Ford connects with Georgia Tech to drive solar-powered car

9:30 PM, Jan 2, 2014   |    comments
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Ford and Georgia Tech are collaborating on the solar-powered For C-Max.

(ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE)-- First there was gas, then electricity. Now there's sunlight.

Ford Motor Co. is teaming up with Georgia Tech to develop a sun-powered vehicle that can convert a day's worth of sunlight into the equivalent driving range of a plug-in hybrid.

Instead of powering its battery from an electrical outlet, C-MAX Solar Energi Concept vehicle harvest solar energy using a special concentrator. The device that acts like a magnifying glass, directs the sun rays to solar panels on the vehicle's roof.

With a full charge, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is expected to have the same total range as a conventional C-MAX Energi of up to 620 miles, including up to 21 electric-only miles.

To alleviate "range anxiety," the C-MAX Solar Energi vehicle can also be charged by connecting to an electric outlet.

San Jose, California-based SunPower, a Ford solar technology partner since 2011, is providing high efficiency solar cells for the roof of the C-MAX Solar Energi.

Georgia Tech technology is helping Ford amplify the sunlight, so it can generate enough energy to make a solar-powered hybrid feasible for daily use.

Tech 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.  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 kWh).

Ford is not alone is exploring solar power as a "fuel" source for next generation vehicles.The all-electric Nissan Leaf has an optional solar panel spoiler to help power on-board lights, instrumentation and infotainment systems.

Ford will unveil the car at the CES Gadget show in Las Vegas January 7-10.

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