Buy an Electric Car, Get Rooftop Solar for Under $10,000

Yesterday, I test drove the Focus Electric, which Ford quietly rolled out late last year, absent any major marketing push. [Contrast with: Volt, Leaf, Prius, each of which were hyped with a deluge of adverts]

But that should change fast: after holding two days of press conferences and test drives in New York, Ford has ensured that the nation's auto writers will start opining away, that car blogs and magazines will amplify that buzz. And aside from all of the fussing over the cars' specs and price tag and drivability, an interesting little deal might turn some heads too:

Ford has partnered with SunPower, one of the nation's largest solar companies, to offer Focus Electric buyers discounts on home solar installation. Which makes for a intuitive pitch: Buy an EV, get a discount on a solar array that will power the car for under $10,000.

Here's SunPower's pitch from the horse's mouth:

"Under the 'Drive Green for Life' program, Focus Electric owners can reduce their total cost of ownership by generating enough energy from their high efficiency SunPower rooftop solar system to offset the electricity required to charge the vehicle at night," said Mike Tinskey, Ford director of Global Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure...

The 2.5 kilowatt rooftop solar system is comprised of the SunPower E18 Series solar panels that produce an average of 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. These high-efficiency solar panels generate approximately 50 percent more electricity than conventional panels and utilize a smaller footprint on the roof. The system was sized to accommodate a customer who drives about 1,000 miles per month.

The discount SunPower offers varies from state to state, depending largely on where there are tax incentives for clean energy. But the company guarantees that the bill will come to less than $10K, before taxes, for the array and installation. Then your car will be running on 100% clean power no matter where you live.

The cost might seem a little steep, but look at it this way: The average American driver guzzles 558 gallons per year, costing him/her $2,100 when gas is $3.80 per gallon. Using a home solar array to power your EV, you'll break even in 5 years—and the solar system is guaranteed for 25. Plus, when you're not driving as much, you'll be saving on general electricity costs.

And no, this is not a stealth guest post from some representative of SunPower. Far from it. I just happen to think this is a really good idea, seeing as how distributed solar systems are one of the most important cornerstones of our energy future. Any solid mechanism that gets more solar on more rooftops—especially in a way that excites consumers, like pairing the installation with a snazzy new EV—is worth applauding.

Buy an Electric Car, Get Rooftop Solar for Under $10,000
SunPower partners with Ford to offer a deal on home solar. Considering the average American spends over $2,000 guzzling 558 gallons of gas driving per year, that's a steal.

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