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Automakers Power Up Operations on Solar

While the auto industry might take shots from environmentalists for its role in creating climate changing gases, a growing number of car makers are turning to alternate power, both for their vehicles and their manufacturing operations.

Ford plans to set up a sprawling new solar energy array outside its suburban Detroit headquarters. General Motors is already using sun power to charge up new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids before shipping them to customers. And solar energy is providing a major chunk of the power needed to run Volkswagen's big assembly plant in Tennessee. Ford has “a deep commitment to sustainability,” says Chairman Bill Ford Jr. Working with local power supplier DTE Energy, Ford’s new solar array will be the largest in Michigan and the second-largest in the Midwest, covering 360 parking spaces in front of the headquarters building. It will be able to produce up to 1.038 megawatts of energy, enough to power 158 average-sized homes, the maker notes. Honda, meanwhile, is using solar power to produce hydrogen for use in its older FCX fuel-cell vehicles, and for the new hydrogen-powered model it will begin marketing in Southern California next year.

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— Paul A. Eisenstein, The Detroit Bureau