Ford will be using CES as the stage next week to show off its new C-Max Solar Energi concept, a plug-in hybrid with a twist: instead of actually plugging it into an outlet when it's parked, you can just let the sun do the work. The company worked with the Georgia Institute of Technology and California solar energy firm SunPower on the project, which uses Fresnel lenses to concentrate the sun's rays on a relatively compact panel atop the C-Max's roof. The system is also capable of tracking the sun as it moves from east to west, adding up to the equivalent of a four-hour plug-in charge if you leave it sitting in the sun for a full day. Ford's quoted range on the car adds up to 620 miles off a combination of gas and electric, with up to 21 electric-only miles. Presumably, optimal charging only happens on a sunny day, but the Solar Energi can still be plugged in if needed.
The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker already commercially offers a plug-in hybrid version of the C-Max — the Energi — and Ford says that it'll be trialling the Solar Energi in real-world situations beginning after CES to determine how feasible it'd be to bring the solar-augmented version to market. Considering that Ford already works with SunPower on a solar charging package for its electric Focus, the idea certainly isn't far-fetched.