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High tech metal-backed, lens-concentrated panels deliver 8 kw of daily charge to an Energi PHEV

(UPDATE: Since some are confused by the numbers Ford gave me, I'm adding additional text explaining them.)

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) in Las Vegas, Nevada Ford Motor Comp. (F) displayed various electrification and "green home" products and concepts at its booth on the show floor.

Among these was the "MyEnergi LifeStyle 2.0" project with Sharp Corp. (TYO:6753), Whirlpool Corp. (WHR) (owner of Whirlpool and Maytag appliance brands), Eaton Corp. PLC, and Infineon Technologies AG (ETR:IFX).  Also working with research partners at Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT), the goal of the project is to try to lower a household's carbon footprint by 55 percent and its power usage by 60 percent.

Part of the system includes a battery storage unit for smoother power output, and storage from renewable sources.  I was a little surprised to hear from a Ford representative that the grid storage unit used brand new cells from Sharp and not spent cells from Ford Focus EVs or other Ford electric vehicles.

Ford has already announced the two lucky families (the Berrys in Southern California and the Sattlers in Colorado) that were selected to participate in the project at no cost to them.  The currently installed tech is expected to save the families $1,200 USD in electricity a year, according to Ford.  Of course the new energy-efficient appliances and smart grid tech aren't exactly free, so had the families actually paid for the green home makeover that figure would likely only making a modest dent in the overall price tag.

Ford Fresnel Cell Energi Max port

An integral part of the campaign is a special variant of the C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which is blanketed in a solar panel bonnet.  These special panels incorporate two innovations, according to Ford.  The first is a thin film metal backlayer, which allows the cells on the roof to soak up roughly 50 percent more power. 

The second is an installable car port, which has rooftop concentrating solar cell optics.  The type of optical device used is called a Fresnel lens (think of an ant under a magnifying glass).  The lens ups the harvest over five-fold.  (This kind of lens is often used by wilderness adventurers and doomsday preppers alike to build solar ovens.)

Together Ford says these innovations can boost the roughly 1 kilowatts of theoretical capacity to around 8 kilowatts.  On an average day, Ford says the panels generate enough power to produce the equivalent of a 4 hour charge from a wall plug. 

That's enough to account for nearly 75 percent of an Energi driver's average daily power consumption, according to Ford.  Ford estimates drivers may save up to $300 USD per year in energy costs.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

EXPLANATION of FORD'S NUMBERS:

First, here's the direct text of the press release, which was repeated to me in teh above form, almost unchanged:

Researchers developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator that uses a special Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight. Fresnel is a compact lens originally developed for use in lighthouses. 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).

Ford has stated that the family in Calif. (the Berrys) should see $300 USD in yearly savings.  With average costs of electricity @ $0.215 USD/kWh last year [source], that indicates the system produces about 1400 kWh annually, or about 3.8 kWh per day.

An C-Max Energi has a 7.6 kWh stack and can drive about 21 miles on a charge.  Thus if accurate Ford's "75 percent" estimate, assumes the driver travels under 14 miles per day.  Ford does collect statistics on its PHEV users, via its smartphone apps, so it's possible this number is accurate.

As for the "4 hours worth of plug-charging time", an average household circuit can push 20 A @ 120 VAC.  After losing about a quarter of the power during the DC conversion (typical), you wind up with a maximum output of 1.8 kW.  So a full charge would take four hours -- I think the person I was speaking to may have goofed a bit on the numbers there, as it seems more like the equivalent of two hours of plug time, based on the daily power output numbers derived from Ford's cost saving estimates.

Alternatively the cost savings could be understated.

A standard (non-concentrated) 8 kW distribution [example: 1, 2] in Calif. -- who averages 5.5 hours of sunlight a day year-round-- produces about 25 kWh per day in the winter; 45 kWh per day in the summer.  Michigan, by contrast, averages 3.6 hours of sunlight per day (roughly) so expect about 16 kWh in the winter, 30 kWh in the summer.

Even in Michigan, a standard 8 kW system produces around 24 kWh/day on average, year round.  So if Ford's system is producing only 3.8 kWh it is only about the efficiency of a 1.25 kW system.  I'm guessing something has been lost in translation.

One final clue; Treehugger says the panels are ~1.5 sq. meters and have a 300 to 350 watt capacity.  At a factor of 8, this would indicate a ~2.5 kWh output.  If correct, that would indicate that Ford overstated the maximum theoretical capacity.  Plugging in 0.3-0.35 kW, there still must be some major losses, but we get a lot closer to Ford's cost savings estimates.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Ford Fresnel Lens

To give a quick estimate of the system costs: So you're probably looking at least $1,900 USD (minus labor) if you built the system with off-the-shelf parts.  That would indicate you'd need to use the structure for at least six years to break even -- which isn't that bad.  The system shows the benefits of concentrated solar and is actually more practical than you might expect based on past automotive solar projects, which appeared more like greenwashing due to their low power output.

Ford at CES

Ford says the system is not yet production ready, but that it is considering rolling the system out in upcoming model years as a charging option.


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Sloppy!
By clarkn0va on 1/10/2014 4:34:54 PM , Rating: 6
quote:
Ford says these innovations can boost the roughly 1 kilowatts prouduced by the roof paneling in average 24 hour day to around 8 kilowatts (about 4 hours worth of plug-charging time). That's enough to account for nearly 75 percent of an Energi driver's average daily power consumption


So much wrong with this article. I realize the press has a duty to report science in a way that is accessible to the average reader, but can we not dumb this down without confusing the facts entirely?

The kilowatt unit is a unit of power. It's rate of the flow of energy. It makes no sense to compare it to a charging time, since a given rate of power can last for any arbitrary amount of time in theory. By way of analogy, it would be like reporting that a new vehicle is capable of travelling at 800 km/h (about 4 hours worth of highway driving).

Additionally, the phrase "average daily power consumption" is confusing. Taken literally, one might understand that phrase to mean that an Energi driver's total energy consumption in a day, if averaged over 24 hours, would equate to that rate. I'm guessing that's not what the author intended to convery. Hoping, actually. Coming back to my car analogy [rimshot], an equally informative statement would be that 800 km/h is enough to account for nearly 75 percent of an Energi driver's daily distance covered.

I'm not trying to be pedantic. I honestly found all of the power/energy numbers in this article to be quite confusing in their misuse.




RE: Sloppy!
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/10/2014 5:35:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The kilowatt unit is a unit of power. It's rate of the flow of energy, since a given rate of power can last for any arbitrary amount of time in theory. By way of analogy, it would be like reporting that a new vehicle is capable of travelling at 800 km/h (about 4 hours worth of highway driving).
I'm sorry you were struggling with the #s. Let me first clarify -- those numbers are from a direct quote from Ford, including the units and the "equivalent of four hours of wall plug time". I did not conduct the estimation process myself.

That said, the units/numbers are correct as far as I can tell, but I left out some parts of the calculation.

Let me give you numbers to help you understand.

You typically charge from a wall socket @ 110V (unless you have a 220 V wall box, which many EV owners will have). Household circuits are typically 20 amps these days, but older ones may be @ 15 A.

An EV loses up to 24 percent (a quarter) of its power converting AC to DC. Some may be a bit more efficient than that, but let's go with that #.

So...
@ 15 A, 120VAC --> 1.8 kW * 0.76 = 1.37 kW
@ 20 A, 120VAC --> 2.4 kW * 0.76 = 1.83 kW

...for reference sake, a typically affordable EV box is around 30-50 A @ 220 VAC.
@ 30 A, 220VAC --> 6.6 kW * 0.76 = 5.02 kW
@ 50 A, 220VAC --> 11 kW * 0.76 = 8.36 kW

Now DC current you in theory have almost no conversion losses. So if the cell produces 8 kW of stored DC power a day, this can be transmitted at the maximum of your storage device's DC plug (probably 30-50). If it feeds back into the grid you'll lose power converting to AC, but let's ignore that for the moment.

Eaton -- the participant in this project has this charger:
http://www.eaton.com/Eaton/ProductsServices/Electr...

@ 125 A/400 V max out (so 50 kW max)

Now on to the output. The system on the vehicle is essentially equivalent to this:
http://www.ka6wke.net/ka6wke-solar-power
...albeit the concentrators may affect the yield percentage somewhat, in different sunlight conditions...

He's average 1,200 kWh in summer months; 750 kWh in winter months (roughly) in Calif. (roughly 40 kWh per day in the summer; 25 kWh/day in the winter)

So in the summer you'll get a total charge of 40 kWh off an 8 kW panel in Calif. (given the losses, daylight time); 25 kWh in the winter.

Let's say you installed this thing at your work (they were gracious enough to install it, or your self-employed), and worked during the majority of the sunny hours (maximizing yield.

You might have
Summer: 35 kWh/day
Winter: 20 kWh/day

So our DC charge can push our total charge to the vehicle in around a half hour.

BUT the article is putting things in wall charger terms.

Assuming the cheaper 30 A option we had a max out of 5 kW -- so in the winter it would indeed be a "four hour wall charge", while in the summer it might be the equivalent of up to 7h of (AC) plug time. Or @ 50 A it's equivalent to about 4 hours of (AC) plug time in the summer, less in the winter.

Of course this is all grossly simplifying things, but you seem confused so I'm trying to put it in layman's terms.

The article is correct afaik... those were the #s and units Ford engineers gave me, and the above more detailed (but in layman's terms) explanation should help you understand why they gave them.

As for:
quote:
Additionally, the phrase "average daily power consumption" is confusing. Taken literally, one might understand that phrase to mean that an Energi driver's total energy consumption in a day, if averaged over 24 hours, would equate to that rate. I'm guessing that's not what the author intended to convery. Hoping, actually. Coming back to my car analogy [rimshot], an equally informative statement would be that 800 km/h is enough to account for nearly 75 percent of an Energi driver's daily distance covered.
An Energi has a 7.6 kWh stack, with a range of 21 miles. So let's say you do two charges.

One when you get to work, one when you get house(maybe you're sharing the charger with others). That's 15.2 kWh required. Even in the winter, the system can probably provide this in sunny climates.
It takes about four hours of plug charging (no wall box; 20 A) down to under half an hour.

Now, in other places like Ford's h0me state MI, I'm guessing you'd be getting 50 percent, perhaps, of what the Calif. installation I referenced gets.

So your winter/summer output would look more like 10/20 kWh. I'm guessing Ford is conservatively putting the figure at 75 percent, because for much of the country -- Oregon, Washington, New York, Michigan, Illinois, etc. you'd probably doing about that.

Hopefully this helps you understand... Again, I left the #s Ford gave me alone because they sounded fairly accurate, but I'm happy to give more detailed but simple accounting to explain it to you, since you were confused.


RE: Sloppy!
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/10/2014 6:18:41 PM , Rating: 3
Actually the above WOULD be correct IF Ford's claims of an 8 kW capacity were correct... but I'm pretty sure that # is wrong. It appears Ford may have goofed when give the calculations to their PR team, and that error has been propagated in the media & Ford's own PR team.

I've added some commentary on this and the text of the original press release, which was repeated to me on the show floor.

I think Ford's panels actually have around a 1.5-2.5 kW capacity with concentration. I'm basing that on a combination of the cost savings #s, the cost of power in Calif., and Treehugger's estimates of the panel space/capacity.

Seems like the panels will only provide 75 percent of your power if you're only driving ~14 miles a day (on average).

Further, it seems like Ford's estimates of "four hours worth of charge time) must be based on the worst case charging scenario -- @ 15 A/120 VAC (an older standard wall plug) you'll still be pulling down a maximum of 1.37 kW, so it seems like.

I'm 6ing you for pointing this out & encouraging me to run the #s. Again, even @ blogs that specialize in green energy like Treehugger, I haven't seen those #s fully examined.

I'm going to reach out to Ford and see if I can get a clarification from an engineer about the exact expected theoretical capacity, panel size, daily output, and electricity cost used in the Berry family test case.


RE: Sloppy!
By M'n'M on 1/10/2014 7:33:25 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Actually the above WOULD be correct IF Ford's claims of an 8 kW capacity were correct... but I'm pretty sure that # is wrong.

If TreeHugger (and commonsense) are correct re: the area of the panels then 8kW is waaaay off. Let's run the numbers. At the Earth's distance from the Sun, there's just under 1400 W per square meter. By the time that sunlight hits the Earth's surface it's more like 1 kW/m^2. So the best you can ever collect across 1.5 m^2 is 1.5 kW. And that's on a sunny day at high noon at the equator. No lens or concentrator can increase that amount. All a Fresnel lens can do is reduce the amount of silicon needed to collect the sunlight and/or reduce the loss from the peak value when the Sun is not directly overhead. I believe Ford's big claim is the latter.

Now no PV cell can turn all the sunlight falling on it into electricity. I think the best lab triple junction cell is 55% or so efficient. Cheap cells are more like 12%. What's in these panels ? I don't know but again if TreeHugger is correct they'll output 0.35 kW max (high noon, sunny, equator). That's a reasonable 23% efficiency but still waaaaay less than 8kW.

Where the lens pays back (my guess here) is that in the AM or PM, when the Sun is not directly overhead, you still get close to that 0.35 kW number. That is you don't get the usual "cosine loss". Let's be over-enthusiastic and say there's no loss.

So if you had 0.35 kW for 10 hours/day ... that's 3.5 kWh of energy that didn't have to come from some cord that day. How much of a "daily driving charge" does that represent ... all depends on how far you drive.

If you want to say the panel provide 2 kWh per day, I'd guess that's about right.


RE: Sloppy!
By HoosierEngineer5 on 1/11/2014 6:07:32 PM , Rating: 2
Found a neat website-I have not validated their numbers, but it will give you the average solar insolation figure for various cities.

http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-irradian...

If you look at the data for Detroit in December, they suggest a solar insolation value of 1.27 kWh/m^2/day, using a flat panel collector oriented horizontally. Assuming solar cell efficiency of 12% and a system loss (Fresnel lens, dust, etc.) of 85% (wag), you would get 130 Wh per day per square meter. Assuming you wanted 8 kWh (not 8 kW as the article states) of "capacity", you would need a solar collector (Fresnel Lens area of 61 square meters. That's 657 square feet, the size of many apartments. Using $7.05 per square foot, that's about $4600.00

For comparison, the website provides a solar insolation of 7.83 kWh/m^2/day for Los Angeles in June.

BTW, solar cell efficiency varies with the characteristics of the load. In general, I believe you would need a circuit to provide the optimal load to the solar cell while matching to the characteristics of the battery. Probably about 95% efficiency could be achieved. Also, solar cell efficiency would depend on the temperature and light intensity, which may not be optimal in the middle of winter.

Ford is clearly feeding us a line of rubbish. Also, they clearly don't understand there's difference between power and energy.


RE: Sloppy!
By TheEquatorialSky on 1/10/2014 6:51:28 PM , Rating: 2
After reading your explanation, I still agree with clarkn0va. The following sentences are confusing (and have spelling/grammatical errors... eh hem.):

quote:
Together Ford says these innovations can boost the roughly 1 kilowatts prouduced by the roof paneling in average 24 hour day to around 8 kilowatts (about 4 hours worth of plug-charging time). That's enough to account for nearly 75 percent of an Energi driver's average daily power consumption, according to Ford.


Solar panel power widely acknowledged to be rated for an average sunny day, at the equator, at noon. Saying "in an average 24 hour day" is at best redundant and at worst makes no sense. The term is generally used when referring to the energy harvested by a solar array over a day (e.g. 5kWh).

The way you worded the amount of plug charging time is confusing. I get what you're saying, but it reads like 8 kilowatts is 4 hours of plug charging time... which makes no sense. How about "...to around 8 kilowatts, a power rate capable of fully charging the vehicle in four hours." While technically true, even that sentence would be misleading...

Saying "daily power consumption" when you just finished talking about solar panel power rates is also confusing. "Power consumption" is a laymen's way of saying energy consumption. It's bad taste to combine different usages of a word in the same thought.


RE: Sloppy!
By milktea on 1/10/2014 7:29:07 PM , Rating: 2
Jason are you serious? Don't have time to read all that. I'm sure you're right.

@clarkn0va, I agree that the way Ford described it was a bit condense.

In power electronics, just know that the two most important items are power(Watt) and time. The 'kW' tells you how much energy it can produce in a second. The hour 'h' is needed to tell how much energy is stored (in the battery). Therefore you have the 'kWh' (kilowatt-hour). So both power and charging'time' are needed to describe an EV-battery system.

In summary Ford found a way to convert solar energy by 8 fold. All other info provide, I'd just take it with a grain of salt. Because the actual usage, in an EV, depends on so many factors. I'm waiting to see some prove from their first prototype.


RE: Sloppy!
By clarkn0va on 1/13/2014 11:34:49 AM , Rating: 2
Thank you very much for the explanation. I realize you would never get past the editors putting that many numbers into the main article, so I appreciate the breakdown in the comments.

It will be interesting to see how well Ford's claims hold water.


RE: Sloppy!
By HrilL on 1/15/2014 1:43:58 PM , Rating: 2
Not to be nit picky but your math is still flawed. A charger on any circuit will only typically use 80% of the circuit for safety reasons and the fact that circuits are not designed to run at max load over a long period of time. Really you'd be getting about

@ 15 A, 120VAC --> 1.8 kW * .8 = 1.44 kW * 0.76 = 1.09 kW
@ 20 A, 120VAC --> 2.4 kW * .8 = 1.92 kW * 0.76 = 1.46 kW
@ 30 A, 220VAC --> 6.6 kW * .8 = 5.28 kW * 0.76 = 4.01 kW
@ 50 A, 220VAC --> 11 kW * .8 = 8.8 kW * 0.76 = 8.36 kW

The 4 hours average equivalent of wall time seems pretty close to be when using the correct numbers.


RE: Sloppy!
By Jeffk464 on 1/11/2014 10:14:24 AM , Rating: 2
If you're going to buy solar panels I think its better to put them on the roof of your house.


Heat?
By Ammohunt on 1/10/2014 4:56:54 PM , Rating: 2
Any word on what they plan to do with the excess heat a setup like this will create? Roll the windows down while charging?




RE: Heat?
By JasonMick (blog) on 1/10/2014 6:21:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Any word on what they plan to do with the excess heat a setup like this will create? Roll the windows down while charging?
I don't think you would want to be sitting in it, during the charging process. I think the idea is for it charge while you're @ your daytime work site.

Maybe they'll included a swing are so you can angle your frensel lens at other targets like your neighbor's Prius.... ;)


RE: Heat?
By FITCamaro on 1/13/2014 7:34:05 AM , Rating: 2
What about the paint around the solar cells? I forsee it fading quickly since most people are too lazy to wax their cars regularly.


RE: Heat?
By coburn_c on 1/11/2014 7:48:30 PM , Rating: 2
Save a dollar a day in electricity by replacing your interior once a year. Or if you park it sloppily a new paint job.


RE: Heat?
By FITCamaro on 1/13/2014 7:36:46 AM , Rating: 2
Could possibly have your interior burst into flames if any of the concentrated light was coming through the window onto the seat. Heck you might also melt the siding on your house. Or set some wood that lines a flower bed or your driveway on fire.


Fresnel Lense replacments
By spamreader1 on 1/10/2014 4:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
Don't most Fresnel Lenses degrade over time from sun light? Or is that only an issue with the type of material used for it?




RE: Fresnel Lense replacments
By nafhan on 1/10/2014 4:35:11 PM , Rating: 2
Not a Fresnel lens, but my uncle has a greenhouse made of plastic sheeting, and it's rated to last for five years before the plastic needs to be replaced.


RE: Fresnel Lense replacments
By MrBlastman on 1/10/2014 4:38:03 PM , Rating: 2
It is all a matter of the material they are made out of.


RE: Fresnel Lense replacments
By milktea on 1/10/2014 6:49:08 PM , Rating: 1
Fiber optics might replace Fresnel lenses in the long run. Fiber can bend light that Fresnel cannot achieve. And they can be made very small using nano tech.

There was a news couple of months ago about 'fiber-coupled monocentric lens' having higher resolution than SLR wide angle lenses, but at only 1/10 the size!


By TheEquatorialSky on 1/10/2014 6:56:02 PM , Rating: 2
You're funny.


I have a permanent spot on my retina...
By MrBlastman on 1/10/2014 4:05:44 PM , Rating: 1
That I notice in my visual field that is the result of me using a fresnel lens coupled with a 15-million candlepower flashlight to burn stuff. >:)

I used polarized sunglasses, too! They weren't enough. The spot is small but I can notice it when I wake up in the morning.

Oh, sorry, totally off-topic, I know, but, well, pyromaniacs have to share, right?




RE: I have a permanent spot on my retina...
By nafhan on 1/10/2014 4:27:28 PM , Rating: 2
I feel like this adds to the conversation! To make sure it does, I'll pretend you're making a point about being careful what and where you store things in a garage covered in Fresnel lenses...


By MrBlastman on 1/10/2014 4:37:14 PM , Rating: 2
Rule number one: Be sure to store your gasoline cans in the sunshine!


Solar Oven
By eBob on 1/10/2014 4:26:22 PM , Rating: 2
So, basically, this will turn your carport into an oven to charge your car. How much energy will be saved when you have to turn on the A/C to cool the car down to a survivable and non-injurious temperature after it has charged?




RE: Solar Oven
By fic2 on 1/10/2014 5:19:45 PM , Rating: 2
On the bright side you can move your hot water tank/heater to the garage and have free hot water!


lololol
By flyingpants1 on 1/10/2014 10:30:54 PM , Rating: 2
So without focusing on Ford's PR claims, or Jason's willingness
to repeat them in his "reporting"..

By now we all know that most people don't drive very much. How many solar panels would you need to make a solar Volt, charging 35 miles/day?

35 miles * 170Wh/mile = 6kWh. So you'd need around 1100W of panels for 5.5 hours per day.

Is it physically possible to put 1100W of solar on a car? Yes, it is.

There you go, now most of us can make most of our trips for 100% free, almost the entire car industry is obsolete. Wow, that was easy.




RE: lololol
By M'n'M on 1/12/2014 11:47:23 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
By now we all know that most people don't drive very much. How many solar panels would you need to make a solar Volt, charging 35 miles/day? 35 miles * 170Wh/mile = 6kWh. So you'd need around 1100W of panels for 5.5 hours per day. Is it physically possible to put 1100W of solar on a car? Yes, it is

Huh ? A Volt uses more like 360 Wh/mi so double your energy reqd to start. Then tell me how big this "car" is that has panels that output 2200 W, on average, over 5.5 hours.


Great idea for people on the run
By jimbojimbo on 1/10/2014 5:27:03 PM , Rating: 2
Don't have the time to make it to the tanning salon for an hour? Lay in the sunport for 10min!!
Seriously though won't the fresnel lens need to be motorized so it always points straight at the solar panels instead of the hood or something like that as the sun's position changes?




Might work for some...
By vip2 on 1/13/2014 11:03:05 AM , Rating: 2
As long as you work at night so your car can be parked in your sun carport all day. If you work days like most people, you better hope the carport is portable so you can take it with you and set it up in the uncovered parking lot near work when you get there. During winter especially, I get home and park in the evening it is dark outside. I leave home in the morning it is dark outside. When is this carport thing going to charge the car? Only on the weekends?

Also, for us fair-skinned people do we need 1000+ sunscreen to get in the car while it is in the carport during the day without getting burned? ;-)




By dwhapham on 1/13/2014 11:07:02 AM , Rating: 2
While the idea seems great on paper, I can't believe it will be completely safe to attempt to get near or enter your vehicle on a hot sunny day with the sun blasting on or near your head at 8X it's normal potency. I think the ant under a magnifying glass was a good analogy..




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