Ford C-MAX Solar Energi 03

It’s all looking bright and sunny for Ford – the automaker has come up with a variation of its C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, one that offers battery charging via solar panels in addition to the usual electrical outlet plug-in route.

The C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, which will make its public debut at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is a collaborative project between the automaker, the Georgia Institute of Technology and SunPower, Ford’s solar technology partner that is providing the high-efficiency solar panels for the vehicle.

The study takes a day’s worth of sunlight to deliver the same performance as the conventional C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, and features a roof covered with SunPower solar cell panels, with an off-vehicle solar concentrator specially developed by Georgia Tech.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi 05

Researchers came up with a system that employs a special Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight. Similar in concept to a magnifying glass, the system draws enough power through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge, equivalent to eight kilowatts.

With a full charge, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept is estimated to have the same total 997 km range – and up to 34 km of electric-only operation – as a conventional C-MAX Energi, which features a 2.0 litre hybrid electric powertrain. Despite the solar panels, the Solar Energi retains a charge port and can be charged via cord and plug from the grid, if so desired.

Once done doing display duty at the CES, Ford and Georgia Tech will begin testing the vehicle in numerous real-world scenarios, and the outcome of those tests will help to determine if the concept is feasible as a production car.