Ford Teams Up with SunPower For More Sustainable Electric Vehicle Charging

Ford and leading solar panel manufacturer SunPower have formed a partnership to make electric vehicles even more environmentally friendly. In addition to recharging vehicles by plugging into an electrical outlet, SunPower will provide discounts for Ford EV buyers on home solar systems to help offset the carbon output of charging by plugging into electrical outlets.

SunPower, based in Silicon Valley, and Ford have teamed up to offer buyers of the upcoming Ford Focus EV a home solar panel rooftop system at a discounted price of less than $10,000, after a federal tax credit. Dubbed “Drive Green for Life”, the program offers a 2.5 kilowatt system capable of generating enough electricity for about 32 miles per day. SunPower normally sells the system for at least $18,000. The system also includes a 25-year warranty and SunPower will even offer a lease program for the solar charging system. Using solar energy to charge an EV’s battery would make driving it truly emissions-free.

Buyers in certain states can take advantage of additional state tax credits. For instance, in Raleigh, North Carolina, after rebates, the final price is less than $5,000.

The partnership will hopefully benefit the two companies mutually. Ford wants to set itself apart from the rest of the EV crowd, namely the Nissan with their Leaf and Chevy with their Volt. The discounts on the solar charging system would appeal to potential buyers and those with an eye for being eco-friendly, since most current EV owners that want solar charging systems have to purchase them separately and at a higher price.

Additionally, SunPower’s teaming up with Ford helps promote their business and solar energy in general. Says SunPower CEO Tom Werner, “This is a great opportunity to take solar mainstream. We’re thrilled to provide electric car owners with a clean source of fuel.” SunPower also hopes that buyers of the Focus EV and the bundled home solar charging system will become interested in expanding their system and add solar panels to power their homes, which are rated among the most efficient and take up less space than most of its competitors.

Many are lured to EVs because of the freedom from gasoline. Especially when gas prices are high, never having to fill up at a gas station is enticing. Driving a car that produces zero tailpipe emissions also gives EV owners a sense of being environmentally responsible. However, when EVs need to be plugged in and charged, the power needed to do this usually comes from coal powered plants, which are definitely not emissions free.

Critics will point out that most EV owners charge their cars overnight, which makes charging with solar energy impossible and forces owners to plug their EVs in and draw energy from coal powered plants. However, any energy generated by the solar charging system during the day will be sent to the power grid to help offset the energy used to charge the EV by plugging in.

The Ford Focus EV is expected to go on sale first in California and New York later this year, while the rest of the country will have to wait until Spring 2012 or later. Similar to Nissan, Ford has delayed the release of their EV and consumers are likely to wait in line before they can buy and drive away in a Focus EV. It is estimated to cost $30,000 after the $7,500 federal tax credit.

Although this partnership between the two companies may appeal to some because of the money savings, electric vehicles and home solar panels may still be out of reach for many because of the high costs. Despite the environmental benefits, paying extra tens of thousands of dollars to declare independence from petrol-based fuel could still be a drawback to most of the car-buying public.

Still, seeing something like “home solar charging system” among the list of features you opt for in a car is a step forward in making EVs even more sustainable.

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