Ford and SunPower Team Up for Solar-Powered Electric Car Charging

By · August 11, 2011

Ford's Mike Tinskey and SunPower CEO Tom Warner

Ford's Mike Tinskey and SunPower CEO Tom Warner shake hands on partnership, in front of a Ford Focus Electric. (Photo: Bradley Berman.)

Ford Motor Co. and SunPower, a leading manufacturer of solar panels, yesterday announced a partnership to offer a home solar energy package to new electric car buyers. As part of the car purchase process, Ford dealers will refer customers to SunPower, which is offering a 2.5 kW home solar system for a discounted price of about $10,000.

Similarly, in January, Ford announced that its dealers will refer customers to Best Buy for the purchase and installation of competitively priced home chargers.

The Ford-SunPower announcement is the latest example of a convergence between electric vehicles and home power generation via photovoltaic systems. The alignment between EV and PV allows electric car owners to avoid the use of any fossil fuels to recharge and power electric cars. In late July, we reported that SolarCity, a solar company, and ClipperCreek, a maker of electric car chargers, will offer a bundled solution to allow electric car owners the ability to install a solar system and EV charger at the same time.

The Ford-SunPower deal is not a bundling of solutions or a new hardware/software offering. Instead, it’s simply an agreement by Ford to make its new electric car buyers aware of the benefits of charging via home solar and to refer those customers to SunPower. As a hook, SunPower devised a special offer for a relatively small 2.5 kW system—specifically sized to provide power for about 12,000 miles of driving in an electric car.

The company estimates that the average output of the 2.5 kW system will be 3,000 kilowatt hours per year.

Electric car supporters, like our friends at, have been advocating that all EV buyers buy a system that’s at least 2.5 kW in size. For customers interested in increasing the size of the system beyond 2.5 kW—potentially to provide enough power for the home as well as the electric car—SunPower would build the EV discount into the overall cost, according to company officials.

At the media event at SunPower’s headquarters in Richmond, Calif.—coincidentally a former Ford plant that produced Model As and Model Ts—SunPower C.E.O. Tom Werner told me that the solar company is currently only making this offer to Ford electric car buyers, but that the deal is not exclusive. SunPower is open to working with other carmakers.

SunPower officials also told me that the $10,000 Ford EV solar package would otherwise cost somewhere between $17,000 and $20,000. These figures include installation and consider federal incentives—but not local and state incentives that could bring down the cost even more.

SunPower would determine the exact cost for any specific customer, after a home evaluation.

Mike Tinskey, Ford's director of global vehicle electrification and infrastructure, was at the SunPower announcement, and confirmed that the first deliveries of the Focus Electric will happen before the end of 2011. He said the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid is also on schedule for 2012. Tinsky declined to comment on pricing or production quantities—only saying that output would be based on market demand.

I expect nearly every carmaker producing electric cars to announce some kind of relationship with a solar provider. Soon, such partnerships will no longer be newsworthy. What will matter is how good the deal is, or how easy it will be to buy EV and PV equipment and services in a bundle. Despite the many long-term economic and environmental benefits of solar-powered electric cars, adding $10,000 or more to a $30,000-plus electric car purchase will need to be compelling.


· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

In other news, washing machine manufacturers have agreed to refer all customers to the Tide corporation for detergent.....

· · 6 years ago

. . . and it's a good thing, indeed, Anonymous. One of the first thing that EV naysayers bring up is the reliance that electric cars have with coal fired or nuclear powerplants: the so-called longer tailpipe argument. Here, finally, we are seeing EV manufacturers and solar PV panel manufacturers developing meaningful partnerships and - one hopes - provide a convenient way for homeowners to finance an EV and make a PV purchase all at once.

Sunpower, by the way, is on the cutting edge of this technology, as their panels are among the most efficient in the industry.

· · 6 years ago

An installed cost of $10K after the federal tax credit is a good deal and could generate more than 12,000 miles worth of EV range in sunny climate zones (and less in cloudy places). The system would be too big for me, even if I didn't already have some PV, but it ought to work for many EV drivers who own their houses and have power companies that allow net metering.

I'm glad to see the synergy between EVs and solar being promoted in such a direct way.

· · 6 years ago

Now they are getting my attention. In So Cal. Edison territory, it appears there would be another $2200 off, bringing the cost to $7800 installed! Wow!

· Eric (not verified) · 6 years ago

For those that may not recognize it, the announcement was made in a former Ford assembly plant that has now been turned into a green-renovated public venue called the Craneway Pavilion. The facility is one of the coolest places and is right on the San Francisco Bay looking towards SF.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago


Currently the price of Solar PV Panel is $2.84 / watt as per solarbuzz. It was more than $5 / watt just 3 years ago. At this rate of decrease, it may soon go below $2 / watt in another 2 years and at that point, many individuals can install in their rooftops and also the utility scale Solar Plants may compete with Coal.

· · 6 years ago

"Despite the many long-term economic and environmental benefits of solar-powered electric cars, adding $10,000 or more to a $30,000-plus electric car purchase will need to be compelling."

Now hang on a moment. The $10K for a PV array is a capital improvement on your home, not an expense. So your property value should correspondingly increase roughly $10K. Also the Focus EV will likely be priced well north of $30K.

· · 6 years ago

@Indyflick - Agreed that the PV is capital improvement. (Re price, we don't know yet, hence the "plus" part of the $30k-plus.

I know some very strong EV advocates that held off on the LEAF because it's expensive (and exceeds how much they're prepared to spend for a new car). Imagine a middle-class car buyer getting ready to sign a deal for a $35,000 car and then hearing the sale pitch for why it's time to add another $10,000 to the purchase (regardless of what that will mean to the value of a home). EV + PV makes a ton of sense, but still needs to be sold to a lot of people. Right?

· · 6 years ago

@Brad Berman,
"Imagine a middle-class car buyer getting ready to sign a deal for a $35,000 car and then hearing the sale pitch for why it's time to add another $10,000 to the purchase."

You mean along with the paint protection package, theft deterent package, window tint, and extended warranty? :-)

· · 6 years ago

"So your property value should correspondingly increase roughly $10K."

Unfortunately, most real estate agents will tell you that it will not add any value to your home. Apparently, it falls under the same category as swimming pools for home purchasers.

· · 6 years ago

While it is unlikely you would recoup the whole investment on a PV system. I would think it should be worth at least 10 times the annual energy savings to a home buyer for a 10% ROI. So if the system saves $40/month in energy it should be worth at least $4800 to any home buyer. Since they're financing the home with a rate closer to 5%, it's a net positive for the buyer at anything up to 20 times the annual energy savings.

Buyers may not see it that way, but it's a matter of selling it to them, and it's certainly worth more to the right buyer.

A pool on the other hand, is a hole you pour money into.

· · 6 years ago

Here in New Jersey, we have a strong SREC program so the return in quicker than in most other states. For instance I've had my ~9kWh system for a little over a year now and I have already recovered about $8,500 of the $39,000 out of pocket expense. I'll be whole in five or six years. My neighbor is a realtor and when I was installing my system she walked over and said how good of an idea it was and that the homes in our area that have a solar array sell quicker and for more money than a comparable home in the same neighborhood.
Why wouldn't they? If you buy my house now the system is completely paid for and you will get about $100,000 in electric savings and SREC sales over the next 25 years. No other home addition actually pays the homeowner every month.

· betterfuture (not verified) · 6 years ago

This is a great idea to combine solar and electric cars in a package deal. I think the american people are just about ready for something this new and transformational!

Check out my experiences testing electric cars on my blog:

· miimura (not verified) · 6 years ago

CNN reported on this Tuesday morning. You can see it on YouTube here:

I thought the coverage was very poor and did not really clarify anything for the average person. This good opportunity to inform people was completely wasted.

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