Solar energy is powering so much of our daily lives, so why can’t it help power your car too? Before you get your hopes up, this is not a solar powered car similar to what engineers the world over compete each year in the World Solar Challenge with vehicles powered exclusively by the sun. This is a breakthrough nonetheless. Ford, SunPower, and Georgia Tech have partnered together to put high efficiency solar cells on the roof of a plug-in hybrid allowing owners the potential of never charging the car using the electrical grid.
Researchers developed an off-vehicle solar concentrator that uses a special Fresnel lens to direct sunlight to the solar cells while boosting the impact of the sunlight by a factor of eight, much like a magnifying glass. The patent-pending system tracks the sun as it moves from east to west, drawing enough power from the sun through the concentrator each day to equal a four-hour battery charge (8 kilowatts).
By using this system, Ford estimates the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept will reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions a typical owner would produce by four metric tons, the equivalent of what a U.S. house produces in four months.
Walter Wang is an energy tax policy expert and managing editor of CleanTechies. A list of his publications can be found here. Follow Walter on Twitter: @energytaxprof