has designed a system that will allow the car to use the sun to fully recharge its batteries in eight hours, given the amount of sunlight seen in a typical American city.

The car is basically a standard C-Max Energi plug-in onto which the company has affixed some of SunPower’s highest-efficiency solar panels, the X21s. They work in tandem with the car’s own sensors and a specially designed canopy that helps direct sunlight to the  panels.

While the SunPower panels are among the most efficient on the market, they only convert about 21 percent of sun energy into electricity. As such, they aren’t enough to fully recharge the C-Max’s 8 kWh during the day. In fact, over the course of eight hours, the panels on the C-Max would only be able to replenish about 1kWh of energy, said Ford’s Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure.

So, the company has designed an aluminum canopy to hold acrylic magnifying lenses that would concentrate sunlight onto the solar panels. The lenses would essentially increase the amount of sunlight hitting the panels eight times, allowing them to fully recharge the car’s battery in eight hours.

Well, they would, if the sun stayed stationary in the sky for that full time. But it doesn’t, of course. So Ford’s solar recharging system envisions using the car’s sensors and capability for autonomous movements to continually, but gradually, reposition the car during the day so the optimum amount of sunlight is hitting the solar panels. The car would move in 1-inch increments, moving about 7 feet during the course of the day to follow the sun.

For now, the  system is simply a prototype. Ford hasn’t committed to building the car or the canopy. And the company is wrestling with how to address serious questions concerning its feasibility, Tinskey said.

In particular, the company needs to show that the system will be robust enough to handle potentially dangerous weather events, such as hailstorms. The company also needs to figure out how to protect people from being harmed by the solar concentrator. And it’s still working on the business model.

Showing that the system is robust shouldn’t be difficult, Tinskey said; the solar panels are the same as those that are already mounted on the roofs of homes, so they’re already built to withstand things like hail. And Ford has some ideas on how to protect people from the solar rays. One possible solution would be a system that would electrically change the transparency of the lens when the canopy detected people or animals nearby.

In terms of the business case, the canopy is designed to be relatively low cost, and, by providing free power, could potentially save consumers significant money on their electrical bills, argued Tinskey. It also could make a lot of sense in areas of the world whose electrical grids are underdeveloped or as a greenhouse gas-saving measure in areas that generate electricity from carbon-spewing coal. And, the system could prove a relatively low-cost alternative for companies exploring options for allowing their employees to recharge their electric cars.

But he acknowledged that the system won’t be practical for all consumers. They’ll have to have a sufficient space for their cars to move and track the sun. And the car will have to be able to move in an east-to-west direction.

Those and other to-be-resolved issues are “why we’re calling this a concept,” Tinskey said. He added, “We want to start the discussion.”

Photo, of Ford’s solar-powered concept vehicle and canopy, by Troy Wolverton


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  • PaulFelixSchott

    Oil CEO’s to lose more then their shirts……

    Doctors now going to SOLAR ENERGY were the MONEY IS as always.

    More Money in solar energy then the Sick and Poor.

    have now formed CAUSE (Californians Against Utilities Stopping solar
    Energy) , what took them so long to come on board GOD Bless them for
    doing so..

    Solar Industry to Skyrocket with the help of Solar Shingles.



    has driven the world for over a thousand years Wind, Hydro and Solar
    are the oldest forms of energy giving power to all smart enough to use

    In the last 200 years Coal, Oil and Nuclear has given energy
    to many worldwide and great power and wealth to only a few. At the cost
    of many lives in coal Mines, Oil Spills, Radiation, Cancer and
    Polluting the Air and Water on all of the Earth.

    for the wicked there is not an unlimited amount of oil on earth. Just
    the same as the Forest Trees that clean the air and make Oxygen we
    breath and all living on earth need to Live. As some in denial are not
    able to recognize or ever see or live with blinders on.

    Doctors now going to SOLAR ENERGY were the MONEY IS as always.

    and Drug ceo’s have been making millions prescribing drugs to many
    that live near or by High polluted areas. From dirty energy that hurt
    breathing our lungs, water we drink and harm our children and all. That
    we all pay for. When all on earth need is Clean Air and Water, and Clean

    Now common sense would be for all to look for a Clean
    Fuel Source like Wind, Hydro, Geothermal and Solar. Renewable Energy is
    eliminating the need for Dirty Energy Worldwide at a record pace. With
    SOLAR ENERGY Clearly the front runner.

    To the fear of some of the richest people on Earth. They to surprisingly are doing
    something extraordinary investing in Solar Energy. After years of many of them trying to under

    Fuel that makes energy to ship goods, or make electric
    for homes and
    manufacturing. Can transform whole nations into prosperity and wealth
    or poverty and economic hardships for most all. Just as taxes on
    taxpayers has done. For over two thousand years. Making slaves of many
    to the wicked and unjust few. History Lesson Roman Empire, Persian
    Empire now OIL Empire oh sorry OPEC.

    The Freedom to get your own
    Power from the Wind and Sun, Solar Energy has been there for years. Are
    Libraries and Schools should have been the first to have gone Solar and
    Renewable Energy. And why are they not? Churches are all over the Planet. They are going to Solar Energy.

    GOD for the Pioneers like John Schaeffer that Started Real Goods The
    first and Best catalog for Renewable Energy and Dr. Addison Bain one of
    NASA top Scientist and Scientist Bill Young at the FSEC Florida Solar
    Energy Center and Monica D. Key Lindbergh for many years wrote to
    legislators promoting Solar and Renewable Energy and many

    These Pioneers helped put Wind, Solar And Renewable
    Energy in the Spotlight for all the World to see. One of The Greatest
    Scientists ever Albert Einstein Started it with a Dream that the day
    would come that all the World would use Solar Energy. His many years of
    work with the law of the “Photoelectric Effect”, and showing this to the
    World won him the Nobel Prize in Physics. For the “Photoelectric
    Free Energy From the SUN in the heavens above.
    We still do not teach this to our young.

    soon Hybrid Vehicles and (EV’s) Electric Vehicles will out number the
    ones that need oil and gas to go. With the ability to recharge them at
    home and work from the sun.

    Tesla Motors with its new Model S
    electric sedan, will be one of many the World will see. Honda, Nissan,
    Audi,VW, BMW and Volvo are just some of the Car Companies putting into
    production Electric Vehicles a EV, and many more are and many are
    Electric / Hybrid Vehicles. The DeLorean Motor Company has put into
    production 2013 a DMC-EV Electric DeLorean, that will have a body and
    power plant that will last you a life time. Just think you can recharge
    them at home and work free from the sun Solar Energy.

    Now to
    own a car that will never rust way and runs on the power from the sun
    that’s the one for me. Very soon most all on earth will be able to get
    energy by recharging from the sun and wind.

    Cities that want to
    be Clean clean-cities.org many of them are putting in recharging
    stations in their heart of their downtown of their city all over the
    Planet Earth. Many Thanks mostly to Scientist Bill Young and his team at
    FSEC for their many years of work at this.. UK now has more Electric
    charging Stations then gas.

    GOD Bless You Professor Takashi Ohira
    and your team for the good work they are doing. To promote Clean Cities
    with Clean Transportation that will let
    drive all day without having to stop to recharge. As Neil Armstrong
    would say one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Just one
    step closer to the World being powered be the Sun Solar Energy.

    Going Solar

    Denmark, Australia, Sweden, Norway, India, Nepal, Tibet, and Israeli
    clearly a leader in Solar companies and Renewable Energy is helping many
    World Wide and a long list of Nations Going Solar. Even Iran with its
    Archimedes Tower. At its Shiraz Solar Power Plant Iran and all the Oil
    Nations on Earth know the World is going to SOLAR Energy.

    Going Geothermal

    Iceland, Philippines, Kenya…..and more then 50 other Countries.

    Wind Energy in use

    More then 75 Countries

    Albert Einstein’s Dream coming true

    The Earth Powered By SOLAR ENERGY.

    GOD Bless

    all that Spot Light and use Solar Energy
    GOD Bless all that have eyes to see and a brain to know that Solar Energy is the way to go.

    There is enough Energy coming from our Sun to power all our needs and then some.

    The Lord’s Little Helper
    Paul Felix Schott

  • Tom Kacandes

    I spent two years working with concentrating optical technology – holographic in that case- to add energy to solar cells. Using this approach at 8X I’m wondering how the roof of that car would not become very hot in most climates. The heat will also make the power output of the Sunpower cells significantly less. Using the car movement as a tracker is a clever idea, but how practical if you’re relying on the driver to correct for the seasonal variation in sun angle? We need continued innovation, and putting some cells in a car roof makes long term sense, so glad to see them trying this part. Seems easier to just build a larger solar carport when car is at home anyway.