General Motors aims to have solar-powered charging stations for plug-in vehicles at as many as 500 Chevrolet stores by the end of 2012.
GM said last week that it had invested $7.5 million in Sunlogics, which makes solar canopies that can charge up to 12 Chevrolet Volts or other plug-in vehicles at a time. The systems have been installed in nine Chevrolet stores so far.
Through GM's program with Sunlogics, dubbed Green Zone, dealers pay $10,000 a year for 10 years for a 12-station system. Dealers also can install a six-vehicle station for $8,500 per year.The GM venture owns and maintains the stations.
Excess energy generated by the solar panels can be used by the dealership, potentially knocking $6,000 a year, on average, off the annual energy bill.
Stores in sunny states will generate more, potentially offsetting the entire annual cost of the charging system, said Mary Alice Kurtz, a GM manager who is handling the installation of the systems at dealerships.
"It's a minimal investment for the dealer with no upfront capital," Kurtz said. "And they don't have to manage any of it because we do that for them. Let them sell cars."
Joe Serra, dealer principal at Serra Automotive Inc., says the 12-space charging station already in place at his Chevrolet store in Grand Blanc, Mich., serves as a billboard to advertise that he's a green business.
Says Serra: "The question isn't whether to install a solar canopy. It's where -- and how many."