Ford has a new car that comes equipped with a 16-square-foot solar panel, allowing drivers to harness the power of the sun before cruising down Pacific Coast Highway. The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is by no means a conventional car, but Ford is trying to think beyond the current electric market, which currently relies on specialty charging stations. Those are all well and good, but when one isn't around, what's a driver to do? Ford's new technology, which was developed with the help of Silicon Valley's SunPower, hopes to address that. Unfortunately, since this is merely a concept, the design isn't perfect just yet.
Right now, Ford has managed to direct sunlight into the the vehicle's panel, which then charges the lithium-ion battery in about six to seven hours. That's great, because it means the car doesn't need to be plugged in or anywhere near a charging station, so long as there's sunlight. However, the concept so far only manages a range of about 21 miles—that wouldn't even get me to work and back home. There's a gas engine for backup, and you can use a charging station, but that still doesn't help with the range, which is paltry compared to other alternatives.
Ford's director of global vehicle electrification and infrastructure, Mike Tinskey, said the automaker's new concept would be perfect for limited home use, corporate campuses or even developing countries where there are no electric grids. Sunshine is abundant everywhere, though there are clear limitations at such an early stage. Of course, more development could see things such as range and charge time improve, so this is just the beginning.
Oftentimes concepts are just for show, but Ford is serious about making the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept a reality. The company has built the concept, and has proved it can be done. But before it actually comes to market, Ford wants to spend this year researching and testing the market to see if areas can accommodate such an idea. Seeing as the concept relies on sunshine, it would make sense in places like California or other desert states. While its stats won't blow anyone's hair back, Ford's technology could be a sign of what's to come in the clean energy market.
Maybe one day, in addition to self-driving cars, you'll be able to fully charge up during your lunch break.