At CES 2014, Ford debuted its newest concept car, the C-MAX Solar Energi Concept, a unique vehicle allowing the owner the possibility of going completely off-grid. The C-MAX Concept is a plug-in hybrid that also has solar panels on the roof; a special concentrator lens (like a magnifying glass) directs sunlight onto the panels. Driving this first-of-a-kind car would typically eliminate four metric tons of greenhouse emissions per year. A fully charged C-MAX Concept would have an estimated driving range of 620 miles; if needed, the car could be connected to a charging station to get grid power. The concept vehicle is expected to get 100 combined MPGe (miles-per-gallon equivalent).
Working with scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Ford developed a custom Fresnel lens to direct and boost sunlight. The system includes sun-tracking technology to follow the sun through the day, producing a total 8 kWh charge. The roof’s efficient X21 solar cells were developed by SunPower. In 2013, its E-Series panels gave SunPower top records in solar module yield. The new X-Series panels deliver efficiency of 21.5%, a world record. These panels will deliver 75% more electricity over 25 years of life.
Another solar initiative success relying on SunPower cells is Off-Grid Solutions’ WakaWaka Solar Lamp and Phone Charger. (Waka Waka means “bright light” in Swahili.) WakaWaka Power is one of the most successful Kickstarter projects, having reached 838% of its funding goal (January 2014).
A famous crowdfunding platform established in 2009, Kickstarter has allowed millions of people to come together and fund more than 50,000 projects, including solar incubators, tech products, music, movies, video games, food projects, journalism and much more.
A hot (literally) Kickstarter solar success is the GoSun Stove. Using sun-tracking smarts and a vacuum tube, this portable stove can heat up to 550F and cook a meal in 20 minutes. The GoSun weighs less than four pounds, uses no fuel, can bake, boil or fry, and even keeps food warm like a thermos. Every sixth manufactured GoSun is donated to a needy family.
Kickstarter is a general platform; it is not just a solar incubator. There are organizations that hope to function as kickstarter-for-solar. A prime example is Mosaic, based in Oakland, California. This startup helps introduce hundreds of different investors to solar-power related nonprofits and businesses. Each investor puts in $25 or more for a new solar initiative; then for 5-10 years they will receive 4.5-6.5% a year, like a bond. Mosaic’s cofounder aspires to get millions of people active in solar funding.