The American car manufacturer Ford has announced for the next few days the presentation of a prototype hybrid electric vehicle of a particular kind, since the electric part is powered by solar energy, thanks to photovoltaic panels installed on the roof. A technology that should improve the range problems of these vehicles, which is currently insufficient to make them “all-purpose cars”, and make it possible to wait more serenely for the charging stations that do not yet exist (with the exception of urban areas) on the road network.

The vehicle to be presented is a Ford C-MAX: “Instead of drawing power for its battery from an electrical outlet, the Ford C-MAX Solar Energy Concept harnesses the sun’s energy,” Ford explained in its release. In order to reduce the time required to charge the battery, a special lens is used (Fresnel lens, mounted on a system capable of tracking the sun’s rays) to concentrate the light and “acts like a magnifying glass by directing intense rays towards the solar panels on the roof” adds the manufacturer. This device provides an 8 times higher efficiency than a conventional system.

In one day, the amount of energy obtained is equivalent to four hours of recharging on the electricity grid: 8 kW in one day of recharging in full sun, but the sunshine conditions must also be excellent, which is not the case everywhere and every day. However, the vehicle, which is also a conventional hybrid, still has the possibility of being connected to the mains. It is still only a prototype, designed in cooperation with the Georgian Institute of Technology, which requires extensive testing under various conditions reproducing real-life situations, before possibly being developed for use in production vehicles.

Nevertheless, Ford, which sold more than 85,000 electric and hybrid cars in 2013, is building on the current popularity of these vehicles, whose range slows development by confining them, for all-electric models, to the role of a second car for almost exclusive urban use.