Finally, a use for the sun that doesn’t involve making you squint or turning your pale, pale skin all splotchy and red.
Here at the 2014 CES gadget show in Las Vegas, Ford is showing off its C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car. Developed by Ford and researchers at Georgia Tech, it’s like an electric-gasoline hybrid, except that the roof of the car is covered in solar panels, which can in turn juice up the vehicle’s electric battery.
The SunPower solar panels are about 21% efficient, and Ford has cobbled together a canopy that the car can be parked underneath to increase the intensity of sunlight by about eight times its normal amount, allowing the car to use a day’s worth of sunlight to recharge the same amount as if it’d been plugged into the wall for four hours. The car will recharge in regular settings such as parking lots, or you can plug it into a wall outlet to charge it the old-fashioned way as well. The company says the total range of the car is around 620 miles, with 21 of those being electric-only miles.
So when could you get the keys to such a vehicle? That’s hard to say, given that it’s still in the prototype stages. A Ford rep told me that after CES wraps up, the car will be tested in real-word scenarios to determine whether or not it’s worth pursuing as a production vehicle.