In the future, auto companies won't just build cars. They'll build cars that are part of the energy infrastructure, providing back up storage for the solar panels on your roof, and reinforcing the wider electricity grid. They could even play a role in developing smart homes and technologies.
You can see as much from a prototype smart home recently opened by Honda in California. It features an enormous 9.5-kilowatt solar array, a 10-kilowatt-hour home battery unit to store excess power, Honda's home energy management system to control the whole thing, and, of course, its electric vehicle in the garage. Designed to be energy-efficient anyway, the house produces more power than it consumes, which means its owner could actually make money from the power company.
Honda isn't the only car-maker getting into the whole sustainable lifestyle thing. Ford also built a show-home incorporating its cars and a range of green features. And Tesla is now selling batteries for home use as well as for use in its vehicles. But this house, which Honda developed with a lot of help from the University of California, Davis, might be the most impressive. See its video here:
Based on passive design principles, the house is naturally cooler in summer and warmer in winter. There's geothermal pump system out back that reduces the cost of heating and air-conditioning. The concrete in the foundation is about half as carbon-intensive as standard, because engineers substituted the mix with pozzolan ash.
All in all, the house uses half the energy of a similar-sized abode in the area, Honda says. It is three times more water-efficient than a typical American home. And it saves 11 tons of CO2 a year, compared to an average dwelling and vehicle. It's also designed to make its occupants feel good: Davis's lighting research group installed LEDs throughout to match their circadian rhythms. Really.
Of course, it's going to be some time before we see something like this in every subdivision in America. But, when we do, you can be sure auto-makers will want part of the action. If they're not actually building the smart house, they could be selling some of the components that make it possible.