Ok, so covering a car with solar panels still won’t produce anywhere near enough electrons to drive the car. But the price and power density of off-board solar panels have improved to the point where a photovoltaic array strong enough to juice a commuter EV for a year can be sized and priced to fit the upscale suburbanite’s home and wallet. Automakers believe some well-heeled greenies already committed to shelling out for a battery EV or plug-in hybrid might easily be separated from another $10,000 to make those miles carbon-free.
Ford will be first to market with such a system, implemented in partnership with SunPower, a leading company in the design, manufacture, and installation of photovoltaic residential and industrial solar power systems. The plan is to offer a 2.5-kW system sufficient to produce at least 3000 kW-hrs of electricity per year — enough to propel a Focus EV 12,000 miles, even in cloudy Detroit. While the system is priced at $13,800, consumers will pay between $6000 and $10,000 after federal and local incentives.
Company officials claim these E-18 monocrystalline silicon panels are up to 50 percent more efficient than others, hence consume less roof space. SunPower is also working with Nissan.
GM Ventures, an in-house venture-capital group, has invested in SunLogics PLC to develop charging stations appropriate for dealerships and corporate facilities, using an amorphous silicon technology. This thin-film, gas-deposition approach is lighter and cheaper to produce, but considerably less efficient, which bodes ill for home installations.