Motorcars Honda expands with unique assembly line, solar canopy

Motorcars Honda, a Cleveland Heights institution, is pouring $6 million into a sweeping renovation that will include an innovative new service installation and vast solar canopy.
"We're the largest single structure solar panel in country for automotive dealerships," says Motorcars general manager Trevor Gile. "That's why this is so unique."
Athens, Ohio-based Dovetail Solar and Wind designed the canopy. More than eighty percent of the steel used for the structural beams came from recycled cars. The canopy will cover nearly 24,000 square feet and generate an estimated 50 to 75 percent of the facility's energy. The solar installation will cost $1.7 million, which is subject to 30 percent in federal tax credits.
The canopy was the brainchild of Motorcars salesman Andrew Chiarelli, who shared it with management.
"We couldn't wrap our arms around it," says Gile. Then Dovetail presented the canopy as an energy producer that would also protect their stock, cutting down on snow removal and making car browsing more attractive during inclement weather. "At that point," says Gile, "it started making sense."

It also paid off. Earlier this month, Honda Motorcars was named Ohio Business of the Year by Green Energy of Ohio.
In addition, the firm is expanding with a new assembly line for car repair. The move will hopefully translate into savings for customers and efficiency for the service department.
"Cars will be pulled along kind of like a car wash," says Gile, adding that he believes the assembly line, which will be part of an 11,250-square-foot addition, will make Motorcar's service department the most advanced in the country. "Things that would normally take two hours will be done in less than a half hour."
Construction started last November. The canopy will include 1,240 solar panels rated at 270-watts each and is slated for completion in early June. The assembly line expansion is scheduled for an August completion date. The renovations also include a total interior remodel, with the installation of LED lighting throughout. For a bird's eye view of the construction, poke around this page, which includes footage produced by videographer Ted Riolo with the help of a drone camera.
The renovation will also feature a new approximately 500-square-foot kids' play area with a very specific theme.
"It's going to be like an indoor kids' dealership," says Gile. "We'll have a little service department and a little showroom where kids will be able to design their own cars." The space will also have a 500-gallon fish tank.
Other new green practices will include alternatives to rental cars for those waiting on a vehicle in the service department. Gile is on a mission to purchase between six and 12 three-wheeled bikes and coming up with maps that outline walking routes around the neighborhood. He's also hoping to line up some coupon deals with area eateries and retail spots.
"People can get some exercise and not take a rental car."
In addition, the firm aims to expand green awareness with grassroots community involvement.
"We're trying to get a bunch of farmers markets to do an event under the solar panels and other events to help promote being green," says Gile.
"We hope to get some awareness for solar panels in Ohio. I think a lot of people don't think there's value in them, but there definitely can be."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.
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