Maybe there’s something about going electric that gets auto makers to shift gears and make the leap to renewable energy. Maybe auto makers truly get that making greener cars with green energy is a huge selling point. Maybe it’s that solar saves money, or maybe it’s all of these, but there’s a definite – and exciting – trend underway toward tapping renewable energy to build cars in the U.S.
General Motors, which already has a solar-powered EV charging canopy with 12 charging stations at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant where it’s building its new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt, has announced it will add a 516 kW solar system to the plant.
The new solar system – which will save GM about $15,000 a year – will ensure that at least some of the electricity used to produce that Chevy Volt you buy and which, ideally, you plug into renewable energy – will itself have come from renewable energy.
“This isn’t only going green for green’s sake,” GM’s vice president of global public policy Bob Ferguson told the Detroit Free Press. “This is about reducing this plant’s environmental footprint and reducing our bottom line.”
Solar energy catching on GM will join Ford in building plug-in vehicles using electricity produced in part by solar energy.
In early March of this year, Ford went online with a 500 kW solar energy system to help generate electricity at its Michigan Assembly Plant where it will build four versions of the Ford Focus – a traditional gasoline version, a Focus hybrid, a Focus plug-in hybrid electric, and a pure electric Focus.
Ford’s solar installation includes an energy storage facility that can store up to 2 million watt-hours of energy with batteries, which is enough energy to sustain 100 average Michigan homes for an entire year. When the plant is inactive, the solar energy that is collected will be saved, and can be used to help power the plant during moments of inadequate sunlight.
Additionally, a portion of the renewable energy from the solar energy system will be used to help power the production of fuel-efficient cars—which includes an all-new battery-electric version of the Ford Focus, the C-MAX Hybrid, and the C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid.
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