By Aaron Bragman on Mon Aug 04 04:19:28 GMT-06:00 2014
We all know Honda is adept at making some excellent automobiles. Many people know it does motorcycles, lawn mowers, power generators and even airplanes. But how about houses? If Honda built family homes as well as family cars, would you be interested? What if that house was super energy efficient and could talk to your plug-in electric vehicle to charge it or use the charge stored in it for keeping the lights on?
Honda is not getting into the home-building business anytime soon, but that hasn't stopped the company from building homes just as described above in Davis, Calif. The modern-looking dwellings are part of a research project with the University of California at Davis to come up with new, practical technologies aimed at improving energy efficiency.
The Honda Smart Home was unveiled back in March; it incorporates many of these new systems to create a carbon-neutral demonstrator home. The one system we're most interested in is a Honda-designed experimental integrated battery-storage and power-management apparatus that's designed to work with a family's electric car; it's called the Home Energy Management System. Check out a video on the whole system from Designing Spaces below.
Using solar panels on the home's roof, the house can generate about 9 kilowatts of electricity on a good day. The HEMSx then monitors several factors like the local utility's energy grid status, the charge level of any plugged-in EVs, the owner's desired departure time and several others to determine what to do with the energy. A 10-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery station is located in the home; using the same battery cells that Honda uses in the Fit EV the station stores energy created by the solar panels if there is no immediate demand for electricity in the home.
The HEMSx can charge the EV with the energy, store it in the home-side batteries or even sell it back to the utility's electrical grid if public demand is causing a spike in prices and a trough in availability. The HEMSx can also use the stored energy to power the house independently of the electrical grid at peak demand times, or in the evening when public demand soars but the electric vehicle in the garage still needs to be charged. It could use the stored energy to charge the EV, if need be. This enables the utility to eventually smooth out generating demand at peak times by using energy stored in homes and cars. Honda has just released a new video describing the thinking behind it below.
Honda also recently announced that it is joining eight other automakers and 15 power utilities in the Electric Power Research Institute, a group dedicated to the study and implementation of more efficient energy strategies and technologies for the U.S. market. Honda in particular is using the initiative to showcase its research into "Vehicle to Grid" technologies, which will enable future EVs to communicate with local utilities and consumers' homes to better manage charging and energy usage.
If EVs do take off in popularity in the near future, the sudden demand spike on utilities would be considerable and troublesome. Efforts like Honda's are designed to try and minimize that impact so as not to stress the existing infrastructure.
You can read all about Honda's efforts and work in designing and testing EV-integrated home systems here. It just might be coming to a garage near you soon.
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron