BMW Canada electric car comes with solar panel discount

BMW Canada is betting people who are drawn to an electric car will also want to reduce their carbon footprint by generating their own solar power, so it is offering a discount on a home solar system with its new i3 sedan.

Green option allows homeowners to pump solar power into electricity grid

BMW's i3 is a plug-in car designed with a carbon-fibre body to be fully electric for city driving. It is being sold here with a 10 per cent discount on a home solar system. (BMW)

BMW Canada is betting people who are drawn to an electric car will also want to reduce their carbon footprint by generating their own solar power.

The auto company’s new electric car comes with an unusual incentive — a 10 per cent discount on a home solar system.

The BMW i3 sedan is lighter than most vehicles because it's made of carbon fibre, and it has a range of 160 kilometres. It takes about four hours to recharge with a special 240-volt charger, or 12 to 14 hours with a regular electrical outlet. A sportier model, the i8, is also being developed.

BMW began selling its i3 compact urban vehicle in Canada in the past few weeks for a list price of $44,950. 

Car owners would typically have to recharge the car two to five times a week, probably at night when power is cheaper in most jurisdictions, according to BMW Canada's Blair Dinsdale.

Sustainable vehicles

The solar power offer "was designed to cover the exact amount of power you would use in the car, based on sun access in Canada," Dinsdale said.

He said BMW has put effort into making the i series of vehicles sustainable, from its choice of materials to the wind power used in manufacturing. He said customers are interested in the green technology.

The solar power system, available in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia, allows homeowners to buy a system to be mounted on their roof, which feeds power to the provincial electrical grid, rather than directly to the car. 

BMW teamed up with Pure Energies Group, based in Toronto, which will assess the car buyer’s home for solar, install panels and do all the paperwork to hook up with the local electrical utility.

Leah McLean, a social media specialist with Pure Energies Group, said homes are assessed for the size and pitch of the roof, orientation toward the sun and obstructions that might block sunlight. A six kilowatt system that includes about 24 panels produces approximately 7,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

Ontario FIT program

She estimated homeowners in Ontario can recoup a solar investment of about $20,000 in about eight years, because of the province's Feed-in Tariff program that pays a premium on renewable energy. B.C. and Quebec have a so-called net-metering program, which reduces a homeowner's power bill based on the amount of solar power they feed to the grid. The payback period for a solar system would be longer in those provinces.

Pure Energies also offers a deal where the homeowner doesn’t pay the capital cost of a solar system upfront, but allows the company to install the system and earn the generation revenue while sending a cheque to the homeowner annually for use of the roof.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is also thinking about the entire carbon footprint of those who own his company's electric cars. A company he chairs, SolarCity, bought solar panel manufacturer Silevo last month because of its promise of creating a more efficient solar panel.

"We absolutely believe that solar power can and will become the world’s predominant source of energy within our lifetimes, but there are obviously a lot of panels that have to be manufactured and installed in order for that to happen," Musk said after SolarCity completed the deal for Silevo.


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