Ever since Volkswagen created an all-electric version of its popular Golf model we’ve been itching for it to go on sale in the US, and now it’s coming later this year with solar bells on. Solar giant SunPower has just announced that it is hooking up with VW to provide e-Golf purchasers in the US with a turnkey solar installation that includes solar energy storage and management features.
While that’s great news for US e-Golf buyers, it also opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms for US utility companies, which are already struggling to adapt to an energy market that is increasingly leaning on small scale, distributed renewable energy generation.
A Solar Powered e-Golf
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney once joked that you can’t drive a car with a windmill on it. That may be, but electric vehicle batteries enable you to leave your windmill at home, or your solar panels, and just tote around the renewable energy they produce. That is why we feel that we can get away with calling the e-Golf a solar-powered EV.
For that matter, not too long ago Ford introduced a solar powered concept car with built-in solar panels.
SunPower And The Volkswagen e-Golf Hookup
Leading solar company SunPower was once slagged by Fox News as a “failing” enterprise, but the company sure seems to be doing swimmingly. Aside from teaming SunPower with a yet another global car manufacturer (Ford would be the other one), the new e-Golf hookup pulls a whole team of A-listers together.
Rounding out the team is Bosch, which has been tapped for home charging station installation and servicing, and ChargePoint, which will cover charging stations for the VW dealer network.
According to SunPower, Bosch will offer its 240-volt Power Max® home charging station at a “highly competitive” price.
What If You Don’t Want Solar Panels?
Home solar charging is just part of the EV charging equation. Although the EV buyer and solar buyer markets overlap, there is a huge amount of room for potential e-Golf purchasers who don’t have access to on site solar EV charging or who don’t need it.
Then of course there’s the issue of where to charge up when your battery runs low on the road.
That’s where ChargePoint comes in. With ChargePoint on board, VW expects e-Golf owners in the US to have access more than 18,000 charging stations around the country in addition to locations at VW dealerships.
ChargePoint now has more EV chargers in operation than there are McDonald’s, and in that regard it’s also worth noting that while the total number of EV chargers in the US has been skyrocketing, the retail gasoline industry has been consolidating. In other words, it’s getting more easy to find a conveniently located charging station, and less easy to find a gas station.
More Green Goodies For e-Golf Buyers
One interesting development in the EV market is the extent to which global auto manufacturers are leaning on green branding to differentiate their products from, say, Tesla Motor Company.
BMW, for example, has touted a sustainable manufacturing and supply chain for its BMW i3 in addition to partnering with the German solar company SOLARWATT.
VW is turning to the offset market for a helping hand, as part of its “holistic” approach as articulated by Oliver Schmidt of Volkswagen Group of America:
Volkswagen feels it is important to look beyond the benefits of driving a vehicle without tailpipe emissions and to take a holistic approach to e-mobility. We now have the ability to offer offsets that approximate the emissions created from production, distribution and the initial 36,000 miles of use.
SunPower’s announcement includes a couple of representative projects in Mendocino County in California that enable e-Golf buyers to achieve that 36,000 mile mark.
Those are the Garcia River Forestry Project, aimed at preserving 24,000-acres of redwood forest, and a 16,000 land purchase that will go to improve conservation efforts in the Big River and Salmon Creek Forests.
The e-Golf offsets also include a landfill project in Texas, which SunPower describes like this:
The McKinney Landfill project, based at a closed landfill in McKinney, Texas, works to capture gases that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere from anaerobic decomposition within the landfill. Benefits from the capture include odor reduction, improved water quality and future distributed renewable energy production.
For now it appears that the landfill project is just a capture-and-flare operation, but the landfill project hooks VW up with the carbon offset specialist 3Degrees, which had more than 400 renewable energy projects in its stable as of last year, so it’s a safe bet that future e-Golf offsets will include clean energy, too.