CES LIVE: Ford debuts solar-powered C-Max Energi

Ford\'s solar-powered C-Max Energi can be fully recharged by the sun\'s rays.

Ford is going off the grid for its latest project, a C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid concept that is capable of fully recharging its on-board battery pack with nothing but the sun's rays.

The Consumer Electronics Show-debuting concept is virtually identical to its production counterpart, but the C-Max Solar Energi Concept uses roof-mounted solar panels to charge its battery pack.

However, those solar panels aren't powerful enough on their own to generate enough electricity to fully charge the C-Max's battery, so Ford partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology to make a special concentrator that funnels concentrated sunlight to the MPV's rooftop panels. The concentrator is a standalone unit like a carport, but Ford promises the infrastructure would be "low cost.”

Ford wasn't specific in its recharge times, but the Dearborn-based automaker says "a day's worth of sunlight” is equivalent to charging the C-Max on the grid for about 4 hours. If left in the sun for long enough, the solar panels can charge the C-Max's battery pack to 100 percent.

"Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept shines a new light on electric transportation and renewable energy,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure. "As an innovation leader, we want to further the public dialog about the art of the possible in moving the world toward a cleaner future.”

Ford says the technology holds the most promise for areas where the electrical grid might not be ready to support plug-in vehicles, but the company also touts its environmental benefits - by going off the grid, a C-Max Energi owner would reduce their annual green house gas emissions by four metric tons, or roughly the equivalent of what a U.S. household produces in four months. The concept retains its conventional plug port, so it's still possible to charge the vehicle via the grid.

Ford now the C-Max Solar Energi is just a concept, but Ford will conduct real world tests with Georgia Tech to determine the technology's production viability.

Live photos by Michael Stancil.

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