Ford today unveiled a glimpse at the future of automobiles and the power that might get us from point A to point B.
Its latest concept car, described in Christian Science Monitor, features breakthrough hybrid technology combining batteries, a gasoline engine, and solar power. The difference between Ford and other automakers is that this car carries the panels in its roof.
Engineers have to tackle the problem of cramming enough solar cells into the roof of the car to make it go. They bolstered its capabilities by putting a concave plastic cover over the cells. This acts as a lens to concentrate solar energy into the cells.
It takes seven hours to fully charge in sunlight, but can also be plugged in conventionally. During optimal conditions, 75 percent of its power could come from the sun.
Solar panels should grow more efficient as technology advances. Paradoxically, all that stands in the way of progress is government support. Subsidies encourage the status quo, which currently means solar panels that are not economically feasible in most situations. They are either too expensive, or not efficient enough. Market pressures would encourage more developments that could make them more prevalent in business, home, or automobile use.
Solar power is one of the few renewable energy sources that has a lot of promise. If we can only refrain from giving it too much help, it could eventually fulfill the potential predicted of it.