Ford partners with SunPower, others for smart home energy use

My Energi LifestyleFord Motor Company might seem like an unlikely leader in the home energy use field, but since the company announced a partnership with solar panel manufacturer SunPower last year, it has expanded its footprint in the industry.

When Ford launched its lineup of electric and electric hybrid vehicles this year, it recognized that it’s not just selling cars anymore.

The company announced its new MyEnergi Lifestyle at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. The program is a collaboration with SunPower, power management company Eaton and appliance manufacturer Whirlpool.

The companies saw an opportunity to combine forces and help families reduce and better manage their energy use, said Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure.

“Utility companies are rapidly deploying smart meters,” Tinskey said. “And there’s starting to be an uptick in customers driving electric vehicles.”

While the numbers are still low for electric vehicle penetration, the industry is in its infancy. Ford has had plug-in electric options on the market just a year. The Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla have only been on the road a little longer than that. Industry experts predict that electric vehicle sales will reach 3.8 million by 2020.

In a growing market like this, Ford is giving itself an edge by partnering to make electric vehicle ownership about more than driving a green car.

“It’s the largest discretionary load in the home in most cases,” Tinskey said. “By itself, it could justify switching to time-of-use power rates.”

If homeowners are going to make that switch anyway, why not make the most of it and save in every way.

Ford and its partners have developed a charging program that knows the best time of day to charge the car. Partnering with Whirlpool means homeowners can use the same program to control their appliances. New smart appliances can be programmed to do things like make ice or heat water when rates are lowest.

“You can mix and match,” Tinskey said. “These things don’t even have to talk to each other. They all talk to the cloud.”

The partnership with SunPower means electric vehicle owners can generate at least some of their own solar power and use it when it makes the most sense.

The program is available now and Ford is preparing to announce a contest for a family that will receive all of the energy-saving gear.

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