In its ever-present effort to challenge Toyota as the world leader in fuel-efficiency and hybrid electric car technology, Ford has announced the C-Max Solar Energi concept. The concept is a solar-powered variant of the Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, which Ford claims is capable of the same efficiency as the standard car, but without relying on the electric grid infrastructure.
Using a special compact Fresnel lens that concentrates and directs sunlight to roof-mounted solar panels, the Ford C-Max Solar Energi hybrid can fully recharge in a day from the sun's energy, giving it a battery charge equal to a four-hour plug-in charge. The vehicle, which retains the plug-in charge port as an alternative, achieves the same combined 100 mpg combined rating and 620-mile range (of which 21 miles are on only electric power) as its standard Ford C-Max Energi progenitor. Ford also claims that the average car owners could see major environmental gains by switching to the solar-powered hybrid—up to four metric tons less annual CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions would be produced compared to charging from the electric grid.
The Ford C-Max Energi uses a 2.0-liter 141-hp engine paired with a 54-hp electric motor and mated to a continuously variable transmission. Using only electric power, the Ford C-Max Energi can do up to 85 mph before switching to hybrid mode.
Ford will reportedly begin vehicle testing after the Ford C-Max Solar Energi debuts at the 2014 CES show in Las Vegas, at which point we will have a better idea whether or not this concept will ever make it to production.