Ford’s latest promotional contest caught our eye because it just goes to show how fast the solar-powered electric mobility lifestyle is rocketing into mainstream America. None other than Katie Couric has signed on to launch the new promotion, in which the company will give you a new C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid, a solar array, and new energy efficient appliances. The catch? Well, you have to submit the winning 400-word essay describing how your family will benefit from the emerging solar-powered electric-mobility lifestyle. Oh, right, and you need to have a family and a house. If you qualify, go for it!
The Emerging Electric Mobility Lifestyle
Ford is at the forefront of a car ownership movement in which, for the first time in modern history, your means of conveyance can run on the same energy source as your house. Think of your EV as the largest appliance you will ever own, and you’re on track to grasp what this means in terms of home energy management.
When you buy a plug-in EV, you are adding a colossal new energy-sucking appliance to your house, it’s just one that happens to be on wheels and can go 90 miles per hour when nobody is looking.
The additional energy load is a bummer in terms of your home electricity bill, but on the other hand, it creates an enormous incentive to perform all of the home energy efficiency upgrades that you’ve been putting off, including that rooftop solar array you’ve been dreaming about.
On top of that, consider that an EV battery is a fairly substantial energy storage unit, rather like a home oil tank or a woodshed, only smaller and without splinters. If you don’t have rooftop solar, you can still save money on your electricity bill by charging up during off-peak hours when rates are cheaper, then you can draw from the battery to power your other appliances as needed during peak hours.
If you have access to free workplace EV charging, so much the better.
About That Free Ford C-MAX Contest…
The new contest isn’t just about the C-MAX. It also promotes Ford’s new MyEnergi Lifestyle package, which is designed to seamlessly address the aforementioned home/EV energy management issue with a minimum of fuss and bother by bundling a solar array with “smart” energy efficient appliances and an energy management system, all with wireless capability, natch.
The package involves a partnership between Ford and a lineup of global heavy hitters: Eaton for home power management, SunPower for solar arrays, Whirlpool for appliances, and Nest Labs for thermostats along with semiconductor innovator Infineon.
To take even more guesswork out of the deal, new home buyers can start shopping around right now for a house that already comes fully equipped with the entire package. Leading production home construction company KB Home, for one, has just launched a new version of its ZeroHouse 2.0 that incorporates the MyEnergi Lifestyle package.
Mainstreaming Clean Energy
As for the contest itself, Katie Couric’s involvement reminds us of how Oprah Winfrey mainstreamed energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) years ago, by giving them away on her daytime TV show.
By the time new federal energy efficiency standards for lightbulbs kicked in, CFLs were old news thanks in part to Oprah. Some federal legislators (round up the usual suspects) tried to gin up outrage over “light bulb ban,” but that soon flickered out, as surveys showed that most consumers were interested in new lighting technology and had already tried it or were willing to give it a whirl.
The Couric angle takes mainstreaming green tech to a whole new level, in which solar energy is part and parcel of home ownership, an add-on or an upgrade that makes sense just like a new deck, a patio or a swimming pool.
To push the affordability angle, Ford has partnered up with Georgia Tech to calculate the energy savings from the MyEnergi package.
Further helping to mainstream things along is the Department of Defense, which recently embarked on a 500-vehicle demonstration project incorporating solar capability with EV energy storage.
All this could get messy in some interesting ways, once the home solar/EV equation tips into the mass market.
Our friends over at Grist.org have already taken notice that rooftop solar arrays, as a form of distributed energy generation, qualify as a “disruptive technology” in which they become so ubiquitous that the old model of centralized power generation no longer makes sense. And we’ve had several such posts over the years, including some recent ones with pretty graphs.
Duke Energy is one utility company that has been aggressively pursuing distributed solar energy, and there’s an interesting article over at Bloomberg.com that reveals an in-house collision course between distributed alternative energy and a utility’s long-term fossil fuel commitments.