After years of slumber on electric mobility, this week Ford woke up and jumped into the EV race with all pistons firing, so to speak, when it launched the new Lightning F-150 all-electric pickup truck. Now it seems that zero emission mobility was only part of the plan. Last night, the leading solar installer Sunrun let word slip that it is hooking up with Ford to provide two-way EV charging for Lightning F-150 owners, which could put more rooftop solar in the hands of more F-150 fans.
New Ford Lightning F-150 Pickup Truck Can Light Up Your Home In A Disaster
CleanTechnica figured something was cooking on the solar power angle last week, when we got a sneak peek at the new Lightning EV.
“The media wizards in the media room of The Ford Motor Company must have been burning the midnight oil to cook up a scheme in which the automaker introduces an electric version of its popular F-150 pickup truck under the Lightning moniker just before the US approves its first world class offshore wind farm and right after a major oil pipeline shuts down, leading to a surge of panic buying not seen since the oil crisis of the 1970s. If you smell burning toast in the air, that would be the gasmobile finally going down in flames,” we observed.
With the Colonial disaster in mind, we zeroed in on Ford President and CEO Jim Farley, who offhandedly remarked that “F-150 Lightning can power your home during an outage” among a laundry list of other bennies.
Have Some Solar Power With Your New EV
Way to bury the lede, Mr. Farley. He was referring to two-way EV charging, in which you can charge up your EV battery and drive it somewhere, or you can park it at your house and use it to keep the lights on when the local grid goes down.
So, why not just buy a generator? With climate related disasters on the increase, everyone is scrambling to buy generators. Much good that will do you when you can’t get fuel for your generator at your house because a bunch of hackers in some country somewhere on the other side of the world world managed to monkey wrench an oil pipeline in the USA.
As for generators powered by natural gas, well, generator owners in Texas got a wake-up call earlier this year when a winter storm knocked out the gas infrastructure.
The Sunrun EV charging solution
With all that in mind, attention is turning to rooftop solar panels as an efficient alternative to fossil-powered emergency generators, and that’s where Sunrun comes in.
Last night, Sunrun announced that Ford has dubbed it with the title of preferred installer for Ford’s two-way EV battery charging system. Under the name of Ford Intelligent Backup Power, the system includes home energy integration to go with Ford’s 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro home EV charging station.
The new mashup leverages Sunrun’s status as a leading energy services company, meaning that energy storage and other services are also under its wing in addition to throwing down solar panels on your roof.
“Through this partnership, customers will also be provided with the opportunity to install a solar and battery system on their home, enabling them to power their household with clean, affordable energy and charge their F-150 Lightning with the power of the sun,” Sunrun enthused.
“With Ford Intelligent Backup Power, enabled by the available 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro and home integration system, the F-150 Lightning can serve as a reliable home backup energy source by dispatching power to the home during a power outage event,” the company added.
Women Are Leading The EV + Solar Revolution
Between Elon Musk and Jim Farley, so far the conversation around the EV revolution has centered around guys. However, take a peek behind the curtain and you’ll see two women who powered the Lightning EV-plus-solar hookup, which could have an outsized impact on both EV and rooftop solar adoption all across the US.
First check out Linda Zhang, chief engineer on the F-150 Lightning.
Ford highlighted her pivotal role in developing the Lightning EV back in 2019, when the company released a video of the prototype towing 10 double-decker rail cars along with 42 F-150 gasmobiles from the 2019 model year.
Our friends over at the Detroit Free Press also point out that Zhang has been with Ford since age 19, “following in the footsteps of her engineer father.”
In a long (very long) Ford press release detailing all the bells and whistles on the new EV, Ms. Zhang gets a shout-out near the end, under the heading “Built Ford Tough Comes Standard.”
“F-150 Lightning goes through the same tortuous Built Ford Tough testing as all F-Series trucks,” Ford explained. “The military-grade aluminum alloy body and upgraded frame support the advanced battery, while the first F-Series independent rear suspension and low center of gravity help improve isolation from the road, provide a more stable ride and reduce steering roll – while maintaining the durability and reliability expected from F-150.”
“Whether they’re hauling a bed full of firewood through snow or towing a trailer on a road trip, customers need to be able to rely on their truck’s performance,” Zhang emphasized. “This all-electric truck has been engineered with dual in-board motors, which means it can take on rough terrain. Our team of engineers has run the same arduous test regimen our F-150 customers have learned to expect from Ford.”
The testing regimen included testing the battery at temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and putting the new EV through its endurance paces, leading to the engineering of a “state-of-the-art liquid cooling system and powertrain layout that expertly manages heat distribution across the vehicle.”
What About Those Solar Panels?
Yes, what about them? Sunrun is helmed and was co-founded by CEO Lynn Jurich, who observed that “Ford is a trusted brand that’s been at the forefront of American innovation for over 100 years, and it is exciting to see them electrifying their most popular truck in company history.”
“We’re at the beginning stages of a partnership that can bring energy resilience to millions of Americans across the country,” she emphasized.
“When Ed and I met in graduate school and eventually decided to co-found Sunrun, 100% of people told us it was a mistake, and that I was crazy to leave my job in private equity,” Jurich recounts, referring to co-founder Ed Fenster.
“But I believed in the possibility to power our entire world with the sun and wanted to build a community to do it,” she continues. “We believed that solar could best be used in the hands of the people, establishing a cleaner, more affordable and more resilient energy future.”
Jurich and Sunrun are credited with inventing the “solar-as-a-service” business model, which was a new and untested thing back in 2013, when the company received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for an incubator-type project under the ongoing Sunshot initiative for bringing down the cost of fully installed solar arrays.
Sunshot tackles both hardware and “soft” costs, and the grant fell into the soft category:
“The award…supports the further development and implementation of the solar industry’s first end-to-end workflow automation system,” Sunrun explained. “Similar to the platform that allows FedEx to deliver millions of packages daily, Sunrun’s platform will dramatically streamline the design, workflow, processing, pricing, and project management of home solar projects.”
Meanwhile, Sunrun has joined other solar industry stakeholders in a related Energy Department initiative aimed at quickening up the solar permitting process with a handy app. Earlier this month, the National Renewable Energy Department announced that it has taken another step toward commercializing the so-named “SolarAPP+” so stay tuned for more on that.
With President Biden putting the official White House seal of approval on the new Ford EV, look for a rush on those Ford Intelligent Backup Power systems with rooftop solar panels, to boot.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Photo: Ford F-150 Lightning EV courtesy of Ford Motor Company.