Honda unveils model house built to support electric car

Honda is showcasing its energy efficiency technology in a model house built around the electric car at the University of California at Davis. The structure includes provisions for the company's Fit EV sedan, LED lighting, plus uses solar and geothermal energy sources, according to the automaker.

American Honda Motor Co./PRNewsFoto
Honda built what the company called its "Smart Home" to showcase the company's energy efficiency technology on the campus of the University of California at Davis.

Most of us think "Honda" and bring up economy cars, perhaps lawnmowers, or even portable generators. Complete houses aren't usually on the list.

Yesterday, though, the Japanese carmaker opened its Honda Smart Home US in Davis, California--demonstrating its ideas for how Americans might live a zero-carbon life in the 21st Century.

California often pushes the envelope in new technology, and with its corporate home in the Orange County city of Torrance, Honda opted to site its low-impact living testbed on the campus of the University of California at Davis.

Davis is flat, sunny, and laced with bike paths, and it's just outside the state capital of Sacramento, about 80 miles east of San Francisco.

UC-Davis has long had an emerging West Campus residential community, including space and support staff for these kinds of experiments in living.

Low-impact homes are a topic of discussion around the world, with considerable interest in places like Australia and California, where sun power is plentiful but water can be scarce.

The Honda Smart Home represents about 2,000 square feet, all of it optimized toward energy-efficient living. It's fitted with LED lighting, radiant heating and cooling, a massive geothermal recovery system, a large solar photovoltaic panel system, and even a grey-water filtering and recovery system.

The home is actually designed to be energy positive, contributing electricity to the grid and even including a battery storage system both to capture excess energy and to provide a backup in case of blackouts or peak power demands.

After a period as an open house, the home will be used for three years by UC-Davis visiting faculty and staff, with each tenant staying for a year.

Because this home is an ongoing experiment, tenants will have their power usage monitored--and also be expected to give feedback on the operation and livability of the home as part of regular interviews.

Since this is a Honda Home, the use of a zero-emission Honda Fit EV electric car is included with the home for the next three years.

The garage may be the most interesting and exciting area of what is actually a fairly small and modest home. It contains both a standard 240-Volt Level 2 charging station and, more unusually, an actual DC charging outlet as well.

The solar photovoltaic system charges a 10-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery system, housed in a garage storage area, and the solar panels can also directly charge the Fit EV via that DC cable.

For reference, that battery storage is about 40 percent the size of the Fit EV's own battery pack--but home storage is one of the uses envisioned down the road for used battery packs from electric cars, after the batteries' useful life in cars has ended.

Yesterday's event appeared to be a big deal for executives from Honda, judging by the cars parked outside: not only the low-volume Honda Fit EV, but also a 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, and even a Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.

The Honda Smart Home does not, however, have its own hydrogen filling station. For that, unlike the Fit EV electric car, residents would have to go elsewhere.

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