While most major carmakers have been forced to significantly “green” their fleets with fuel economy upgrades—thanks to a looming increase in federal CAFE standards—Ford is taking things a step further at the production level. According to The Detroit News, the automaker will invest in the installation of 500 kilowatts worth of solar panels at its Wayne, Mich. production facility, and 2 million watt hours of battery storage for that energy—saving enough electricity to power 100 homes for a year.
The Wayne factory will produce the forthcoming Ford Focus EV, and possibly a new Lincoln crossover SUV in 2013. “Our Michigan Assembly plant is going to be the next-generation vehicle center of the universe for next year or so,” electricity supply manager Jeff White told the paper. “It just makes sense to bring this solar project to (the plant) so we can better understand how sustainable energy is developed.”
Ford says that the installation will save roughly $160,000 in annual energy costs, but the move is also part of a broader strategy to become a more environmentally-friendly carmaker. Thanks to $3 million in funding from Detroit Edison and $2 million from the Michigan Public Service Commission, the company will only have to contribute $800,000 to the project, allowing it to recover its initial investment in just five years.
Ford would like to trim as much from its $9 million annual energy costs as possible, but the Wayne upgrades don’t represent the carmaker’s first endeavor into renewables. Three percent of the company’s global energy usage already comes from wind and solar, which to this point had come entirely from its European plants. In the future, Ford would also like to retool its Wixom plant to manufacture solar and battery equipment.
In June, we interviewed Ford technical director Debbie Mielewski about the company’s plan to reduce emissions and plastics consumption, with the eventual goal of making their lineup out of materials that are 100 percent hydrocarbon-free. Ford has also announced plans to make their cars 100 percent recyclable as well.