2014 CES: Ford To Show Unique Solar Panel Concept That Moves with the Sun

Jan 02, 2014 10:07 AM EST | Jordan Ecarma (j.ecarma@autoworldnews.com)

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Ford C-Max Energi Concept Car

Similar to a sunflower, this vehicle moves on its own to stay in prime sunlight. (Photo : Ford Motor Company via SFGate)

Ford is introducing a unique green car concept with a solar panel roof at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show.

The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker will showcase the C-Max Solar Energi concept car at the event next week, San Francisco Chronicle writer David R. Baker reported.

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Unusual even within a diverse field, the C-Max concept is "more science experiment than sneak preview" since Ford doesn't plan to put it into production in the near future, Baker said.

The C-Max begins running on a rechargeable battery, which takes the driver about 21 miles. After the battery depletes, a gasoline-powered motor takes over.

The concept has a plug-in similar to the nonsolar Ford C-Max Energi that sold more than 6,300 models last year, but it also has a twist: solar cells that cover the roof.

The car can be plugged into a wall or charging station like a regular electric vehicle, but it can also be parked underneath a carport-like structure that concentrates sunlight onto the car's roof to boost its battery.

"Informally, we've been calling it the world's first plug-in hybrid that you don't have to plug in," said Mike Tinskey, Ford's global director of vehicle electrification. "This concept shows you can recharge without having to rely on the grid."

While the reverse carport structure concentrates sunlight to up to eight times normal strength, a depleted battery will still take six to seven hours to recharge.

The C-Max has another unusual quality that takes Ford a step forward in the realm of self-driving cars. It automatically moves to follow the sun, inching forward on its own to stay in optimal position under sunlight. Computer programming and sensors move the car as much as 16 feet by the end of the day.

"We would have a 'solar charge mode' that you'd put the car in," Tinskey said. "Over the six or seven hours, it's moving at a very slow pace, because it's matching the sun's movement. And it's all done autonomously."

Scheduled for Jan. 7-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the 2014 CES will feature more than 3,200 exhibitors.

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