AutoMatters: C-MAX Solar Energi Concept & “Planes: Fire & Rescue”
By Jan Wagner
Recently Mike Tinskey, Ford’s Global Director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure, shared some important information about the history of vehicle electrification, where things stand today and the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept.
Back in 1930, electricity cost 8 cents/kWh and gasoline cost 10 cents/gallon. In today’s dollars, that was roughly equivalent to a little over $1/gallon for gas and $8/gallon for an equivalent amount of electricity. Electricity was much more expensive than gasoline back then. The average home used only 500 kWh of electricity per year.
The cost of electricity has gone down significantly over time, and the price of gas has risen. In the 1950s, their prices crossed, and that trend has continued. While today’s price for gasoline at the pumps hovers at $4/gallon and is likely to rise, the equivalent amount of electricity (in eGallons) costs about $1/gallon.
Today the average home uses 12,500 kWh of electricity annually. As more electric vehicles are added to our roads, that number will continue to increase.
Utilities are beginning to change how they charge for electricity, setting variable rates that depend on time of use. The price difference can be dramatic. Using timers to recharge electric vehicles in off-peak hours (late at night) saves money.
It stands to reason that if we could get some of that electrical energy from solar, we would save even more money – and not be as reliant on non-renewable, less environmentally friendly and foreign-sourced energy resources.
The energy alternatives get especially interesting when comparing a fuel-efficient gas-powered vehicle, an all-electric vehicle that gets its power from the grid and a vehicle that can be charged by solar power. At 40 MPG, it would take about two gallons of gas costing about $8 to make an 80-mile trip. In comparison, and depending upon the time of day that it was charged, an all-electric vehicle (like Nissan’s Leaf) that gets its power from the grid might use somewhere between $1.25 to $2 worth of electricity. Better yet, the solar energy used to charge the “Focus Electric Plus Solar” for the $80 trip would be free.
An energy-efficient solar electric vehicle uses a combination of modern technologies and strategies to maximize its range and efficiency. These typically include improved electric motor efficiency, engine start/stop technology (with all accessories, including air conditioning, re-engineered to run on electricity alone), regenerative braking, hybrid (CVT) transmissions and reduced electricity costs. Over time, the efficiency of solar cells has been steadily improving and the prices have dropped by 60 percent in the last three years.
Parking the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept in the sun is sufficient to produce a only small charge of electricity, but by focusing and concentrating the sun’s energy using a carport-like structure under which the car is parked, the amount of electrical charge increases significantly. In this way, the vehicle can be fully recharged.
The position of the sun constantly changes in the sky, but the sun’s energy must be kept concentrated on top of the vehicle. There are ways to overcome this challenge. Automatically moving the collector structure to track with the sun is expensive. Instead, Ford moves the vehicle autonomously. In places where the sun is stronger, the concentrating structure can be downsized.
For buyers of electric vehicles, there are financial and other incentives from government, such as single-driver car-pool lane stickers.
In theaters now, “Planes: Fire & Rescue” in 3D is a delightful, family-friendly film in the tradition of “Cars” and “Planes.” The story is fresh. The flying scenes are quite breathtaking. The various planes, along with a strong supporting cast of cars and trucks, have distinct personalities. (Speaking of the cars in this film, I noticed a Datsun 240-Z. No doubt that particular sports car, and other cars from our youth, put smiles on the faces of people my age.)
The planes face challenges to overcome, including one caused by a misguided car.
Technically, the film is quite accurate in terms of the firefighting techniques and the types of planes that are used to fight fires. “Planes: Fire & Rescue” conveys the very real dangers that fires can and do present.
Be sure to stick around after the credits for a little extra something.
I wonder whether we will see a “Planes” attraction added to the Disney California Adventure theme park? That would be fun.
As always, please write to AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.
Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters #342
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