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Solar panels gives electric cars another path

Makers of electric and plug-in hybrid cars are looking for ways customers can recharge their batteries other than a traditional electric outlet at home or a public charging station.

The Nissan Leaf’s SL trim level includes a solar panel on the rear spoiler. “We don’t have a power rating, but the solar panel assists with some charging for the 12-volt battery that powers certain accessories,” says Paige Presley at Nissan corporate communications.

Other manufacturers help owners set up their garages for home charging. Owners of the plug-in Focus Electric or gas-electric Energi can add a home-charging system from solar panel maker SunPower.

A 2.5-kilowatt rooftop system produces an average 3,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, says SunPower’s Anthony Morain. “The system is sized to provide the electricity needed to drive about 1,000 miles per month or 12,000 miles per year,” Morain says.

Initially Ford and SunPower planned to offer a unit for less than $10,000. “That would make it the most affordable rooftop solar system of its kind,” Morain says. Current prices were not available.

Automaker Honda last spring announced it would partner with rooftop panel fabricator SolarCity on its Honda Smart Home US demonstration at the University of California-Davis. The project is now under way, intended to demonstrate Honda’s vision for zero-carbon living and personal mobility.


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