Solar panel manufacturer SunPower and Ford announced today that they will give Ford electric car buyers the option to buy and install a residential solar panel array that will charge the electric car.
Focus Electric car buyers will have the option to buy a rooftop solar charging system that costs around $10,000 after federal tax credits. The panels generate around 2.5 kilowatts of power, which is enough to charge an electric car to the point that it can drive around 1,000 miles with typical driving habits. The panels will generated 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year on average.
“If you’re selling electric vehicles, your potential buyers want people to know they’re driving electric cars,” Kachan & Co. managing partner Dallas Kachan told VentureBeat. “So attaching big, visible solar chargers make merchandising sense, even if they don’t charge vehicles a meaningful amount.”
The electricity generated by the panels powers the cars directly, taking some load off the power grid. When owners aren’t charging cars, the panels divert the electricity to the home. It’s part of what’s called “distributed solar,” which is designed to help reduce some of the strain on power grids during peak usage hours when homes are drawing more electricity for air conditioning or, in the future, electric car charging.
Distributed solar is viewed as one way of relieving strain on a power grid that faces the risk of excessive demand if electric cars become popular in the mainstream. It’s spawned a number of companies that lease and sell solar panels on homes and generated a lot of interest from investors. Search giant Google recently created a $280 million fund for residential solar power projects run by residential solar panel provider SolarCity.
A study done by the University of California at Berkeley found that home values increase when solar panels are installed. The study found that homes with solar panels sold for an extra $5.50 per watt of solar power installed, for an average of $17,000 more per house.
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