My main reaction to this concept was that if this fancy new Fresnel lens improves the output of solar panels enough to be worth the cost, just forego putting PVs on a car roof and instead use this concept on conventional fixed panels everywhere else.
I actually don't mind some petrochemical items that have durability. It's the throwaway stuff that's smothering us. We are awash in plastic with no plan for a sustainable path out. Not to mention frivolous, one-use burning of fossil fuels that has destabilized the planet. But those are other topics.
@NewStandard....maybe not totally practical but I do like the idea of putting solar energy directly into the car, not as you say via other dubious sources. However I wonder about the Fresnel lens - probably made via petrochemicals?
I think the lens system allows for slightly increased conversion efficiencies ie of the power incident on the active part of the solar cell more is converted into electricity. But it is still only 30% at best I think. Even if the efficiency was 100% (and I really think the laws of thermodynamics are well and truly against that) you still have the area limitation ie you only capture light from the area of the top of the lens and presumably you don't want to make the top of the car significantly larger so you are stuck with a few square metres at most - the lens concentrates the light incident upon it, it does not suck it in from a larger area.
In large solar thermal systems using lens or mirrors to concentrate you can get 80% efficiency BUT you need to concentrate the light by 5000 times and the running temperature is around 1300 kelvin (1000 centigrade) - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrated_solar_power
For concentrated PV it may eventually reach 50% efficiency - but not sure how practical it is to mount them on the room of a car - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentrated_photovoltaics
As a product, the used envelopes will also have a privacy issue unless you cut off the fronts. You'd probably make more friends providing the whole envelopes to stamp collectors. As an engineering gag gift (where the pun will be appreciated), stapling together new envelopes with your explanatory binder would still cost less than they could be sold for.
My personal method of creating unlimited amounts of scrap paper (without the catchy "back of the envelope" moniker) is to take every sheet of scrap used 8.5" x 11" paper with a blank back (from junk mail, printing, bills) and fold / tear it in half twice. I stack these quarter sheet pieces of scrap paper on my desk at home and at work (and on the notepad on my car dashboard). Unlimited scrap paper for free. Once the backs have been used, they finally get recycled.
Believe me, I have thought of that, as a gag gift to buy co-workers. At one time, I actually collected various used envelopes I received and sorted them by size, figuring I could use these cast-offs as raw materials; I was also going to ask friends for theirs. Thus, my BOM cost would be zero!
But relaity got in the way: who gets much mail these days? So I would have to buy the envelopes--and that changes the pricing structure.
Using the large fixed area of the roof of the house (or garage) would enable the vehicle to be charged when it is there and the house to obtain cheap power when the car is away. The additional area makes more power available (and you're spared the Fresnel lense contraption for your car). You also gain a longer lifetime for the solar panels to pay back the investment and generate savings.
I'm a big fan of solar electric. But the systems issue of the Ford solution makes the "solution" a non-soution for most of the vehicles in use. Here's why: 87.7% of workers drive their car to work, and 77% drive alone. Less than 30% of all workers work other than a day shift (health care workers are 30% while management is 8%). So more than half of cars driven to work are at the workplace during the day. Unless you are a shift worker, the canopy buys little (at best a 1 day charge for the work week assuming the car isn't driving the 24 hours before the first work day).
Drones are, in essence, flying autonomous vehicles. Pros and cons surrounding drones today might well foreshadow the debate over the development of self-driving cars. In the context of a strongly regulated aviation industry, "self-flying" drones pose a fresh challenge. How safe is it to fly drones in different environments? Should drones be required for visual line of sight – as are piloted airplanes? Join EE Times' Junko Yoshida as she moderates a panel of drone experts.