August 22, 2011

Solar Powered Vehicles

Whether you're considering installing a solar panel system or purchasing an electric car – or both – a recent announcement by Ford and solar provider SunPower is good news. When Ford rolls out its 2012 electric hybrid vehicles, buyers will have the option to install a residential solar system at their homes at a greatly reduced price.

The idea is to entice eco-conscious buyers who want to drive cars with green technology, but don't want to use electricity generated by fossil-fueled utilities to power their vehicles. The "Drive Green for Life" campaign will no doubt appeal to those already considering solar arrays, too.

SunPower, an established solar provider in business for more than 25 years, will use Best Buy's Geek Squad to install the solar arrays – the Geek Squad already installs home chargers for electric vehicles under a contract with Ford. In exchange for the exposure that the marketing campaign will bring to SunPower, they are providing the solar systems at deep discounts.

Installations are expected to cost about $10,000 after the federal tax incentive, but Ford spokesperson Daniel Pierce explains that for most people, the price will be even lower. Incentive and solar rebate programs vary by area, and often include substantial discounts from local utility companies. "We found that with state and local rebates, the complete cost of the system can be as low as $5,500," Pierce said.

The SunPower 2.5-kilowatt solar system will consist of solar panels covering 144 square feet of roof space, and will generate about 3,000 kilowatt hours each year. Each system will come with a home monitoring system as well. The system won't be specifically designed to power electric car home chargers, but will effectively offset the power consumed by the batteries, providing enough energy for 1,000 miles of driving each month.

"In effect, you are driving a solar-powered car," said Tom Werner, SunPower's Chief Executive Officer.

The "Drive Green for Life" campaign is being advertised primarily for Ford's new fully-electric Focus, but will also apply to other Ford vehicles as well, including the five electric cars Ford is rolling out in 2012 and Ford's crossover utility vehicle, the hybrid C-Max.
"We expect the partnership will be very popular," Daniel Pierce said.

SunPower, an innovator in solar technology for over a quarter of a century, is hoping the partnership will lead to further technological development in the solar field. Vehicle batteries could eventually be used as energy storage for the electrical grid. SunPower sees the combination of purchasing electric vehicles in conjunction with practical solar power systems as an important step in that direction.

"This is a great way to help people green their lives," Pierce said.

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