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Ford Focuses on solar energy

Solar so good: The 2.5kW SunPower solar system offered to US Focus Electric customers in a joint-venture with Ford is claimed to offset the equivalent of about 19,300km of driving per year.

US Ford Focus EV customers offered solar panels to offset up to 1600km a month

12 Aug 2011

FORD has joined forces with a leading solar energy company to offer American buyers of the forthcoming Focus Electric a way of offsetting the emissions produced by fossil-fuelled power stations during the recharging of the zero-emissions car.

Customers can get a SunPower 2.5kW rooftop solar system capable of producing an average of 3000kWh of electricity a year, which Ford claims is sufficient to drive 1000 miles (1600km) a month.

The system adds about $US10,000 ($A9700) to the bill after federal tax credits, but that does not including local sales tax or any local and state EV subsidies.

This appears to be a $US2000 discount on the usual price, judging by costs quoted on the company’s website.

Of course, most EV customers charge their vehicles overnight while the solar panels are lying dormant, so their cars are not directly powered by emissions-free solar energy.

In what SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner describes as a win-win for customers, the energy produced in daylight hours can be used in the home or fed back into the energy grid to cancel out both the emissions and cost of what is used while recharging the vehicle.

 center imageLeft: Diagram of the SunPower system. Below: Ford Focus Electric.

Customers can also track the system’s performance on the internet or by using an iPhone application.

Ford says SunPower – which is also represented in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and Spain – can support the initial Focus Electric rollout in all 19 markets where the car will be launched.

As GoAuto has reported, Ford has confirmed its Focus Electric will almost certainly be the brand’s first EV in Australia but its release here remains dependent on the rollout of EV infrastructure and the establishment of a solid business case based on sufficient demand.

The Focus EV’s 23kWh battery is expected to provide a 160km range, while performance from the 92kW/246Nm front-drive powertrain should be relatively punchy, with a claimed top speed of 135km/h.

Like the SunPower solar setup, the car has an associated iPhone app, which in the vehicle’s case monitors the battery’s state of charge and current range.

Ford director of global vehicle electrification Mike Tinskey said the solar system enabled customers to reduce their total cost of ownership.

“It’s an eco-friendly solution that perfectly complements our plug-in products and other green initiatives,” he said.

The number of similar schemes is likely to increase as more manufacturers put EVs on the market. Ford plans to have five electrified vehicles on the market in North America by the end of next year, replicated in Europe by 2013.

The Blue Oval’s first EV was the Transit Connect Electric small van launched in 2010, which will be joined by the Focus Electric in North America later this year.

Next year, the company will begin delivering hybrid and plug-in hybrid variants of its Focus-based C-Max people mover, the latter of which will be compatible with the solar set-up.

Ford already has two hybrids on the market, the Fusion and Escape, and the technology is also represented in its luxury Lincoln line-up with the MKZ.

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