Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Already successful at selling hybrid-electric vehicles, the concept of a “hybrid home” is intriguing to Toyota Motor Corp., an official says.

Part of the auto maker’s vision of the future is for renewable energy to proliferate, says Justin Ward, advanced powertrain program manager-Toyota Technical Center, at the Management Briefing Seminars here. “But now you have to have a way to store that energy. So when you start thinking about it, a hybrid home sounds really interesting.”

Ward says there “could be an application” to use Toyota batteries to store electricity that consumers generate at home via solar- or wind-energy sources.

But first Toyota must understand how energy is consumed in various regions.

In Japanese homes, average consumption is about 1 kW, but in the U.S. “our computers aren’t even 1 kW,” Ward says. “When you look at a U.S. house it’s (more) like 7 kW.”

He says testing plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles via programs with the University of California Irvine, as well as UC Berkley, has proven illuminating.

“A consumer comes home at 5 (pm), (plugs) their car into the battery charger, (turns) their lights and air conditioning on, and all of sudden you just added to the peak load,” Ward says. “This doesn’t make any sense.”

While it is true the entirety of the U.S. electrical grid has the capacity to handle “millions” of PHEVs or EVs, the capacity of local grids are an issue, even in the off-peak evening and early morning hours.

“I’ve heard stories from some utilities that (there is) increased usage of energy at night because of plasma TVs (and) computers that are left on,” Ward says. Unexpected and premature failures of transformers are occurring as a result.

Meanwhile, Ward says Toyota’s pure EV, due in 2012, will not require the type of public-charging stations Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and other auto makers are working with U.S. municipalities to install.

Because of its status as a short-range EV, a standard 110-volt outlet is all that will be necessary, Ward says, noting charging time will be just a few hours.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com