How green can your car get? Ford recently announced its "Drive Green for Life" program, which sees the automaker teaming up with solar panel manufacturer SunPower to provide a high-efficiency rooftop solar system for electric vehicle charging.

Ford says the solar panels installed on rooftops under the program ideally generate enough energy to charge the upcoming Focus Electric, which goes on sale in several US markets over the next year. That solves a problem frequently associated with electric cars: even if EVs don't use non-renewable fossil fuels, they still have to plug in to the power grid, which inevitably uses non-renewable energy somewhere along the way.

"SunPower's innovative partnership with Ford is a win-win for customers, providing a comprehensive sustainability program," said Tom Werner, SunPower's president and chief executive. "By taking advantage of this program, Focus Electric customers can receive the added benefit of installing a SunPower solar system...generating the electricity needed to charge their vehicles."

According to Ford and SunPower, the solar panels were sized to accommodate a Focus Electric customer who drives about 1,000 miles per month. The companies say the system costs around $10,000 after federal tax credits, and may cost even less when local and state rebates are applied. While that's not necessarily cheap, Ford and SunPower are quick to point out the system will save customers money on energy costs.

"Under the ?Drive Green for Life' program, Focus Electric owners can reduce their total cost of ownership by generating enough energy from their high efficiency SunPower rooftop solar system to offset the electricity required to charge the vehicle at night," said Mike Tinskey, Ford's director of global vehicle electrification and infrastructure.

Focus Electric customers interested in adding the solar panels to their home will be contacted by a participating SunPower dealer, who will visit their home and begin the installation process. According to Ford, the panels will also be compatible with the upcoming C-Max plug-in hybrid expected to debut sometime next year.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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