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sunlightConcerns about depleting fuel reserves, their damaging impact on the environment and spiralling energy costs have led automobile manufacturers to explore the commercial potential of vehicles using renewable energy. Taking the lead is Ford which is focusing on making solar-powered cars financially viable for the general public with the launch of its concept sedan, the C-Max Solar Energi.

This concept car uses 15 to 20 small Fresnel lenses attached to tall metal structures (with large surface areas) which are placed on top of high-efficiency solar panels installed on the roof of the car. The lenses capture sunlight and act as magnifying glasses, thus increasing the amount of energy that the panels can generate by almost eight times. This allows the car’s battery to be completely charged within six hours of direct exposure to the sun, and can power the car for nearly 38 kilometres.

The C-Max also has inbuilt software that is configured with sensors that are installed on the front and rear ends. The software allows the car to automatically adjust its position when it is parked to absorb the maximum amount of sunlight through its lenses. Furthermore, thanks to another technological breakthrough, Ford engineers were able to incorporate a tracking system which monitors the amount of energy generated per minute by the solar panels, thereby ensuring optimal charging of the car’s battery.

Industry experts estimate that it will take at least three years for the C-Max to be available for public use. It is safe to say that given the amount of sunlight Pakistanis are exposed to during the long, scorching summer, solar-powered cars will prove successful in Pakistan.

In the meantime, it is reassuring to know that despite the high cost of the equipment and materials required for automobiles to harness solar energy, several hospitals and hotels in Pakistan have started using solar-powered golf carts to transport patients and guests within their premises.

– Haroon Rasheed

First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on July 20, 2014.