Solar Charging an Electric Car: How Much Would You Save?

Couldn't make it to the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show? Never fear: The Fool was there to check out the tech and report back on who was there and what was new. With thousands of products in more than 15 categories, the next big thing was surely making its debut at the CES in Las Vegas.

A Ford (NYSE: F  ) representative at CES explained the potential cost avoidance of the C-MAX solar concept car and explains that while other carmakers do represent competition, progress in the green technology space benefits everyone by offering a broader range of energy-efficient choices.

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A full transcript follows the video.

Austin Smith: Let's get into some other numbers. Are you guys talking about cost and sales volume here?

Ford Representative: No, not yet. Because of the nature of it, it's still a concept -- and frankly, there are still some things that we're working on with it -- but what we could talk about, if I could reframe that, instead of cost we could talk about it almost in terms of customer value.

What you would be able to do by using this setup is you would be essentially recharging your car during daylight hours. If, instead of parking your solar C-MAX Energi underneath this concentrator, you would be plugging it into the wall and recharging it during daytime hours, it would cost you on average $1 to $2 for that electricity, depending upon where you live and your electricity rates.

When you think about it in that context, you are essentially avoiding $1 to $2 per day of electricity costs, to recharge your car. Taken over a year, say $300 to $600 worth of cost avoidance, by being able to charge it with pure, clean, renewable energy from the sun.

If you think about it in that context, about say a $500 value per year, per customer, how much would you be willing to pay for that capability on your car? I'll leave it as an open-ended question like that, but that's how we're starting to think about it.

Smith: Pretty legitimate value adds there, for consumers. Let's take a higher-level discussion of this industry and electric vehicles, writ large. Ford has always been a big innovator in efficiency, and you guys have always been pushing the envelope on product categories.

We're also seeing a lot of other automakers -- there's a Toyota  (NYSE: TM  ) booth right behind us, there's a General Motors  (NYSE: GM  ) booth over here -- what other products out there are interesting and do you admire, in this category at large, that you really respect what other companies are doing, pushing the envelope in fuel efficiency and new car designs?

Ford Representative: I think all of it's great. These are all of our competitors, but at the same time the people that are in this sustainability space, everyone -- especially Ford -- is really trying to move, and that's the whole purpose of this concept: "Let's start the public dialogue about what's possible," about taking cars, on one hand, that you used to be able to plug into the grid, and now they can use sunshine.

The Toyota booth right over here is showing a fuel cell vehicle; fantastic. I think what Ford has been saying is, there's not going to be a single solution here. It's going to be "and" -- an "and" solution, not an "or" solution. There's going to be a breadth of technologies that are needed to move everyone into this space of greener transportation.

Whether it's fuel cell, whether it's a solar energy car, whether it's pure electric, I think there's going to be a spectrum, and it's all good, especially with public consciousness growing every single year about some of the different choices that they might have in coming years.


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  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 9:20 AM, Ostrowsr wrote:

    Two year payback or it's not worth it for most people. But the wealthy will pay more in the 1st cycle of this product. Then the price will drop and the rest of us can buy one. Most low income folks are waiting for Tata Motors to bring low cost cars to the huge lower middle class and the poor. A $50 per month payment might be doable for the bus riders to afford their own car if the minimum wage keeps rising and the good jobs come back.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 4:24 PM, ajek3000 wrote:

    I have an electric car and there's no way on earth any amount of solar could save me $2 a day because my entire electric bill is less than $60 a month. I drive ~1000 miles a month on electric.

    I can't imagine car-sized solar panels being capable of delivering anywhere near the sustained 1500watts of energy needed to have any chance of charging my during daylight hours (at 1500 watts it takes about 16 hours to restore ~50 miles of charge). So, at best, I think this could save me 50 cents a day and probably less on average because some days just aren't great for sunlight harvesting.

    Once you consider the amount of energy invested into making the solar panels, my guess is that it actually isn't a very "renewable" or "sustainable" energy source.

  • Report this Comment On January 20, 2014, at 10:29 PM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    With current technology a solar panel roof would extend your driving range by about 20 miles. There's just not enough room on the roof (and the hood) to create the power needed. You will still need to plug your car in at the end of the day.

  • Report this Comment On January 21, 2014, at 1:44 AM, jeffhre wrote:

    "With current technology a solar panel roof would extend your driving range by about 20 miles."

    The C-MAX Energi only has about 21 miles of EV range.

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