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article imageFord’s hybrid sales leader goes cordless

By Sandy Dechert     Jan 4, 2014 in Technology
What could be better than America's Ford C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, which debuted two years ago and gets the best combined miles per gallon equivalent in its class (100 combined MPGe, from the EPA-estimated 108 city/92 highway)?
How about the new Ford C-MAX Energi Concept car, which uses power direct from the sun to charge photovoltaic batteries on its roof? You can check out this futuristic beauty at the 2014 international Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week (January 7-10).
Ford developed the vehicle with San Jose-based SunPower Corporation (Ford's partner in the Drive Green for Life program) and Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology. SunPower’s X21 high-efficiency solar cells sit on the car's 1.5 square meters of rooftop and can generate 300-350 watts, reportedly 50% more power than similar-sized panels made by other companies. Like the Fresnel magnifiers used to boost coastal lighthouse output, a patent-pending solar concentrator in the vehicle's independent canopy magnifies power by a factor of eight as it tracks the sun moving from east to west.
The C-MAX Solar Energi is just a concept car at the moment, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure Mike Tinskey told CleanTechnica's Zachary Shahan. After its CES debut, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin road-testing the vehicle in real-world scenarios. Market date and price are too far away to hazard a guess, if Ford actually goes with the concept.
“Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” Tinskey says in a news release. “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.”
A full charge in the C-MAX Solar Energi concept car will take you up to 620 miles, about the same as the more conventional C-MAX Energi parent vehicle. You may also want to keep in mind that because the C-MAX Solar Energi includes a charge port, cord, and plug, you can still suck power from Mama Grid whenever you want to instead of conventionally filling up.
And the 21 all-solar, PV-only miles you get can easily handle most everyday commuting or shopping needs, entirely freeing the car of gas and grid energy hunger. Shahan says that internal Ford data suggest the sun could directly power up to 75 percent of all trips made by an average driver in a solar hybrid vehicle. It could also enable regular travel in areas where the electric grid is underdeveloped, unreliable, or too costly.  
But wait -- that's not all. There's a huge eco-benefit from technology like this. Ford says that "if all light-duty vehicles in the United States were to adopt Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept technology, annual greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by approximately 1 billion metric tons."
Now consider that over one quarter (28 percent) of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from transportation. Checking Ford's number with EPA's annual inventory of greenhouse gas emissions (April 2013), light-duty hybrids with direct solar capability could cut transportation impacts by more than half of the total. This would take our total greenhouse impact down from 6.7 billion metric tons to 5.7, a staggering reduction in terms of climate change.
More about Ford CMax Solar Energi Concept, EV, Hybrid, solarpowered, Ford
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