Elon Musk & SolarCity Offer Honda, Acura Owners Subsidized Solar Power

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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."


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Comments (11)
  1. The only locale on the planet that still seems to think solar
    power makes sense is, apparently, California. Italy has enacted an outright ban on any solar installations, despite it sunny climate, and payments to solar providers of the grid have been sharply reduced to more accurately reflect actual value. Solar panels manufacturers are going broke and cutting back production. Germany, which for years had led the world in solar installations, is now favoring coal plants over solar. And now Ohio State has succeeded in extracting energy from coal without burning or emissions. Since solar and wind both require fossil fueled peak generator backup, it looks like coal, nuclear,
    hydro and geo will be the only way of achieving zero emissions power

  2. Kent, as always, thanks for the disinformation... Italy has not banned solar installations of any kind, of course, as sources will easily confirm. Source? Oh, that's right, it's you... Perhaps you should have stated that Italy's government is reducing subsidies, not banning installations... That pesky truth again...

    Your other comments are all so laughable that I'll just enjoy the humor.

  3. Italy achieved 5.6% of total electricity production was done by solar in 2012.

    That is the HIGHEST percentage of generated solar energy in the world! And in 2013 it is expected it will reach 7%...


  4. In California it makes sense b/c we have a lot of sun and our solar generated power is cheaper on per KWH rate than what PG&E sells to us with their mostly natural gas based generation.

  5. LOL. Nice try Kent!

  6. There are more comments in this thread
  7. Many of the Honda/Acura owners I know already have solar on their roof...

    $400 discount isn't much... Nothing more than a refer from exisiting Solar City customer.

  8. Weird marketing. And indeed $400 is negligible.
    I got a quote from SolarCity last year. They apparently prefer to lease systems, as the price they quoted for a purchase wasn't competitive, discount or not.
    Their PPA was more tempting, if not for a HUGE catch: the only way to bail out of that 20-year contract is to buy the system, at a price which isn't fixed in advance (only a minimum is) and will be determined by their assessor. Should (s)he then decide that the thing is worth, huh, $100k, well, tough. Oh, you wanted to sell your home? Sorry, not our problem.

    Given this and my experience with their salespersons, I'd recommend going somewhere else, but regardless of which installer you go for, do read the fine-print.

  9. Actually, the Prepaid PPA plan is okay. The downside is that you have to pay it in advance. It is still cheaper than the upfront purchase. Prepaid PPA is easy to transfer. I don't see anyone mind a "free solar power" for the reminder of the PPA plan.

    I seriously doubt the buyout price would be high in 10 years or so. Solar panels will get better and cheaper. In 10 yrs or so, the used panels won't sell for nearly what it is today.

    Also, PPA is good b/c all the warranty and insurance is on Solar city or the leasing company. You don't have to worry about it at all. Plus, you don't have to worry about all the paperworks...

  10. The solar leasing will take your 30% federal tax credit worth thousands. They will also take any cash rebates and will leave you with only get a 10 to 15% reduction in your electric bill after you factor in the lease payments. And good luck ever selling your home with a lease attached to it. What home buyer will want to assume your lease payment on used equipment when they can buy a brand new, state of the art system for as little as 1/3 the cost of your lease payments. Instead of a solar lease why not get an FHA $0 down solar loan so you can keep the 30% federal tax credit and all the other financial incentives for a much better return on your investment.

  11. There is a Prepaid PPA plan. I don't see why anyone wouldn't want to buy a home with already paid PPA plans.

    I calculated the price of Purchase of a similar system after all the rebates and credits are about $3,500 more expensive than my PPA plan. Sure, mine is only a lease for 20 years with prepaid amount. (no risk of transfer since I paid for it upfront). From a cost point of view, it is NO different than the upfront purchase and it is $3,500 cheaper after rebates. Also, you don't have to worry about inverter warranties or panel warranties. Who knows how many of those panel/inverter companies will be around 10 yrs from now?

    I get about 50%-60% reduction in my electric bill so far. Summer should be even better.

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