Pairing electric cars with solar power has become trendy. Ford said Wednesday it will offer SunPower’s solar electric systems to owners of Focus Electric, which the carmaker plans to launch later this year.

The two companies believe Focus Electric owners will embrace the idea of powering their cars with a cleaner source of electricity. Electric car makers want to market their vehicles as eco-friendly, but critics like to point out that the majority of the electricity generated in the country isn’t. In fact, about two-thirds of the country’s power comes from coal- or natural gas-fired power plants.

So carmakers have turned to solar for marketing help. Last month, General Motors announced a $7.5 million investment in a solar equipment maker and installer and a program to help Chevrolet dealers build solar power-equipped charging stations. GM launched the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric car, late last year.

Ford will market the SunPower equipment as it rolls out the Focus Electric. The automaker plans to ship a small number of Focus Electric starting in December. Ford has said it ill sell the model at its dealerships in 19 markets initially. Those markets are major cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Austin, New York and Boston.

SunPower plans to offer a 2.5-kilowatt system as part of its marketing campaign with Ford.  SunPower says  the system will generate enough electricity to offset the amount used by someone who drives about 1,000 miles per month. That mileage corresponds with the government estimate that passenger vehicle owners typically drive about 12,000 miles per year. The solar panels will generate power during the day, of course, while people are more likely to recharge their vehicles at night.

The 2.5-kilowatt system, which can generate about 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, will cost about $10,000 (excluding any local sales tax) after taking into account a 30 percent federal tax credit ($14,286 without counting the tax credit), SunPower said. The price appears lower than the average small solar electric systems that have been sold in California in the past 12 months, according to state government data. But how much electricity a system can generate will depend greatly on the locations and the amount of sunlight available — manufacturers tend to provide power generation numbers based on a set of standard parameters.

The equipment comes with software to monitor the solar panels’ performance online. The solar company also will offer financing options. SunPower’s dealers will do the installation work.

The marketing program will appeal to the well-off customers who can afford electric vehicles, which are more expensive than the typical gasoline cars. The Volt starts at $40,280, though GM markets it as $32,780 by taking into account a $7,500 federal tax credit. Nissan is pricing the electric LEAF at $35,200 without the tax credit. Tesla Motors plans to launch the Model S next year that will cost nearly $80,000. Ford hasn’t revealed the price for the Focus Electric.

Partnering with Ford will help promote SunPower’s panels and brand, but it’s not likely to do much for the solar company’s bottom line. SunPower just posted poor second-quarter earnings and promised to do more to cut costs. Plus, Ford will be rolling out the electric car in limited numbers and selected cities. The success of the campaign will depend largely on Ford’s ability to compete in the still new electric car market.

Source: forbes

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