It may be hidden behind a fuzzy grey triangular panel in the trunk, but the 2016 Toyota Mirai fuel-cell car offers a novel and innovative feature that could let it power your home for a day or two in the event of an emergency.
Toyota executives say they haven’t decided whether to offer the power-out capability on the 200 Mirais that will be sold in the U.S. next year.
A power-out jack and associated energy station, not currently offered on any passenger cars, would likely offer a unique selling proposition that underscores the Mirai’s ability to generate emission-free electricity–and quite a lot of it too.
The energy capacity of the fuel-cell vehicle’s 5 kilograms of hydrogen, compressed at 10,000 psi, is more than 150 kilowatt-hours.
While a portion of that energy is lost in the conversion from hydrogen to electricity, the Toyota press materials say that’s enough to power a household for up to seven days.
That would like not be a typical U.S. household–using 32 kWh a day–but a typical Japanese one, at a considerably more modest 10 kWh.
The plug itself uses a CHAdeMO connector, and would connect to an energy station that converts the high-voltage direct current from the Mirai’s fuel cell into the 100-volt alternating current used in Japanese buildings.
Over the past few years, Essess Inc. has deployed cars mounted with imaging sensors to drive around the U.S. creating heat maps that show which homes aren’t sealed properly, wasting energy and their owners’ money.
The startup, which told Venture Capital Dispatch it raised $10.75 million since its founding in 2011 from venture investors, is now rolling out its technology for use by power utilities.
The idea is that utilities could use the information collected and processed by Essess to tell their customers where exactly their “house envelopes” are leaking, and what fixes could improve the seal.
This approach, according to Essess Chief Executive Thomas Scaramellino, could help utilities and customers make improvements in energy savings that are larger and longer-lasting than simply replacing an old lightbulb with a more efficient one, for example.
Essess, whose roots are in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is joining a growing number of startups that are going after the billions of dollars that utilities in the U.S. must spend on energy-efficiency programs under state mandates.
The goal of the tech companies is to lower the cost of analyzing which buildings are most wasteful and pinpoint the reasons remotely, in order to avoid in-person and expensive energy audits.
Essess has a high-tech method, with a focus on the “building envelope.” It’s using advances in robotics, computer vision and machine learning, and collects more than three terabytes of data each night, the CEO said.
Heat leaking from window frames, doors and poorly insulated attics and walls can make people uncomfortable and power use inefficient. The company’s approach allows it to gather a lot of information about many homes quickly, and yet produce very specific home-by-home results. It can pinpoint exactly where air is leaking in each individual home, the company says. It says that it can do thermal scans of entire utility service territories in days or weeks.
When it comes to promoting energy efficiency, it’s all about incentives.
The least energy efficient states in the nation have no efficiency resource standards in place, a new nationwide survey finds, and typically do not have policies in place that treat energy efficiency as a resource.
Conversely, state law in Massachusetts requires utilities to prioritize cost-effective energy efficiency over other resources when making procurement decisions, and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has named Massachusetts as the most efficiency state for the fourth consecutive year.
Essentially, development of specific energy savings targets for utilities or independent statewide program administrators is one of the most direct and effective efforts a state can take to become more efficient, according to the ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.
“States are truly at the forefront of energy efficiency policy in the United States,” said Maggie Molina, Director of ACEEE’s Utilities, State, and Local Policy program.”What we’ve found is when the right state policy tools are in place, consumers are then in power to make smarter efficiency choices.”
This eighth version of the scorecard greater emphasis on utility and public policy, and for the first time includes a metric worth negative points. ACEEE notes, for instance, that the past year has seen a rise in efforts from large customers to completely opt out of energy efficiency programs. The report subtracted one point from states that allow such opt outs without requiring customers to demonstrate equivalent investments in energy efficiency.
For the most part, the rankings bear out as might be expected—states in the southeast and states with significant oil and gas production find themselves ranked lower in efficiency. The more efficient states have a reputation for valuing efficiency and green power. The scorecard uses a 50-point scale, with 20 of those possible points coming from the utility sector.
Massachusetts, for example, has a perfect 20/20 utility score in ACEEE’s rankings.
California was followed by a three-way tie between Oregon (15/20 utility score), Rhode Island (20/20) and Vermont (18.5/20). On the lower side of the list, North Dakota (0/20) was named the least-efficient state, followed byWyoming (2/20), South Dakota (3.5/20), Mississippi (1/20) and Alaska (0/20).
But a closer look at ACEE’s findings reveals policy similarities impacting utilities, ratepayers, and the ancillary industries built around the power industry…
Through January 31, 2017, Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCo) will bill nothing to EV owners in its territory who have installed a separate meter to charge their vehicles if they do it between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Another Indianapolis utility charges $0.023 per kilowatt-hour for overnight charging, making the cost of driving a Tesla Model S less than $0.01 per mile, according to Green Car Reports.
In addition to free nighttime charging, NIPSCo is also offering a $1,650 voucher for meter installation to the first 250 customers who do so. To date, 125 customers signed up for this “Rider 685” program.
Chadbourne and Parke Partner Keith Martin recently pointed out that Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Chair Ann Berwick has called transportation electrification a potential “salvation” of utilities because of the way it would revive the diminishing demand for electricity. And Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning has said, according to Martin, that transportation electrification could make utilities better investments by driving demand for electricity.
In 2015 New York will begin work on LinkNYC, a project that replaces the aging and seldom used payphone system with futuristic glowing pillars called Links.
These Links will serve as Wi-Fi hubs that provide 24/7 free internet access at gigabit speeds. The connections will be encrypted and should be secure according to the press release: “We encourage you to continue to use end-to-end encryption, such as HTTPS, for any sensitive matters or data. The network will also prevent peer-to-peer security threats by eliminating the ability to communicate device to device.”
As if that wasn’t good enough, the Links also offer free phone calls to anywhere in the U.S., free mobile-device charging, and a touchscreen interface for accessing directions, city services, etc… They also provide easy access to 911 and 311.
Sounds expensive right? The whole system is ad-supported and will apparently cost tax-payers nothing. So presumably these Links will be bombarding you with ads day and night, but it’s not as if that’s not happening already right? All-in-all it may be a fair trade, assuming the ads are visual only and not overly intrusive. This new platform may prove seriously valuable for local advertisers and marketers.
“LinkNYC is a first-of-its-kind communications network that will bring the fastest available municipal Wi-Fi to millions of New Yorkers and visitors,” according to a press release from CityBridge and LinkNYC.
Up to up to 10,000 Link installtions are planning, though not all may offer free gigabit Wi-Fi.The first Links should be operational by the end of 2015.
Images by LinkNYC
One of the most advanced and sophisticated alternative-fuel vehicles soon will be available in the U.S. with the debut of Toyota’s Mirai, a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.
Mirai’s fuel cell converts hydrogen to electricity and emits water vapor, emitting no pollutants. A major hurdle to the technology is the lack of an infrastructure to distribute hydrogen, which Toyota [fortune-stock symbol=”TM”] is addressing by promoting and facilitating the construction of fueling stations in California and five northeastern states.
Unlike a typical battery-powered electric vehicle, which has a range of less than one hundred miles, Mirai (“future,” in Japanese) claims a range of 300 miles on a tank of hydrogen, which can be refilled in five minutes.
Honda introduced a fuel-cell vehicle called FCX Clarity on a limited basis in the U.S. in 2002. Honda has leased only a handful of the model in the past two years.
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