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Transportation Power Technology

Ford Will Demo Solar-Charged Car At CES 179

Lucas123 writes "Ford plans to demonstrate its first solar-powered hybrid vehicle at CES next week. The Ford CMAX Solar Energi Concept car will have 1.5 square meters of solar photovoltaic cells on its roof to generate power to charge its battery. By themselves, the PV solar panels generate only 300W of power — not enough to charge the vehicle's battery in one day. Ford, however, said the car will be coupled with a carport that has solar concentrating lens atop it. The magnifying lens, called a Fresnel lens, will concentrate about 10 times the solar energy so the vehicle can be recharged in a single day — the same speed with which a standard hybrid charges using a plug." (Of course, some charge faster than others.)
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Ford Will Demo Solar-Charged Car At CES

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  • by DaTrueDave ( 992134 ) * on Thursday January 02, 2014 @03:50PM (#45848963)

    Stack of pennies reduced to molten nickel by fresnal lens: []

    • by Velox_SwiftFox ( 57902 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @03:54PM (#45849035)

      Zinc. Melting nickel takes a little more.

      • OR, the temperature was so high that the zinc pennies were melted into nickel.
      • But there were five of them...

    • First, those pennies aren't made of nickel, they're made of copper coated zinc.

      Second, pennies don't melt when exposed to a fresnel lens of that size, they VAPORIZE! Or at least the zinc does anyway

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 )

      Concept cars are never manufactured. But this concept is more ridiculous than most.

      Even if the car isn't melted, it's going to be obscenely hot to get in after a summer day's charging. Even if you can, you'll need most of the stored solar power to run air-conditioning.

      Besides, cars are generally driven during the day, and parked at home at night, when the sun isn't shining.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

        The solar power captured by the fresnel lens wouldn't need to be very focused, as there's a rather large solar panel are and if the solar panel is efficient enough, is shouldn't let much heat through.

        • It won't let much light through, but solar panels are dark and they get hot. They'll need some really good insulation under that panel to keep the interior from heating up when its under the lens. Better have a good & efficient AC unit in there.
          • So there are no black cars?

            I really don't get it why people are prepared to deliberately pretend to be far more stupid than they are just to try to find something negative about a technology they do not like.
            • Mod parent up.

              +1 Duh!

            • No, its the fresnel lens carport focusing sunlight on the car that makes the difference we are talking about..............maybe if you'd RTFA before you spout off calling others stupid, you wouldn't come off as such an idiot yourself.
              • by dbIII ( 701233 )
                Nice try, but if true such a backtrack means you were writing about leaving the airconditioning running in the car in the carport with nobody inside.
                Once again you are pretending to be far more stupid than you are.
                • So, now you are once again shifting the discussion because you can't respond appropriately. You didn't read the article or even the posts leading up to mine, you wrote something stupid because of it, I point it out, and you say I am backtracking. You need to backtrack and read the preliminary information before commenting.

                  So, what points are you denying?

                  1. The heating of the panel by the fresnel lens?
                  2. Good insulation would help?
                  3. A good air conditioner would be useful in such a car?

                  On the AC
        • by danlip ( 737336 )

          I don't know what you mean by "efficient enough", but typically solar PV is around 20% efficient or less. So most of the light is probably convert to heat.

          • Plus any idiot who has walked outside knows that the sun radiates heat in addition to visible light.

            This concept would understandably cause confusion for Slashdot readers. Anything 'outside' might as well be in a different country for them.

      • You know, you can filter light right. The visual light spectrum isn't very hot. You can filter out the IR and the UV which tends to become IR after hitting something at the lens. You only need to let through the narrow spectrum the panel actually uses. Doing so would actually make it be about as cool as the shade.

        And we aren't talking about anything fancy. Even if you still had to charge it, it would be kind of awesome to run out of power but have enough to make it home after a few hours of sun. And it isn'

    • The obvious way around this is to have a heat exchanger under the solar panels, then use some energy to cool the solar panels through the radiator. A car's radiator should be able to handle ~2kw incoming heat load, with just a pump. It would help improve efficency as well, since solar panels charge better when they're cool.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @05:50PM (#45850451)

        The obvious way around this is to have a heat exchanger under the solar panels

        A more obvious way around it is to have the panels feed their power into the grid, so that they can be productive whether the car is in the carport or not. Then charge the car from the grid so it can still be charged at night, on cloudy days, or when parked somewhere else.

        • That's great so long as you have grid power where you park your car. Believe it or not but there are still places on this Earth where an electrical outlet is more than ten feet away.

          Also, that solar panel would be just as productive on the car as on someone's roof. That is unless the car happens to have to drive through a lot of long tunnels. I suppose parking the car in a garage would destroy the gains of having a solar panel on the roof but then if someone buys a solar charging car and parks it in a ga

          • Also, that solar panel would be just as productive on the car as on someone's roof.

            Not true. If the car leaves the carport the productivity of the panel drops by a factor of ten, because the sunlight is no longer focused by the fresnel lens.

            • Yeah, slapping a solar panel on the roof seems like it would be easy and great. But, the whole special car port thing seems like a pain in the ass. Where am I suppose to put my special car port? And why don't I just have a solar panel and lens charge up some batteries and then use that power. The solar panel on the roof is great, the special nonsense carport seems like it would be mostly pointless.

              It seems like the easiest bit is just to have the car have a panel on the roof, and let the chips fall where th

        • Well actually what I see as the killer app for this is being able to run climate control in your vehicle and not having to worry about draining your batteries. Being able to run 300w AC power, while not spectacular, could keep you from roasting potentially. Especially if you put reflective panels in your windows when you leave.

          Speaking of which, why has no car manufacturer bothered to make a car that can automatically hoist up a window sized aluminum plate with your windows when you park? Hmm...

  • ...he climb on da car roof, go BOOM!

    • Well, you have to admit, the cat did want a warm place to lie on ...

    • So the question we all want to know is can this actually happen?

      Will a bird/cat/rodent be fried when they enter the beam?

      Well we know the car roof has an area of 1.5 square meters and the lens provides 10 times the energy that would fall on the car roof. Using standard insolation of 1000 watts/m^2, we can deduce that the solar radiation flux on the car after the lens is 10000 watts/m^2.

      So is this enough to fry a cat? The answer is.... yes, but it wouldn't happen instantly! According to wolfram alpha 10000 w

  • It's good to have solar-powered things spread around, in case of major power grid problems. As LED street lights are installed, some of them should be solar powered. Especially in areas with a history of floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.

    • Would it not be simpler to stop installing street lights outside of high pedestrian areas and intersections? Streetlights cost significant amounts of money while hurting drivers night vision and directly polluting the night sky.

    • As LED street lights are installed, some of them should be solar powered

      You're talking about major maintenance and extra up-front costs, as workers have to drive around, non-stop, constantly replacing failing (SLA) batteries. They last only a few years, and spread across thousands of street lights, you'd be changing several every single day.

  • concept cars .. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by savuporo ( 658486 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @04:10PM (#45849255)

    There is a parallel universe of concept cars somewhere, where you can drive a microturbine powered Jaguar, solar charged Ford, Mitsubishi EVO with in-wheel motors and ATTESA-like control, there are probably a bunch of nuclear powered Ford Nucleons whizzing about as well, and everyone swaps batteries in project Better Places station like there is no tomorrow. The logo of Shell is largely replaced by Duracell in cityscapes.

    Meanwhile in the real world, we can all buy a Tesla Model S for a low starting price of cool $70K or thereabouts and hope they install a fast charger somewhere close by. And of course, wait in line.

    • Plus, the cars fly, airplanes are nuclear powered and we have a colony on the moon.

    • This ignores the point of concept cars. Those solar panels aren't generating power so much as hype.

    • But but to be fair, you can also buy a new EV for less than the average price of a new car, which is a genuinely new situation. (Nissan Leaf base price is $28k, average new car price is $31K).
      • I don't remember Nissan tooling around car shows showing off one useless and impractical EV concept after another before they unveiled Leaf in pretty much in it's production configuration.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      You can charge EVs from normal outlets or non-ultra-fast chargers. With over 200 miles range it isn't much of an issue in the real world.

  • by beltsbear ( 2489652 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @04:16PM (#45849353)

    Why put them on the car? Put 10x the panels on the canopy and run a WIRE to the car to charge it. The panels could go to the grid if the car is not present. The weight savings will help the car, they will be cheaper panels for the wattage on the canopy and you can have a real amount of them. Panels on top of the car will often be wasted being covered by trees, parking garages and being at a less then optimum angle.

    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )
      Because this is a PR stunt.
      • Because this is a PR stunt.

        It would be even cooler if they smoked the household cat in the process. I might see that as a feature. (My wife puts out food for strays, and the house is regularly mobbed by cats and raccoons, who sometimes fight with each other. It's one of those things where you go "yes, dear" and try not to listen to the noise.)

    • by devjoe ( 88696 )
      Your idea will also help people who commute to work, whose cars will not BE under the canopy during most of the daylight hours.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      What you describe is basically a Tesla Supercharger. Looks like a petrol station and the roof is coveted in panels.

  • Wouldn't it be better to just build the solar cell into the carport so it can charge a battery all day while the car is driving around, then plug the car into the carport to be charged by the battery at night?

    • Wouldn't it be better to just build the solar cell into the carport so it can charge a battery all day while the car is driving around, then plug the car into the carport to be charged by the battery at night?

      Because then it wouldn't be a solar powered car. I mean, it technically would, but it wouldn't *look like* a solar powered car.

  • If they are not useful for charging on the go, it's dead weight that hurts efficiency. Also I am sure the car gets very hot from concentrated solar power.

  • I agree the carport idea is ridiculous, but I generally like this idea. I drive my car only a few miles each day, and leave it parked in the sun all day while I am at work, so I could probably get most of my power from solar. We use my wife's car for long trips anyways.

    This is just a variant of the plug-in hybrid they already sell. Still plugs in. Still has a gas engine for range. Only has the battery capacity for 21 electric-only miles, which is the weakest point I see.

    • Agreed. This thing has 300 watts of solar panels on it. Assuming through the day you averaged 200 watts from them over 8 hours, you'd make 1.6 kwh of electricity, enough to power the car for 4.5 miles at 350 wh/mi.

  • Dear Ford.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday January 02, 2014 @05:05PM (#45849985) Homepage

    Stop with the stupid.

    The Car port, if covered with conventional solar panels will be a lot cheaper, easier to make, and will not require special manufacturing processes to create special lenses that follow the sun.

    Less than 1/2 their price and I can make you a carport that will be double their power with conventional 200Watt panels. Plus require ZERO maintenance except for washing them once a year.

    • Having solar panels on the car means that the car can generate enough electricity to overcome battery self-discharge. So if you leave it parked somewhere, like say the airport, for a couple weeks or even months you don't come back to an dead car.

      Tesla draws about 50w all the time. A car without Tesla's poor standby electronics could even get a tiny bit of charge over time from the roof panels.

    • How should a 10m^2 solar panel be cheaper than a 10m^2 plexi glass fressnel lense?

    • It's not completely stupid. Solar panels on the roof are like a range extender. And battery almost empty during a ride, and the next charging station not close by? Stop at a restaurant, eat something while the battery recharges a bit, and you are good to go.

      The carport with lens is stupid, though.

  • I have no problem with putting, what, 20 square feet (maximum) of solar cells on the car roof. It'll trickle a little power into the batteries, and it's kinda cool, even if the weight and cost of the cells makes it impractical. But, a 200 square foot optical carport lens sounds ludicrous. Ugly, expensive, and requires an always-on, guaranteed 100% foolproof object avoidance system, so the car doesn't run over toys, pets, or toddlers as it shuffles back and forth under the lens.

    You may say it's a "concept ca

  • Where is the focal point? I really hope that there isn't a really solid focal point. Oh look the people thought they were ants. Not to mention that things like cats like to sleep in warm places.

    There is another problem. The typical commuter is away from their car port during the best daylight hours.

    That said, this would be perfect for me. I don't drive a car much so a solar panel would mean that I would plug the car in very rarely. I would love to drive for a year or more, check the charging logs and se

There's no future in time travel.