One of the biggest criticisms of electric vehicles is that they don't necessarily reduce emissions. After all, plugging an EV into a power grid that is getting energy from a bunch of coal-fired plants isn't much better than filling up the car with petroleum (except that it conserves our limited petroleum resources). In an effort to alleviate customers' concerns, Ford has opted to sell SunPower's rooftop solar panels along with the all-electric Focus, which will be released later this year.
"What was really attractive to Ford was that [SunPower] was willing to roll up their sleeves and find a way to design a system for the automotive market. We think that EV customers are likely to be solar customers, and that solar customers are likely to be EV customers," says Mike Tinskey, Ford's manager of vehicle electrification and infrastructure.
The company is making the process ultra-simple for prospective vehicle owners, who can elect to buy SunPower's 2.5 kW array and an EV charger (to be installed by Best Buy's Geek Squad) at Ford dealerships at the same time as they buy their car. Once they make the purchase, a pre-packaged array will be delivered to their home and a SunPower installer will set up the system on the roof.
SunPower's array features 11 solar panels, which can generate enough power to juice up a car for 1,000 miles of driving each month. The solar company designed the 2.5 kW array specifically for the needs of EV drivers, so it provides just enough power to offset EV use, but not much more. It costs about $10,000, depending on local and federal tax credits. In some solar-friendly places, like Raleigh, North Carolina, the array costs as little as $5,000.
The cheapest option for EV owners looking to offset their vehicle emissions generally comes from companies like Sungevity and SolarCity, which allow customers to pay a low monthly rate, with little to no upfront fees. But Ford and Sunpower have the convenience factor down pat: grabbing future EV owners at the point of sale and making an offer that they can't refuse—that is, if they can afford to shell out an extra $10,000 or so.
[Image: Flickr user jordandelion]