As regular readers of SolarChargedDriving.Com know, Ford and SunPower are now working to cross promote one another’s products, with SunPower set to offer Focus Electric buyers a 2.5 kW home solar for around $10,000 after federal incentives are factored in.
The Focus Electric goes on sale in California and New York in late 2011 and will supposedly arrive in 17 other U.S. markets by spring 2012.
As part of ongoing efforts to promote the new Ford/SunPower solar-EV synergy, executives from the two companies held an online chat session with interested consumers last week. SolarChargedDriving.Com was “there”, in cyberspace, to pose a few questions of our own.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation was that SunPower has been paying close attention to interest among customers in the EV + PV combination. It’s found that there is indeed quite a lot of interest out there. Ford has also examined the lay of the consumer land and determined that significant demand exists for the home solar PV + EV combination.
Below are questions and responses from Mike Tinskey, Director of Global Electrification Infrastructure for Ford, and Ken Fong, the general manager for SunPower North America that we found most interesting.
Question from SolarChargedDriving.Com: How long has the Ford/SunPower partnership been in the works and what is the inspiration for it?
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: Great question – we’ve been working on this for about 6 months. The genesis of this partnership, from an automotive perspective, was that we needed a solar provider that was willing to work with us on an automotive-targeted system. We shared similar goals and SunPower was interested in working on a system for the Ford Focus.
Response from Ken Fong, SunPower: We could tell that based on SunPower customer surveys, there is overlap with hybrid vehicle ownership and EV interest. This made us interested in finding a partner on the EV side. We have found that we have a lot of shared interests with Ford.
Question From Marc Lee: Why would I want to use Ford/SunPower to provide solar cells, instead of using other competitive solar providers?
Response from Ken Fong, SunPower: SunPower panels are the most efficient in the world and are 50% more efficient than the standard solar panels. The highest efficiency panels means we take up the least amount of roof space on a house. You may have other needs other than just powering your first EV. We want to make sure you have enough roof space for other energy needs in the future.
Question from SolarChargedDriving.Com: Will Focus Electric buyers be asked directly about possible interest in solar for their home?
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: Yes. Focus Electric customers will be offered the opportunity to participate in the Drive Green for Life program as well as the Best Buy Geek Squad charging station installation program. Both will be offered during the dealership experience.
Question from SunPower-Facebook: What is the amount of research going into DC – DC conversion for solar car charging? Or are all cars going to charge with AC due to the rest of the grid?
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: The challenge with charging directly with DC is that typically the customer isn’t home when the solar is generating most of the electricity. We’ve opted for a better system where the grid collects the electricity during the day and then the customer charges the car at nighttime.
Question from Travis T.: What will be the opportunities for solar charging for commercial and fleet vehicle companies?
Response from Ken Fong, SunPower: It absolutely makes sense for fleet and commercial. SunPower currently provides solar systems for commercial customers of all sizes.
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: If it makes sense for residential, it makes sense for commercial. You might argue that it makes more sense for fleet and commercial because fleet customers typically buy more than one vehicle; therefore, they could offer a solar system on a larger scale.
Question from FordFocusElectric.Com: Any plans to provide solar parking canopies with charging stations at dealers or elsewhere?
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: Ford currently offers solar options under our “Green Dealership” program that dealers can install.
Response from Ken Fong, SunPower: SunPower also offers carport solar solutions to commercial customers of all sizes as part of our light commercial business.
Question From Tim R.: Are there any considerations about customers being able to finance the EV Focus, Charging Station and the SunPower System at their dealership?
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: Absolutely. We’re looking at lots of options. Including financing for the vehicle, the charge station and the Drive Green for Life program.
Question from SolarChargedDriving.Com: How much interest do you expect from consumers in the Focus Electric/SunPower combination — and what would success look like?
Response from Mike Tinskey, Ford: We’ve clearly heard from our customers that this is an option that they want. Success would look like an adoption rate from Focus Electric customers higher than the national average. In other words, more customers being able to opt for solar through the Drive Green for Life program than there would be otherwise.
Response from Ken Fong, SunPower: On the solar system side, success would be incremental sales related to EV purchase. Currently the timing of that purchase is much later. You might buy the solar system a year after buying an EV when you realize the need. The long term goal for SunPower is to make solar mainstream. Today solar is in 0.1% of U.S. households. Long term, we expect to grow the number of households to more than 10 times what it is today.