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.

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