January 5, 2014 – Vol.18 No.43
 

Armchair Review: Ford's Solar C-MAX Energi Concept.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News

 

They're watching, you know, and they're not happy.
They're battle ready.
They'll do everything they can to keep customers addicted to their gasoline.

Even though there's just a smattering of electric vehicles out there, and, really, only a small percentage of hybrids on the road, each new car that uses no gasoline (or a lot less of it) makes them nervous. Antsy. Maybe even mean. Will they lose their stranglehold on the drivers of the world? It's a possibility.

When Ford puts solar panels on a C-Max roof it makes them squirm in their seats. Solar cars would doom Big Oil.

Fortunately for oil, the Solar C-Max is just a concept, not intended for production. (But it could be! Oil doesn't know for sure.) Nor is it really a solar-powered car. Its high end solar panels, with their fancy fresnel concentrating lenses, don't run the car at cruising speed. (Well, maybe a little.) What they do is charge the C-Max's lithium batteries when its parked, hopefully on the roof of the parking garage, not inside.

Ford says the concentrating solar panels will draw enough power from the sun each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts). One the grid, charging time for the C-Max Energi is about 7 hours with a 120 volt charger, and 2.5 hours with a 240 volt charger. So, assuming the solar panels are putting out 120 Volts, and taking all day to charge the batteries in full, the C-Max should go about 20 miles on solar electricity alone.

(Think about this a bit. If you have a 10 mile each way commute you'd never have to plug into the grid, nor would your gas engine ever come on. To do this you always need at least half a battery charge. On day one, with a full battery, you drive to work using only half a charge to get there. Left baking in the Sun for at least 8 hours, the C-Max easily comes up to full charge. You drive home at the end of the day (even in the dark) and there's still half a battery left, enough to get you back to work the next morning on the remaining charge. Another day in the Sun and the C-Max should get back it's full charge, ready to repeat the cycle. Of course if it rains you're screwed and have to plug-in at some point.)

We'll see what Ford does with this. The C-Max solar panels which focus sunlight to 8 times normal are concepts in themselves. Who knows? Ford might move ahead with solar cars. (Minivans with their big flat roofs would be perfect for solar power.)

Always remember something about Big Auto and Big Oil. At one time they may have shacked up in cheap motels: No longer, the tawdry affair is off. The oil companies and their shenanigans over prices and supply put real stress on the car business forcing some to shut their doors. The auto industry didn't like that much. Car companies like building cars. They don't like being jerked around by the fuel companies. If Big Auto can move ahead and develop popular and profitable cars that don't need Big Oil for fuel, Big Auto will do it and will walk away happy and free.

That said, Big Oil won't go away without a fight. If they can't keep drivers under their thumbs, they'll buy Washington for help.

 

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