This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has so far brought us the meltdown of filmmaker Michael Bay as he walked off-stage during the Samsung curved TV launch. It's also brought us a waterproof phone from Sony that can go to new depths (4.9 feet versus the prior three feet). And soon, CES will bring us the future of cars via Ford's (F) solar-panel-powered hybrid, which the automaker is set to unveil this week. At least Ford wants us to think it's got a handle on the future with its C-Max Solar Energi Concept, which is equipped with solar panels on the roof.
"Ford is introducing what's known as a concept car -- emphasis on the word concept," Yahoo Finance Columnist Rick Newman tells us in the video interview above. This "means 'we're thinking about maybe doing this someday' ... maybe half of these cars actually turn into real cars that make it onto the road, the others get forgotten."
Newman argues the first problem with Ford's solar concept car is that it's part electric, a technology that has yet to catch on with drivers. While the Chevy Volt (GM) and Tesla (TSLA) Model S are on the market, he argues that these vehicles are surviving thanks to huge tax breaks, while electric cars are still not economically viable on their own.
Newman points out that solar panels don't work on cars yet and they also cost too much while failing to generate nearly enough power to drive a car. He gives the example of Toyota, which offers a solar panel option on its Prius for $1500. "It's only capable of powering a fan ... so if you're willing to pay $1500 for an auxiliary power source that can run a fan, makes sense!"
On Ford's concept car you need some kind of magnifier canopy contraption to funnel the sun into the solar panel in a way that actually recharges the battery efficiently. Once charged, the car can travel 21 miles powered by the sun's rays before the gas engine kicks in.
At CES, automakers are also planning to roll out the latest in their web-in-the-car push -- with Audi and GM planning to unveil strategies for 4G high-speed broadband in some of their models. Check out the video to see if Newman sees this development as feasible and attractive to consumers.
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