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Ford will work with researchers to determine solar lens viability for production use

Ford has unveiled a new concept car based on its C-MAX plug-in hybrid vehicle. The concept car is called the Ford C-MAX Solar Energi concept and as its name implies, it has solar panels on the roof. Those solar panels use a special solar concentrator lens that is like a magnifying glass to increase the solar power produced.
 
The special Fresnel lens is able to boost the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight. The system is able to track the sun as it moves from east to west allowing the battery pack to draw the same amount of power each day from the sun that it would get from a four-hour battery charge.
 
The idea behind the concept car is to create a hybrid vehicle that offers the same efficiency as the C-MAX without having to plug the vehicle into an outlet. Ford says that 75% of all trips made with the C-MAX Solar Energi concept wouldn't require the car to be plugged in.
 
“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.”
 
Ford is working with Georgia Tech to study the feasibility of using the special lens in a production vehicle, and plans to show off the concept car next week at CES 2014 in Las Vegas.
 
Ford ran into some trouble with the C-MAX hybrid this year with fuel efficiency in the real world that didn’t stack up to the automakers claims. Ford ended up changing the fuel efficiency ratings for the C-Max from 47 MPG combined to 43 MPG combined. The automaker also gave cash payments of $550 to some buyers.

Source: Ford



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By Mint on 1/2/2014 11:36:48 AM , Rating: 3
At about 2.5 m^2, an efficient solar roof of the C-Max will be lucky to give you 3 kWh per day in California, or about 10 miles of electric range at best.

I assume Ford's 4-hour claim is based on an extremely efficient panel in Arizona compared to a low amperage charge circuit.




By Souka on 1/2/2014 1:13:09 PM , Rating: 2
too bad I often park in a garage, or if on the streets, the 40-80 story high-rises pretty much block the sun except for a 30min window.

I suspect many others are this way.

How much $$ and weight does these solar panels add?


By Monkey's Uncle on 1/2/2014 2:00:50 PM , Rating: 1
Solar energy is one of those areas cells that is under constant research and improvement. I have seen solar cells that provide plenty of power just from artificial ambient room lighting. While yes, they will operate at their peak in direct sunshine, they are not totally dead at lower light levels. They will only get better as new, more efficient wide spectrum solar cell formulations appear.


By Monkey's Uncle on 1/2/2014 2:02:55 PM , Rating: 2
Cripes. I wish DT would put a freaking edit function on this site... :(


By Reclaimer77 on 1/2/2014 2:21:26 PM , Rating: 3
The return on investment here is so marginal it's non-existent basically.

As cheap as electricity is, once you factor in the added expense of this solar system to the vehicle....well just do the math. This is stupid!


By Monkey's Uncle on 1/2/2014 2:42:44 PM , Rating: 2
Not so sure about that. Electricity is pretty freaking expensive where I live.

Solar power is getting better as we go. I would like to see that actual costs and ROI on the whole thing before I decide it is a total waste of money.


By Alexvrb on 1/2/2014 9:34:26 PM , Rating: 2
Just think, if you own it for 15 years, you'll break even! Well, if the battery still functions properly by then. :P

I think the concept is good, but efficient panels are just too darned expensive.


By Mint on 1/2/2014 9:52:13 PM , Rating: 2
There are many places where personal solar is cheaper, but that's usually due to simplistic pricing strategies from the utility. Marginal electricity cost from natural gas is around 3c/kWh, but when you split plant construction, grid, service, and admin costs per kWh instead of per house, you can get 15c/kWh+ on your bill for a significant fraction of people.

That's not hard to beat with solar (take your own advice and do the math). So what we'll soon get is a bunch of people on solar "beating the system", but they'll all need backup power at the same time from the grid. All those fixed costs I mentioned above stay the same, but utilities will spread them over fewer kWh sold, so price goes up.

Cost-wise it makes sense. My beef is that it's simply inadequate for displacing gasoline, and if you're going to have a PHEV drivetrain, then don't waste it by not charging it properly from an outlet. That means away from the sun most of the time.


By marvdmartian on 1/3/2014 7:40:13 AM , Rating: 2
Sails on cars?? ;)


By flyingpants1 on 1/2/2014 9:32:42 PM , Rating: 2
3kWh/day would be incredible. That's up to 15 miles/day, or 5500 miles/year you can drive the car without even plugging it in.


By Nutzo on 1/3/2014 10:54:08 AM , Rating: 4
Of course those numbers are a best case example, assuming you are part in full sunshine all day.

3KWh, at even the highest summer cost of 34 cents/KWh, comes out to about $1 a day.
That's $365/year, or $3,650 over 10 years
If you are only paying 11 cent/KWh, then you would only be saving $1,205 over 10 years, less than the cost of the panels.

Also, parking the car in full sun, instead of a shady garage or carport, will result in higher air conditioning use, easily negating any savings. You would likely use most the 3KWh just to cool the car down a couple times.

When you included the added weight of the panels(and resulting lower milage) then numbers get even worse.


Great Concept but...
By deltaend on 1/2/2014 11:41:58 AM , Rating: 2
Those people who can afford such a car are likely to have garages in which they will store their vehicles. Most of these people will have parking ramps that they park in while at work which will block the sun. Very few people who will be able to afford this vehicle will have an outdoor parking spot with a sun view for while they are at work and when they are at home. For those of us living in Northern United States, it doesn't make sense at all as our cars get covered with snow when outside for nearly half of the year and dust the other half of the year. We park our cars under shelter as much as is possible due to the elements.




RE: Great Concept but...
By Monkey's Uncle on 1/2/2014 12:50:33 PM , Rating: 2
Good points. However are you considering that there are solar energy panels that don't require direct sunshine to work?

For instance I have a Citizen eco-drive watch that even charges with ambient room light inside my house. I am sure that these guys can come up with solar collector cells that will work in situations where there is no direct sunshine.

Just as an aside, I have about $70,000 worth of cars sitting in my open driveway. They don't go in the garage because I have way too much crap in it.


RE: Great Concept but...
By Souka on 1/2/2014 1:48:47 PM , Rating: 2
Citizen Eco drive... very small battery, very small power draw.

Per Citizen website, put the watch under flourescent light, 20cm (so about 8 inches)it takes quite a few hours depending on model.

The first three models show 34-62hours for a complete charge! Such a tiny battery.

http://www.citizen.com.hk/en/about-us/technology/e...


RE: Great Concept but...
By Monkey's Uncle on 1/2/2014 6:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
Had one for over 10 years. Battery never went flat in that entire time. And I did not spend all my time outdoors or with my arm 8" away from a fluorescent lamp. In fact I never had to explicitly charge it - ever. Bought a newer model simply because it has some new features I liked. Have yet to charge that one either.

The point is that solar cells can be created to take a wide spectrum of light. They don't always need direct sunlight to work - most will work even with the little bit of light you find in the typical garage. It depends on the solar cell.


RE: Great Concept but...
By Reclaimer77 on 1/2/2014 8:11:29 PM , Rating: 2
Sooooo how many Citizen Eco Drive's do we need to daisy-chain together to power a car? :P


RE: Great Concept but...
By Nutzo on 1/3/2014 10:59:42 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
They don't always need direct sunlight to work - most will work even with the little bit of light you find in the typical garage. It depends on the solar cell.


And the trickle charge you would get out of a solar panel in a typical dark garage wouldn't even be enough to run the curcuits needed to charge the battery.


RE: Great Concept but...
By MrBlastman on 1/2/2014 2:01:22 PM , Rating: 2
Being a southerner has many advantages. Parking outside almost anywhere we go is one of them. Even in our neighborhoods, we have plenty of room to park on the street.


Prius
By Shark Tek on 1/2/2014 12:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
Already had the option of solar panels in the roof.




RE: Prius
By Monkey's Uncle on 1/2/2014 12:57:54 PM , Rating: 1
Some differences here:

1. This is a Ford - not a Toyota.

2. Ford's car is a plug-in hybrid. The Prius offering the solar panel roof isn't.

3. Ford's is a concept car. It may not even see the light of day.

3. Toyota's plugin Prius (introduced for 2014) doesn't offer a solar panel roof.


RE: Prius
By JediJeb on 1/2/2014 6:13:47 PM , Rating: 3
Also didn't the Prius solar panel only power a small fan to keep the inside of the car cool on hot days? It was just a low watt panel and couldn't be used for charging the main batteries.


Change the title.
By Jacerie on 1/3/2014 9:53:10 AM , Rating: 2
The solar concentrator is not a part of the vehicle itself. It is a secondary device that is designed to go over the vehicle's parking area.




RE: Change the title.
By Mint on 1/4/2014 5:10:45 AM , Rating: 2
That would have certainly helped me understand the concept. Only after reading about the tech on other sites did I understand that.


Interesting....
By CaedenV on 1/2/2014 5:39:17 PM , Rating: 2
while interesting, I don't see this really being viable any time soon as a replacement for plugging in at night... but as a form of range extension? For that it may be worth it. You would probably get ~10-15 extra miles in a day? That could boost a 60 mile range to 75 miles. Pretty significant by anyone's standards.

There's other options as well. Toyota uses it's solar panels as a way to circulate hot air out of the car to keep it relatively cool. Something this large should be able to run the AC for a few hours, or assist in heating, or run accessories like the car stereo; all things which eat into the main battery's range.

Let's just keep one thing in mind: Tesla has a sister company in SolarCity which recently started using Tesla batteries as a partial backup system in large businesses. I don't think they would hesitate to start using SolarCity panels on Tesla vehicles if it made sense to do so.

I am sure that solar car rooftops are coming... I just don't think it will be much more of a gimmick until Tesla or some other company that has interests in solar and EVs implements it first.




Oh boy
By flyingpants1 on 1/2/2014 10:28:56 PM , Rating: 2
DT please don't misunderstand the concept of a solar vehicle.

Of course home solar is the best in terms of ROI, but the startup costs are just too high. People are a lot more willing to tack on $1-2k to a car payment for an option, than they are to pay $5-10k to install something on their roof.

The potential is astronomical. With current technology, you could build a car that can be driven for THOUSANDS OF MILES per year, 100% for free. Just imagine what would be possible with incremental improvements over the years.




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