Electric Vehicles, Home Solar Get New Partner

Energy crises create intriguing friendships. This is probably the simplest way to process seeing Sierra Club, Ford and SunPower in the same headline.

The venerable automaker, once known for its extravagant gas guzzlers, had already partnered with solar panel efficiency leader SunPower in 2011 to launch the Drive Green For Life promotion. That gave Ford plug-in EV and hybrid drivers the opportunity to land a $750 rebate on the purchase or lease of a SunPower home solar system, once installed.

Now the two companies have sweetened the pot for Sierra Club, which receives a $500 donation for each installation. Everyone wins, including the planet.

“We are thrilled to be working with SunPower and the Sierra Club on this forward-thinking program,” Ford global director of electrification and infrastructure Mike Tinskey said in a press release “Our plug-in customers have taken a big step towards sustainability by driving on electricity and now we are offering them the ability to go further by powering their homes and vehicles with clean, renewable energy.”

Ford’s press release left it to a SunPower executive to explain the significance of Sierra Club’s addition to the green party, which makes sense given that the donation comes from the solar panel maker, not Ford. Sierra Club spent a bit more time, and less corporate jargon, explaining the political and economic significance of “powering cars with sunshine” than the automaker; while Ford has developed an electric vehicle, and connected that EV to home solar, the company’s most-anticipated vehicle for 2015 is likely an aluminum Ford-150 truck, which will be 700 pounds lighter and more fuel-efficient as a result.

“To be clear, this new Ford-SunPower-Sierra Club partnership does not mean that the Sierra Club is necessarily endorsing Ford or SunPower over other plug-in vehicle and solar companies,” Sierra Club reminded near the bottom of its own press release.

But despite Ford’s continuing reliance on gas guzzlers, and SunPower’s decision to take care of Sierra Club’s $500 donations, the Drive Green For Life program is at least a push in the right direction. The convergence between electric vehicles and home solar can’t come soon enough. Consumers shouldn’t even be thinking about buying one without the other these days. And while Ford gets to clean up its image with this association, Sierra Club might be seen as inching closer to the corporations its members might expect it to be fighting, especially given its recent controversial support then abandonment of so-called natural gas.

In the final analysis, the Drive Green For Life program is a great, green idea in a perfect world. But this is a quite-imperfect one, so fingers crossed everyone has their hearts and minds in the right place.

This article appeared at Solar Energy