Do you own a Honda, or maybe an Acura? You might be eligible for a discount on solar power at your home.
If you think that sounds strange, you're right. Why would a solar company partner with an automaker to provide solar arrays for owners of certain cars?
The answer appears to be: market research.
SolarCity & Honda
SolarCity installs solar arrays for homes and businesses in 14 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia.
In the video above, SolarCity explains its "disruptive" business model: the company installs its equipment for free, charging customers only for their electricity. The catch? Purchasers enter into a 20-year agreement with SolarCity, paying contracts that start around $25 per month.
Now, SolarCity has partnered with Honda to target its message and its products. According to Forbes, the two companies are splitting the cost of a $65 million tax equity fund, which will allow Honda and Acura owners to receive a $400 discount on solar power.* (Honda and Acura dealerships who want to go green are also eligible for cut-rate deals.)
Although SolarCity hasn't said as much, we have to assume that the company did its homework and realized that (a) Honda and Acura sales in SolarCity's 14-state area are pretty strong, and (b) Honda and Acura owners are more likely than other vehicle owners to be interested in solar power.
Honda's vice president for Environmental Business Development, Steven Center, references that second point fairly directly: "At Honda, we are always looking at ways to improve the lives of our customers while reducing our environmental footprint.... We believe Honda and Acura customers are going to be very interested in going solar once they find out that they can install solar at their home with little or no upfront cost, can lower their monthly utility bill, and can make a positive contribution to protecting the environment."
Where DOESN'T Elon Musk work?
But one fact complicates what would otherwise be a straightforward marketing partnership: the chairman of SolarCity is Elon Musk -- the same Elon Musk who co-founded PayPal, and now runs Tesla Motors and SpaceX.
What does that matter? Because just a couple of years ago, Tesla entered into a fairly significant alliance with one of Honda's biggest rivals, Toyota. Their goal? To develop electric vehicles together. In fact, the two companies have a fairly long history, since the Model S is built at Toyota's former NUMMI facility in Fremont, California and Tesla continues to sell powertrain components to Toyota.
So, given that history -- and the fact that, thanks to the Prius family, Toyota would seem to draw at least as many eco-conscious consumers as Honda -- why did Musk and SolarCity opt to go with Honda instead of Toyota? At the moment, we can't say.
All we know for certain is, if you're a Honda or Acura owner in one of SolarCity's service areas and you're curious about switching to solar power, you can visit HondaSolarCity.com to get the ball rolling.
* As SolarCity notes in its press release, though, "Customer eligibility will depend on individual customer credit and home-specific solar insolation levels, energy usage, permitting requirements and availability of local incentives."