At Honda, much of the company's research is focused on energy used to power cars. But by shifting to a more holistic focus on energy, including home energy management, Honda is able to center its research on a future with ubiquitous solar power.
To conduct this research, the car manufacturer built a house. The Honda Smart Home was constructed two years ago to ultimately be an asset to the grid. However, when Michael Koenig, project lead at the Honda Smart Home, thinks about a smart home, it’s not in housing’s traditional sense.
Koenig wasn’t interested in the smart locks and thermostats that can be quickly outdated and, as he says, not intrinsically interesting. Although it may be cool and attractive to have these gadgets, he says a smart home is about smart design, and smart design focuses on energy spend, battery storage, and interaction with the grid.
In another special project, a demo version of the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid car was designed with a new bi-directional charger that allows two-way energy flow from the vehicle’s battery to the grid. Using IBM's cloud-based plug-in electric vehicles enablement platform, the vehicle receives signals from a grid operator via a charging station, and it controls charge and discharge in time with the signals. When the grid needs more power, the vehicle will send it from its battery. When the grid is full, the car can proactively charge its battery. In the next phase of the project, the system will automatically schedule charge times based on the needs of the driver and optimal rate structures, including the use of renewable energy sources for charging.
Working with the University of Delaware's Science, Technology, and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus on this project, Koenig hopes that in five or 10 years they can aggregate charge and discharge, and thereby create a huge value to society. He says that homeowners may eventually get paid just for having their car plugged in.
He also envisions that this would help solve the issue of developments being blocked in California because of low air quality reports. If more people made the move to electric vehicles, it could result in lower emissions from transportation and possibly allow for more development.
With more than 3,300 utilities in the U.S. and dozens of automakers offering plug-in vehicles, Honda is seeking collaboration to ultimately provide better energy management across both platforms. Working with various universities, utility companies, and other manufacturers, Honda says collaboration is necessary to maximize the potential of vehicle-grid integration.
"This project is an important step in enabling plug-in vehicles to reach their potential as a valuable distributed resource that can increase grid stability, improve power quality, and reduce demand peaks," says Steven Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office at American Honda. "Honda is participating in several projects aimed at accelerating vehicle-to-grid integration, which has the potential to reduce the total cost of owning a plug-in vehicle while enabling higher concentrations of renewable energy."
Koenig says the house has become a repository of knowledge. Honda publishes publicly available reports on its performance every six months on its website. "We need to look at more than just the emissions of our vehicles," he notes. "We need to look at the built environment along with transportation.”