Honda Unveils Smart Home US for Zero Carbon Living and Mobility

Honda's ultra-efficient, carbon neutral smart home is capable of producing more energy on-site from renewable sources than it consumes annually—and it comes with a specially modified Honda Fit electric vehicle

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Though the first official assessment that climate change was caused by human activity came in 1988, with NASA scientist James Hansen's famous testimony to the U.S. Congress, the "carbon neutral" concept, which refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions, is a relatively new one. The non-profit Climate Neutral Network, which developed the Climate Neutral Certification, was incorporated in 1999; the first company to receive certification was the California-based nutrition supplement producer Shaklee Corporation, in 2000. The United Nations pledged to work towards climate neutrality in 2007.

The phrase "carbon neutral" was the New Oxford American Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2006. That same year, Honda became the first automaker to announce voluntary carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets for its worldwide fleet of automobile, power sports and power equipment products, as well as its global network of manufacturing plants. And now, the company has unveiled a compelling new solution that seeks to address emissions reductions on the consumer level: the Honda Smart Home US, a combined house and electric vehicle that together enable zero net energy living and transportation.

FOR ZERO CARBON INNOVATION, AMERICA MATTERS

Several countries have made pledges to become carbon neutral, including Costa Rica, Iceland, Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Tuvalu, Vatican City and Bhutan. But while these pledges are important—and provide excellent examples for other countries—they are small potatoes in the larger scheme of global warming. The main emitters are China, which contributes 26.43% of global emissions, followed by the United States, at 17.33%. The third biggest emitter, India, is not even close, at 6.41%.{1}

But looking at total emissions doesn't tell the whole story; the per capita numbers are more revealing. And since a big part of lowering emissions is about changing individual behavior, it is important to consider the per capita contribution to the global total. China may be the biggest total emitter, but it also has a fifth of the world's population, compared to only about 4.5 percent of the world's population in the United States. Approximately 44 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from energy used to power homes and light duty vehicles (cars and light trucks).{2} Cars and light trucks account for 60 percent of U.S. transportation emissions, producing almost one-fifth of the nation’s total global warming pollution.{3} A typical American household emits 48 tons of carbon dioxide every year, the majority of which comes from motor vehicle fuel and energy to power a home.{4}

Sure, in terms of annual per capita carbon dioxide emissions, the U.S. ranks 12th, but behind much smaller countries whose individual residents emit more (like the oil-rich, luxury car and SVU-loving fiefdoms of the Persian Gulf: Qatar, Kuwait, Brunei, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain). Among the big industrialized nations, the U.S. is by far the main emitter. (China ranks 56th on the per capita list.){5} Conclusion: Americans are the world's biggest polluters. Arguably, it is more essential to address zero carbon living and mobility in the United States than anywhere else.

As The Guardian's environment editor Adam Vaughn points out, "Examining CO2 per capita around the world also shows us the gulf between the developed world's responsibility for climate change and that of the developing world."{5} Looking at both the total and per capita numbers, it is clear that Americans have a big responsibility to clean up the dirty fuel act.

INTELLIGENT, EARTH-FRIENDLY DESIGN IN A LIVING LABORATORY

Honda has answered the call. Last month, the world's eighth largest automaker marked the opening of their Smart Home US, a powerful showcase of various technologies that together create a zero net carbon living and mobility system. Remarkably, the Smart Home is capable of producing more energy on-site from renewable sources than it consumes annually, including enough energy to power a Honda Fit EV (electric vehicle) for daily commuting. The "Smart Home" moniker is well deserved: It boasts a Home Energy Management System (HEMS)—a proprietary hardware and software system that maximizes energy efficiency by monitoring, controlling and optimizing electrical generation and consumption throughout the home's microgrid—that communicates with the electric utility to improve grid stability. The result is impressive: The Smart Home uses less than half of the energy for heating, cooling and lighting compared to a similarly sized new home in the Davis area. But that's not all. If the electricity grid is overloaded, the Smart Home can shed its own load and even supply power back to grid.

The site of the Smart Home was well chosen: the West Village campus of the University of California, Davis, the location of the largest planned zero net energy housing development in the United States, home to the university's research centers for energy efficiency, sustainability and transportation. The Smart Home's eventual occupant will be a member of the UC Davis community and will be announced soon.

"In West Village, UC Davis made a commitment to build zero net energy housing and gave our research center the goal of creating the first university hub to focus and energy and transportation research," said Dan Sperling, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis. "Honda Smart Home is a dynamic environment that will help the university meet its research objectives and is a perfect example of the industry partnerships we strive to build."{7}

The Smart Home isn't just a (literally) cool place to live, it is being billed as a "living laboratory," where researchers from Honda, UC Davis and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) will "evaluate new technologies and business opportunities at the intersection of housing, transportation, energy and the environment."{8}

GREEN IS IN THE DETAILS

The Smart Home is chock full of sustainable features that would make most eco-home owners a bit jealous. The roof is outfitted with a 9.5kw solar photovoltaic (PV) system that generates more energy that the home and Fit EV consume annually. The Fit EV has been modified to accept DC power directly, eliminating up to half of the energy normally lost during the more traditional DC-to-A and AC-to-DC power conversion. And buried in the home's backyard are eight 20-foot-deep boreholes that fuel a geothermal heat pump that heats and cools the home's floors and ceilings year-round. 

The Honda Smart Home US features radiant heating and cooling

Even the concrete has been optimized. A naturally occurring substance called pozzolan has been infused into the Smart Home's concrete, replacing half of the traditionally used cement, the production of which causes approximately 5% of global man-made CO2 emissions.{9}

The Smart Home's LED lighting is five times more energy efficient than conventional lighting and has been designed with "circadian-friendly color control logic" that mimics the natural shifts in daylight and "allows occupants to select lighting scenes that complement occupants' circadian rhythms and support nighttime vision."{10}


The Honda Smart Home US features adaptive circadian lighting

Thanks to dual-flush toilets with WaterSense certification, low-flow faucets, a high-efficiency washing machine and dishwasher and "xeriscaping" in the garden—which features plants that thrive in arid climates and the use of only rain and filtered greywater recycled from the home—the Smart Home is three times more water-efficient than a typical American household.

SMART LIVING: A STYLISH SOLUTION GROUNDED IN ETHICS

"With the Honda Smart Home, we've developed technologies and design solutions to address two primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions—homes and cars," said Steve Center, vice president of the Environmental Business Development Office of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. "Ultimately, our goal is to contribute to the public dialogue about addressing CO2 emissions."{11}

If the nation is to move to a low-carbon economy, two major sources of carbon emissions—home energy and transportation—must be dramatically reduced. President Obama has framed the issue of carbon reduction as an ethical one: "While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children’s health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment."{12} The Honda Smart Home US is a step towards that important goal.

To watch more videos about the Honda Smart Home US, visit: http://www.hondasmarthome.com/tagged/videos.

NOTES

1. Wikipedia. List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions. Accessed April 5, 2014.
2. Honda. Internal calculation based on data from US EPA (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html). March 25, 2014. http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=7666-en. Accessed April 5, 2014.
3. Union of Concerned Scientists. "Clean Vehicles." http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/why-clean-cars/global-warming. Last modified January 31, 2014. Accessed March 26, 2014.
4. Christopher M. Jones. Carbon Footprint of Typical U.S. Household. Cool Climate Network. University of California at Berkeley. August 3, 2011. http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/footprint. Accessed April 5, 2014.
5. Wikipedia. List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions per capita. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions_per_capita. Accessed April 5, 2014.
6. Adam Vaughn. Carbon emissions per person, by country. The Guardian. September 2, 2009. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2009/sep/02/carbon-emissions-per-person-capita. Accessed April 5, 2014.
7. Honda. Honda Smart Home US Offers Vision for Zero Carbon Living and Mobility. March 25, 2014. http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=7666-en. Accessed April 6, 2014.
8. Ibid.
9. Madeleine Rubenstein. "Emissions from the Cement Industry." State of the Planet Blog. Earth Institute at Columbia University. May 9, 2012. http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2012/05/09/emissions-from-the-cement-industry/. Accessed April 6, 2014.
10. Ibid., 7.
11. Ibid.
12. The President's Climate Action Plan. Executive Office of the President. June 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/image/president27sclimateactionplan.pdf. Accessed April 6, 2014.

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