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Automakers Power Up on Solar

Ford joins growing list of makers tapping into sun’s energy.

by on Aug.14, 2014

A rendering of Ford's planned solar park.

Ford Motor Co. has been betting big on battery power, and now it’s tapping the sun to help charge up some of its electric vehicles with a sprawling new solar energy array it plans to install outside its suburban Detroit headquarters.

Ford is the latest in a growing list of manufacturers turning to solar energy at their office buildings and manufacturing plants. General Motors is even using sun power to help charge up newly assembled Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids before shipping them off to customers. And solar energy is providing a major chunk of the power needed to run Volkswagen’s big assembly plant in Tennessee.

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Ford has “a deep commitment to sustainability,” explains Chairman Bill Ford Jr. The maker’s “beliefs are embodied in this project,” he stressed.

Working with local power supplier DTE Energy, Ford’s new solar array will be the largest in Michigan and the second-largest in the Midwest, covering 360 parking spaces in front of the headquarters building known locally as “Glass House.” In all, it will be able to produce up to 1.038 megawatts of energy.


Ford Offering Solar Charger for Focus Electric

Getting off the grid won’t come cheap.

by on Aug.18, 2011

Ford will let California buyers of the Focus Electric charge up using solar power.

Those looking to buy the new Ford Focus Electric, when it begins a slow roll-out later this year, will have a chance to go even greener by adding an optional solar charging system, the carmaker says.

Ford is partnering with Silicon Valley’s largest supplier of solar power arrays, SunPower Corp., to provide a 2.5 kilowatt rooftop charging system that could replenish a drained lithium-ion battery pack in about 10 hours.

Skeptics have often complained that battery cars aren’t as clean as proponents claim, since they still have to get their power from utilities that might use coal or other fossil fuels.  The news means dedicated greenies can disconnect from the grid entirely – at least when it comes to charging up the Ford Focus Electric, which will yield more than 80 miles per charge.

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But cutting the electric company out of the picture won’t come cheap.  While Ford and SunPower are offering a deep discount of more than 40% off the normal price tag, the rooftop system will still cost $10,000 after receiving a federal tax credit.

Were a motorist to need to fully charge a Focus Electric from the grid each day it would cost about $10 a week, so the payback period for the SunPower system would be about 20 years.