Toyota Plugs Into Smart Grid Future

Toyota wants to be part of the future. A future, specifically, where their new Smart Center helps the smart grid to manage how much electricity is consumed by your home and your plug-in hybrid/electric vehicle (PHV/EV), and how much energy is produced by your home, through solar panels. Toyota has developed this Smart Center as system as a part of its various smart-grid initiatives, aimed at supporting efficient energy use “toward the realization of a low-carbon society.”

The system works by collating information transmitted from a household-linked PHV or EV regarding remaining vehicle-battery charge; a smart grid communicator regarding household power consumption; and the internet, regarding weather forecast data and charge-rate information for specific time segments from the power company.  The system then mashes up all these numbers and comes up with an optimal plan for coordinating vehicle recharging and household energy consumption with an aim to minimize CO2 emissions and reduce electricity costs.

Prius PHV

image via Toyota

But wait, there’s more. Toyota’s Smart Center system could also offer users the ability to remotely check the current battery charge of their vehicle and the distance it could travel, adjust the charging time (presumably for a vehicle left charging at home),  or turn the air-conditioning on before getting in the car. The system also appears to take the place of a home energy management system by monitoring household power consumption, solar-panel electricity production and water heater activity.

The Smart Center system is currently undergoing testing in Toyota’s Rokkasho Village smart grid demonstration project in Japan, where the car maker is conducting trials in two houses constructed by Toyota Housing Corporation linked with eight PHVs.  Over the next two years, data will be collected on usage with the aim of refining and improve the system. Toyota hopes to market similar systems with PHVs scheduled for launch in early 2012 and with select Toyota Housing homes.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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