Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) will be introducing a new C-MAX hybrid concept car as one of its featured offerings at the 2014 International CES next week. The C-MAX Solar Energi is not your grandmother’s hybrid, however; this baby includes SunPower solar panels on the roof that can recharge the vehicle’s battery.

Ford C-MAX

Electric vehicles are a hot development topic today, and Ford is not resting on its laurels. The C-MAX Solar Energi project is a partnership between Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Slow charging process

The key technical problem to be overcome in the development of the C-MAX was the lengthy charging process. It requires almost one hour of direct sunlight for the solar panels to collect enough power to move the vehicle one kilometer. The team decided to tackle this problem by creating a canopy to concentrate the solar power for use in the vehicle.

Solar concentrator system

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) researchers created a special charging canopy using a concentrating Fresnel lens that tracks and moves along with the sun. A Fresnel lens is the same sort of magnifying glass lens used in lighthouses, and it allows solar power to be concentrated into one small location.

With this concentrator canopy, the solar panels can generate enough electricity — around eight kilowatts — over the course a day to move the C-MAX up to 21 miles using its electric motor, according to Mike Tinskey, global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure for Ford.

Possible uses for Ford C-MAX Solar Energi

A great deal of testing a development remains before the idea can become a commercial concept, but Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has decided to test the C-MAX idea on corporate campuses. The charging canopies provide shelter, while employees could use the concentrated power to top off the battery for local commutes.

The charging canopy electric vehicle concept is obviously also attractive in rural areas where the electrical grid isn’t always reliable or in areas where the grid doesn’t reach.