For the environmentally conscious who think driving an electric car isn't doing enough, there'll be a chance to go solar at the same time.
Ford is announcing that it is teaming with an established solar provider, SunPower, to sell a solar energy system through Ford dealers in conjunction with the Focus electric sedan that goes on sale later this year.
Solar panels, to be mounted on the car owner's house, wouldn't necessarily directly charge the electric car's batteries.
Rather, they would provide juice from the sun to the house equal to offset about 1,000 miles of driving a month in the electric Focus, a plug-in version of the new compact sedan. Electric cars are typically recharged overnight.
"In effect, you are driving a solar-powered car," says SunPower CEO Tom Werner. He says his customers are always commenting, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could power my car?"
To generate enough solar power for an electric-car offset, the system will have about 147 square feet of roof panels — about 11 panels that are 4 feet by 2 feet:
The 2.5-kilowatt system will produce about 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.
The option will be offered by Ford dealers to Focus electric buyers, but will be a pricey option: about $10,000 after federal tax credits. Best Buy's Geek Squad, with which Ford already has a deal to install home chargers, can perform the solar installation.
Ford hasn't announced the price of the 2012 Focus electric yet. It goes on sale in California and New York later this year, beginning a gradual rollout nationwide into next spring.
The solar power option could get a good reception among environmentalist buyers who have figured out that even driving a plug-in EV isn't truly green because electricity is often made by burning fossil fuels at power plants.
"To have a scenario where you know you are offsetting (the electricity) used in your car, that's pretty attractive," says Ron Cogan, publisher of the Green Car Journal.
The new partnership lets Ford burnish its "green" image with the solar angle and gives SunPower, based in San Jose, Calif., a new batch of potential customers.
"It's pretty brilliant marketing," Cogan says. Not only does it help broaden electric car appeal, "it's going to introduce a whole new crowd of people to solar power who might not have gone there otherwise."