Powering your home with electricity generated from the sun's rays is becoming more cost effective every day. But the real revolution may be that it's increasingly attractive to power your car with the sun as well.
People often mistakenly compare solar power to oil or gasoline when talking about the cost of energy; when it's really more accurately compared to grid electricity. But if you're looking to go off the grid, vehicle included, solar is an attractive option. As a result, the number of automakers teaming up with solar companies has ramped up recently.
Driving with solar power
Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) is leading the charge in making its vehicles solar compatible. The company is building a network of free supercharger stations that will give drivers a 150-mile range in just a half hour. When the network is complete in two years, a Tesla owner will be able to drive from Los Angeles to New York without spending a dime on fuel.
The company has teamed up with another business controlled by Elon Musk, SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY.DL), to offer a complete off-grid product for consumers who want to get all of their fuel from the sun. SolarCity and Tesla are a natural fit given their common majority owner and how complementary their businesses can be to each other.
SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) and Nissan have also teamed up to provide LEAF owners with education and systems that will provide solar power. The solar company has also teamed up with Ford (NYSE:F) to offer the "Drive Green for Life" program to Ford Focus Electric customers.
Pacts between solar companies and car companies may not seem like a natural fit at first, but they have a lot of consumers in common, so it's really a match made in heaven.
A natural fit
At this early stage in both the electric vehicle and solar cycle the two industries complement each other well. A consumer spending more on an electric vehicle because of its environmental friendliness is the same kind of consumer who will install solar. Adding solar to an electric vehicle will only make it more attractive to most buyers, especially since many solar leasing programs by SolarCity and SunPower allow no money down.
The real impact for these industries will come as they begin to build complementary networks both in and out of the home. I think there will be a convergence of solar and electric vehicle installers in coming years; it may come from some surprising places.
SolarCity is a natural fit for electric vehicles. While installers are putting in a home solar system they can add a 240-volt charger in the garage. The same electricians can do the work for both systems.
But the bigger surprise may be the role Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) could play. Best Buy has partnered with Ford to offer branded charging stations and support to customers. They line up the electrician and equipment, no effort needed from the customer. This is in addition to a multitude of other chargers the company sells, and also follows an attempt by the company to sell electric motorcycles. Why can't solar be next?
One of the most intimidating aspects of solar is that consumers can rarely touch and feel the products they'll be installing before they have workers on their roofs. Best Buy could change that, offering comparison pricing, physical displays, and even the technology to get a quote on the spot.
Electric vehicles and solar are converging in many ways and Best Buy may be a big player in both in the future.
Foolish bottom line
The technology behind both solar energy and electric vehicles continues to get better. As they grow, these two emerging technologies will complement one another, building new sales channels for each other. Companies that can build the partnerships necessary -- like SunPower, SolarCity, and Tesla -- will have the best chance to thrive in this new energy world.