LOS ANGELES— At the turn of the 20th century, electricity, steam, and gasoline were all vying for supremacy in terms of powering automobiles. Today, cars can operate with gas, electric batteries, or both. A concept car uses yet another alternative source of power, light from the sun.
The C-Max Solar Energi Concept isn’t your ordinary hybrid car.
“It can actually run off of three fuels. It can run off the grid by recharging it using the plug. It can run off the sun by using the canopy. Or it can run off of gasoline. So it’s the best of both worlds," said Mike Tinskey.
And, says Ford executive Tinskey, it could be the future of sustainable transportation. He explains how the solar panels, located on the vehicle’s roof, will harness the sun’s energy.
“Think of it as a parking structure. It’s a canopy that the vehicle parks under, and it magnifies the energy from the sun. So, each and every day you get a full battery charge, which is about 21 miles of electric driving...all free, all clean, from the sun each and every day," he said.
Major auto makers have relied on the sun's energy in the past. But the solar panels were used to power accessories like air conditioning or were impractical test cars, according to automotive historian Leslie Kendall.
“They had to be so light to be aerodynamic. They had to be so incredibly efficient that they really weren’t practical. But here we have a practical modern car that you can use in realistic everyday driving situations. [It's] not 100 percent solar-powered but it’s a big step towards that," said Kendall.
Ford officials say, before they can start mass production, they still have a few issues to work out...like how to cool the vehicle while it’s under the canopy and how to keep people from walking underneath the canopy while the C-Max is charging.