Ford and SunPower Simplify Solar Charging of EVs

Ford and SunPower offer a rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life” by providing renewable energy to offset the electricity used to charge the vehicle. The SunPower rooftop solar system also will be compatible with the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid electric vehicle Ford is rolling out in 2012.

This pre-configured solution makes solar charging easy for new customers.  Many of the first 50,000 U.S. buyers of electric cars have been early adopters of solar power and renewable energy. Music legend Jackson Browne lives off-gird and charges his Chevrolet Volt with his own wind and solar power.   Johnson and Johnson installed 1.1MW of SunPower solar covered parking structures that includes 5 Coulomb electric car chargers. The U.S. Marine Corp at Camp Pendleton showed me their solar powered parking structure that charges their 291 electric vehicles. Solar Parking Structures

The 2.5 kilowatt rooftop solar system is comprised of the SunPower® E18 Series solar panels that produce an average of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. These high-efficiency solar panels generate approximately 50 percent more electricity than conventional panels and utilize a smaller footprint on the roof. The system was sized to accommodate an electric car owner who drives about 1,000 miles per month.

The complete SunPower solar system is offered at a base price of less than $10,000 after federal tax credits. Local and state rebates, along with other incentives, may drive the system cost down even more, depending on a customer’s location. Included in the purchase is a residential monitoring system, which includes the ability to track the performance of their solar system on the web or through an iPhone application. Affordable financing options for the solar system are available through SunPower.

When Ford customers order their Focus Electric or C-MAX Energi they will have the option of indicating an interest in the SunPower system. SunPower leads the industry with more than 400 dealers in the U.S., and can support the initial Focus Electric roll out in all 19 markets. A participating SunPower dealer who will visit their home to begin the installation process will contact interested Focus Electric customers. Ford also has an agreement with consumer electronics leader Best Buy to offer a 240-volt home charging station for the Focus Electric and future electric vehicle owners.

I was impressed with my test drives of early versions of the Ford Focus Electric, which will challenge the Nissan Leaf. In 2013, NISSAN opens its new Tennessee plant with the ultimate capacity of making 150,000 LEAFs each year. The Ford C-MAX Energi will challenge the Chevrolet Volt’s leadership of plug-in hybrids. Chevrolet will make 65,000 Volts and Opel Amperas next year.

Electrification is an important piece of Ford’s overall product sustainability strategy, which includes the launch of five electrified vehicles in North America by 2012 and in Europe by 2013. Ford launched the Transit Connect Electric small commercial van in 2010 and will launch the all-new Focus Electric later this year. In 2012, these models will be joined in North America by the new C-MAX Hybrid, a second next-generation lithium-ion battery hybrid and C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid. This diverse range of electrified vehicles allows Ford to meet a variety of consumer driving needs.

Electric car critics and many oil industry executives claim that there will only be coal power charging electric vehicles. In my two years of interviewing electric car owners and fleet managers, I have yet to met someone who only uses coal to power their electric vehicles. Most use zero coal power. Many use 100 percent renewables. One oil giant who does not make the false coal claim is Total, which is buying the majority of SunPower stock. Total sees a billion dollar opportunity to charge cars with renewable energy.