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Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept Is More Than Just A Car With Solar Panels

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Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

Ford has announced a new concept vehicle to be showcased at the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week. It’s a C-MAX Energi outfitted with a set of solar panels on the rooftop to go “off-grid.” It’s far from just another dreamy plug-in car with solar panels to add further to its green cred, however. It’s a glimpse at an evolving technology that could become a part of automotive future.

Throwing solar panels on a car just because the car happens to be electrified, ala the Prius Plug-in or the Fisker Karma, is nothing new. The trouble is, with the limited space, uncertain exposure angles, and other factors limiting photovoltaic options on a car’s roof, the idea has largely been more for public relations than for reality.

Solar powered cars are usually of the lightweight variety and are often shaped like manta rays with bicycle tires on them. These cars are capable of low highway speeds, sure, and can travel cross-country when the weather is good, but are extremely limited and well outside of the realm of the automotive market today.

Ford wants to change that, and the innovations shown in the C-MAX Solar Energi concept prove that it’s possible a solar car future that may be nearer than you think.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

The C-MAX Solar Energi concept has what look like solar heating panels on its rooftop panels that are similar to those you see on some houses where solar energy is gathered to pre-heat water for household use. In a way, this is exactly what they are, but instead of hot water, they are generating electricity just as photovoltaic power panels do. The difference is in the way the panels have been built, which will explain why they are thicker and taller than ordinary PV panels. Think of them as a combination of a water heating panel and an electric one.

These panels are built to be solar concentrators, focusing sunlight on the photovoltaics underneath the panel’s top so that they are more efficient. The idea is to overcome the inherent limitation of angle of attack that a car’s rooftop possesses. Since you can’t always predict the position of the car when parked or on the move, since the rooftop can’t be tilted towards the sun dynamically as many solar panel systems are, and since you can’t always predict how effective the sunlight hitting the rooftop will be, Ford wanted to overcome those issues by simply changing how the sunlight is angled towards the PV once it does hit the roof.

What the “concentrator” on top of the car does is capture sunlight from all angles and focuses it as much as possible towards the optimum point for each solar cell on the photovoltaic panel beneath.

Ford says that this plus another low-cost concentrator can take a day’s worth of sunlight and deliver the same performance as a conventional plug-in C-MAX Energi without drawing power from the electric grid. Ford says this would reduce the C-MAX Energi’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by four metric tons.

The breakthrough comes from SunPower, a Ford partner, which provides high-efficiency PV cells for the concept car. Combined with tech from the Georgia Institute of Technology, the cells can power the car for a full day’s drive. The answer from Georgia Tech came in two parts.

First, the on-roof concentrator which angles light to maximize its input to the car. This stand-alone portion of the technology combines with the advanced solar cells to create the most power possible without something off-vehicle being added. It does not, however, provide enough to power the car entirely, but is a huge leap forward from current solar panel use in automotive.

The second part is a standing concentrator. Think of it as a solar panel charging station without the plugs or panels. Instead, it’s a sort of big magnifying glass based on the Fresnel lens, it actively track sunlight and aims it optimally towards the car’s panels. The innovation here is not the lens itself, which is pretty awesome anyway, but in the fact that it’s not a stand-alone panel system but rather a far cheaper concentrator for use when the car is parked underneath. It’s possible that this could be devolved into a portable system that could be easily stored and deployed from the car itself, in fact, but that is not something Ford has gotten into, preferring to look instead at the overall package as a two-part system that can work together or separately.

Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept

So imagine this perfect scenario: the C-MAX Solar Energi pulls into a parking spot in front of your home. It parks over the top of some solar panels embedded into the concrete below, onto which the solar concentrator has been beaming sunlight all afternoon to power your house or sell to the grid. Now that your car is there, it begins collecting the light instead, recharging its batteries. The car itself was charging while you parked at work, though not as efficiently as you don’t have a concentrator there (yet). Not only has your solar system been aiding your home energy use, but now it’s powering your car as well.

Ford estimates that as it is now, the C-MAX Solar Energi concept is capable of recharging itself to 8 kilowatts (roughly four hours of plug-in charging) in a day using this system. While not totally self-sufficient, it’s a big step towards that and a huge leap for solar-powered automotive.

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Ford's C-MAX Solar Energi Concept points to a sunny future | CarNewsCafe.comCarNewsCafe.com

  2. John Goreham

    January 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    I have seen some premium EV owners poo-pooing this on a forum. Seems freakin cool to me. Even if it only gets you about 3 miles per day that could be a quarter of your needs. I wonder how much weight it adds to the top of the car. Looks thick.

  3. Aaron

    January 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Ford hasn’t said, but they’ve made it clear this is a concept and not production-ready. The panels themselves are far more efficient and light weight than they would be if they were mounted on your house thanks to the SunSolar tech. The real kicker here is the parking stall, which takes it from about 300W of charging in a day to 8kW. That’s phenomenal!

  4. Pingback: Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept Is More Than Just A Car With Solar Panels – Guys Gab | EVMeme.com

  5. Pingback: Ford C-MAX Solar Energi Concept Is More Than Just A Car With Solar Panels – Guys Gab | Aaron on Autos

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Sell Your Car And Buy a One-Way Ticket To One Of These Cities

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You’re probably not ready to pack up your entire life and move to another city just because it’s more walkable than your current area. However, if you’re on the lookout for opportunities to move to a different climate, make an improvement in your career, or get a change of scenery, then you might want to focus your research on some of these walkable and bikeable cities.

Why Ditch Your Wheels?

If you play your cards right, you might save money while getting a better standard of living. Without a car, you can subtract that major line item from budget and use the money for funding various other expenditures. For example, you could subsidize a higher cost of living in a place like New York City, or else give yourself a bigger party budget in a more affordable metropolis, such as Chicago.

Made in America

We excluded cities in Europe and Asia, such as Copenhagen, Paris, Tokyo, and London — but feel free to dream about moving there too. We left these great candidates out because the USA is the country of the automobile, and many other countries in the world that don’t share this vehicular passion boast major cities that are, on average, a lot easier to navigate on foot, on a bike, or on public transportation.

An Unlikely Candidate

If you know anything about the sprawling west-coast city, you probably know that Los Angeles has a lot of cars and a lot of traffic. In decades past, the city’s name was a byword for air pollution, with a massive amount of vehicles pumping out exhaust while they sat jammed onto the collosal superhighway system. More recently, the city has been building bicycle infrastructure. It’s also introducing some enhancements to public transportation.

A Dense Metropolis

Obviously, you can live without a car in New York City. In fact, it’s prohibitively expensive to own a car in the Big Apple. High gas prices, skyrocketing land prices that drive up parking rates, and the never-ending traffic in the busier areas all contribute to NYC’s love-hate relationship with taxis and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Bike-share systems and bicycle lane conversions sweeten the deal for New Yorkers who go car-free.

Many other dense cities in the United States are also easy to navigate without a car, and the Windy City certainly qualifies. The Chicago Transit Autority serves every corner of the city with busses and the L. Metra trains and Pace buses take care of the suburbs, all the way out to Wisconsin and Indiana. Even people who live in fairly distant suburbs tend to go with mass transit for their daily commutes.

A Country of Cyclists?

As you’ve probably noticed, biking is a growing trend across the USA. In Chicago, for example, the city has been building new bike lanes all across the central area in the past few years, as well as rolling out a bike-share program.

A great street bike costs more money than you might expect, but you have options if you’re a little strapped for cash at the moment. There are plenty of places that offer a good amount of cash for cars in Chicago. If you’re in a major city with expanding bike accessibility and you’re considering ditching your automotive option, then you might be able to subsidize that fancy street bike with the money you get from your clunker.

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On Track With The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

There’s no question about it, the mid-cycle refresh that the 2018 Ford Mustang received was a total game-changer, with the iconic pony car getting a host of upgrades in the styling, power, and handling departments, making the world’s best-selling sports car even better than before.

With 460 horsepower on tap, a 0-60-mph time of under four seconds (with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which shifts lightning-quick), and the optional MagneRide active suspension system, this new Mustang performs like no other pony car before it, save for the track-ready Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.

But the passionate Mustang team couldn’t leave well enough alone, curious to see just how far they could push the performance of the new ‘Stang, focused on improving the car’s handling capabilities. To achieve this, they started by adding an aggressive front splitter (inspired by the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Mustang) and rear spoiler to deliver more downforce and gives the car more grip in the corners.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

From there, they added a set of 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (1.5 inches wider than the wheels on Performance Pack Level 1) wrapped around 19×10.5-inch front and 19×11-inch rear wheels. These sticky tires provide a firmer grip and work with the retuned chassis to put the car more than a half-inch closer to the ground.

Custom tuned MagneRide dampers and quicker steering calibration provide better response. Other improvements over the Mustang Performance Pack Level 1 include a 67% stiffer rear stabilizer bar, a 12% stiffer front stabilizer bar, 20% stiffer front springs and rear springs that are 13% stiffer, all of which contribute to a more stable ride around corners with less body roll.

The results of their skunkworks efforts? The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, a $6,500 package for the Mustang GT that transforms the already-capable pony car into a true sports car, one that you can take to the track on the weekends.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

To prove that point, Ford invited us up to Monticello Motor Club for a track day with the Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, and I was giddy with excitement, as this would be the perfect setting to showcase what this car could really do, as this challenging track will really highlight a car’s strengths and weaknesses. This was going to be a fun one!

The only problem? Rain. 🌧

Yes, Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade… literally, cutting short our time with the Performance Pack 2. Still, we managed to get in one session on the track (one warm-up lap, two hot laps, and one cool down lap) before the rain started coming down. I hoped that we’d be able to continue driving in the rain (at a slower pace), but unfortunately the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are not suitable for rain the least, with very little tread to speak of.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

While I would have loved more time to really explore the Mustang PP2’s capabilities, from my brief time behind the wheel, I can tell you that this car felt right at home on the track, ripping through the course with surgical precision, with nary a squeal from those meaty tires, the Cup 2’s keeping the car glued to the road.

On the road, the Mustang was surprisingly comfortable, and one could realistically make this their daily driver (assuming they live somewhere where it doesn’t rain). The only issue is that those massive 305s up front lead to some tramlining on less than perfect roads. Still, it is a small price to pay for the handling benefits they provide on the track and in the twisties.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

Mustang chief engineer Carl Widdmann says it best: “We wanted to do a car that maximized the ability to put the power down, to create a car that you’d love driving up through, say, the canyons around L.A. It’s not the ultimate track Mustang, it bridges the gap between the Performance Pack and the track-ready GT350.”

And that’s really the best way to describe it. Ford has built a number of different Mustang GT variants (base GT, PP1, PP2, Bullitt), all with different customers in mind. For most folks, the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 is overkill. But if you’re an enthusiast like me who plans on driving your car hard, I think this $6,500 package is a no-brainer.

Game on, Camaro SS 1LE.

2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2

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Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T

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2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

In general, the midsize sedan world is about as sexy as a Billy Bass with Alexa’s voice. Where supercars with curvy looks get all the credit for automotive sexiness, though, midsize sedans actually do the work of being realistic. The good news is that being pragmatic and going for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata doesn’t mean you have to settle for frumpiness, as this is a really sleek-looking sedan.

For the 2018 model year, Hyundai didn’t do much to change the already well-done Sonata. A few tweaks to the interior design, some added suave to the exterior, and a lot of extra safety features make up most of the changes for this model year. The 2018 Sonata is otherwise the top-shelf sedan it’s been for some time.

From the outside, curb appeal is eyebrow-lifting with the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. The signature Hyundai diamond-shaped grille is flanked by a curved, beautifully sculpted hood and long, narrow LED headlights. Tapered fenders and a sporty lower intake and aero baffle are set off by large intake/fog lamp bezels. The bodywork on the Sonata features a strong upper beltline groove and edge, a well-defined and curved running board cut below, and an aggressively sporty roofline and fastback rear end. Noticeably on this new Sonata, the deck lid has an integrated spoiler replacing the add-on aero from before.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

The rear wheels of the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are pushed to the corners’ edge while the front wheels feature some overhang ahead that promises smooth handling. Ground clearance is a sporty straight line that matches the beltline above.

This is a great look for the 2018 Sonata and it’s really set apart in the crowded midsize market. Once inside the Sonata, we found, the exterior’s beauty continues with intelligent and well-done interior design.

A new three-spoke steering wheel is fitted to the Sonata to emphasize a driver-centric feel for the cabin. The dashboard and center console have been reworked to make them less bulky and more modern. Seating is very comfortable with a lot of creature comforts available to add to that. The rear bench can seat three across and has excellent outboard positions with plenty of head and legroom despite the sloped roofline and smaller appearance of the rear doors.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited

Many of the additions to the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are in the technologies found behind the beautiful design work. Updated suspension and handling mean better ride quality and more engagement at the wheel. Technologies now standard in the Sonata include advanced options like blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist.

The Sonata has a host of trim level options (seven in all). Three four-cylinder engines can be chosen from, each with either a six-, seven-, or eight-speed automatic transmission on offer. That’s a lot to choose from, sure, but it means that the Sonata can be tailored to meet needs without sacrificing looks and comfort.

The base model is the SE, followed by the SEL, the Sport, and the Limited. These four models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 184 horsepower to a six-speed automatic transmission. A much more interesting turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder (245 hp) and an eight-speed automatic transmission are found on the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trims. Finally, the Eco trim has its own 1.6-liter turbocharged four that outputs 178 horses into a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic.

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T Limited - Interior

Prices vary based on which trim level you choose, of course, but the base model’s price tag is lower than all but one of its competitors in the segment, and the Sonata comes with more standard equipment than almost all of the others. The Eco model is only $600 more than that, upgrading just the powertrain to improve fuel economy.

We drove the Limited 2.0T trim and would highly recommend the turbocharged two liter for its peppy drive quality, fast responses to the throttle, and smooth-shifting transmission. This combination brings a whole ‘nother level of sexiness to the 2018 Sonata and is well worth the extra money spent.

It is possible to have everything in one package and the 2018 Hyundai Sonata certainly does a good job of offering just about the whole shebang in one car.

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