Will We Ever Have a Solar-Powered Car?

Hybrids and electric vehicles are an important step toward a more sustainable world, but they both still rely on fossil fuels to some degree — for hybrids, to power the engine, and for electrics, to create the electricity they run on.

With regard to pure electric vehicles, the only exception to this rule is if the electricity used to charge them is created using renewable resources. But what if we could cut out the middleman and create a vehicle that’s fully powered by a renewable resource?

Cars powered by solar energy have been a dream for a long time. After all, the sun is an extremely accessible, nearly infinite source of energy, and we’ve already got ways of converting its light into power. Unfortunately, efforts to build a car that runs on solar energy have been hampered by inefficiencies in current solar panel technology. However, it’s possible that that’s all changing.

Ford rolled out a solar-powered concept car at CES in Las Vegas this year. Called the C-Max Solar Energi, the car comes equipped with several solar panels on the roof. To be fair, it’s not the most practical: it requires a special canopy to concentrate and magnify sunlight in order to charge — and a full charge requires a full day in the sunlight. Not exactly going to work for a person who lives in a less sunny area or drives more than once every few days. One nifty feature the C-Max has, however: while under the charging canopy, the car actually moves itself forward and backward in order to capture the most sunlight.

While the C-Max Solar Energi is just a concept and obviously isn’t practical enough to be used by the average family, that isn’t the point. According to Ford’s director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure, Mike Tinskey, it’s about proving that solar is improving and might be ready for use in vehicles in the not-so-distant future.

“We need to get the conversation started,” he said.

What do you think? Will we ever have a solar-powered car?

(via Bloomberg)

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