Motorcars Honda has embarked on two new improvement projects for its Cleveland Heights store, the first of which is a massive solar array in a canopy configuration that will also provide shelter for its new and used vehicle lot to the east of its building on Mayfield Road.
The second, which is equally impressive, involves a reconfiguration of the dealer’s service department to include service stations where technicians will work on vehicles in an assembly line that will more greatly involve customers with the repair process.
Both of the projects are unique to the retail automotive industry in our state. Both are also significant seven figure investments on the part of the dealership.
“We will be able to put at least 100 cars under the solar canopy when it is completed,” says Chuck Gile, president of Motorcars Honda and Motorcars Toyota. “Underneath, our customers will be sheltered from the elements, but we’ll also be able to show our new and used vehicles in a candlelight that is equivalent to what is in our showroom.”
The new solar canopy is expected to generate anywhere between 50 and 75 percent of the dealership’s power when complete.
“We will obviously be able to realize a significant amount of savings in energy costs,” says Gile. “But even more importantly, saving energy is simply the right thing to do. Everybody has to do their share to help the environment.”
According to Trevor Gile, general manager of Motorcars Honda, the project will pay for itself in seven to ten years. In addition to energy savings, the canopy will also save the dealership from the wear and tear generated from plowing the lot, which is positioned over the dealer’s service department. It will also eliminate the need for cleaning snow off of vehicles during winter.
While footers for the project have already been poured, construction of the actual solar canopy is expected to start on Dec. 1, according to Mike Stevens of Dovetail Solar and Wind, the company performing the installation. The double-barreled canopy design is the brainchild of Stevens.
“The area covered is 120 feet by 190 feet and it will cover more than 90 percent of their display lot at the corner of Mayfield and Superior,” says Stevens. “It is projected to produce 335,000 watts DC and should counteract more than 50 percent of their electrical consumption. Currently, they use about $6,000 a month in energy, so this should save them at least $3,000 a month.”
The array uses a series of small 20,000-watt inverters that change the DC into 480-volt grid energy that will be fed back into the dealership’s electrical distribution system. The installation will also use solar optimizers for every two panels, which counteract the incidence of shading and light angles on the 1,200 total solar panels.
“While the double barrel design is not optimal for collecting solar energy, it is optimal for what they wanted to do at the dealership,” adds Stevens. “This project goes well beyond the energy that it will generate. It is a completely new, landmark construction, in the entire region if not the entire country. No one else has done anything like this. Chuck [Gile] is very forward thinking in terms of what he wants to do for this dealership.”
While construction is going on overhead, Motorcars is also upgrading its service department.
“We are putting in a conveyor system that will resemble an assembly line,” explains Gile. “As cars go down the line, they will stop at various stations where technicians will perform the work.
“I want to be able to give service customers an iPad so when a technician finds a part that needs to be replaced, they can send a picture of it directly to the service customer,” adds Gile. “This will allow people to interact more directly with the technician on the repair process, if they choose to do so.”
Both projects are expected to start next month with completion of the solar canopy expected in March and the assembly line in service expected by fall.