Honda is not leading the electric vehicle revolution but it is deeply involved in finding mobility solutions for the future. At the Consumer Electronics Show next month, it will showcase three innovative mobility strategies it is working on today.
Honda Safe Swarm
Have you ever wondered how a school of fish can swim through the water and change directions frequently without bumping into each other? Honda engineers are working on how to apply lessons learned from nature to the flow of vehicles on highways. The goal is to smooth traffic flow in a way that lowers accidents and promotes fuel economy. The concept is explained more fully in this video.
Key to the system is what Honda calls V2X (vehicle to everything) technology, which allows all cars to communicate with each other in real time and with sensors embedded in transportation corridors. In 2019, its so-called Safe Swarm system will undergo real world testing in Ohio’s 33 Smart Mobility Corridor. According to its website, “As autonomous and connected vehicle research expands throughout the state, Ohio is set to become the centerpiece of a contiguous, interstate highway test corridor eventually stretching from New York to Detroit and Chicago.”
In a press release, the company says, “Honda’s SAFE SWARM™ concept can improve traffic flow by taking information from vehicles ahead to prevent potential traffic snarls, take early braking action to help avoid a wave of emergency braking, or to change lanes if needed. It does this through an on-board system with V2X communication, as well as the existing sensors on the vehicle and even sensors in the infrastructure.”
While Elon Musk believes the way to solve traffic congestion is to bore tunnels through the Earth for a few hundred or a few thousand people to use every day, Honda may have an equivalent solution that would be less expensive to implement and might allow millions of cars to travel more safely and efficiently. It will be interesting to see how this technology develops.
V2G Wireless Charging Technology
Wireless charging is not as sexy as the 45o kW chargers Porsche and BMW are developing which will allow intrepid motorists to make the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs, but it could improve the EV ownership experience for millions of motorists on a daily basis.
As autonomous driving systems improve, drivers could leave their cars and let them find their way to the nearest charging hub. After the battery is recharged, the car could drive itself to an available parking spot and allow another car access to the charger. It wouldn’t work for long distance travel where rapid charging is required, but for normal daily driving, wireless charging has more than enough power to recharge batteries while people are working or off shopping.
Working in partnership with WiTricity, a global leader in wireless charging technology, Honda says its wireless charging system offers something unique — vehicle to grid capability. “The Honda Wireless Vehicle-to-Grid can help eliminate the gap between supply and demand of electricity by charging EVs when power generation is greater than power consumption, and by discharging electricity from EVs to the power grid when consumption is greater than generation.”
In a e-mail, David Schatz, vice president of global sales & business development for WiTricity, told CleanTechnica, “V2G developments are revolutionary for the automotive industry, from reducing emissions to balancing the grid. WiTricity’s wireless charging allows the V2G process to happen transparently and seamlessly, with a two-way flow of energy between the car and grid without the need for any mechanical upgrades. Vehicle owners will benefit from the convenience of wireless charging, utility incentives and ability to power their homes with excess energy, contributing to a greener future.”
That got me thinking, so I contacted Shannon Casey, a media specialist for WiTricity, with a few questions. I asked, “Is the WiTricity V2G system applicable to all EVs? If not, which ones does it work with?” She sent me this response. “Yes, WiTricity’s DRIVE 11 system can be integrated with any EV or PHEV to enable V2G, as it is intended to be standards compliant. So far, WiTricity is doing advanced development work with Honda on a V2G system, but other carmakers and electric utility operators have expressed interest.”
That led to my second question. “Can the Witricity system be used to power a private home like a storage battery?” Again, the answer was yes. “With suitable wiring in the home, the vehicle battery can serve as a backup battery to power the home in the event of a loss of grid power, and to store and discharge electricity that may be generated by solar panels at the home.”
Okay. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea of V2G technology. There are questions about battery life and waking up to find your electric car doesn’t have enough charge remaining to get you to work because it has been powering your home overnight. There is also the issue of your car being at work all day so it can’t soak up the electricity those solar panels on your roof a home are generating.
Those are all fair points, but the answer to most of them lies in the power of algorithms to adjust the amount of energy flowing through the system moment by moment. If they know you will need 10 kWh of juice to get to work in the morning, your battery won’t discharge below that point. To me, the idea of purchasing one (or two) residential storage batteries for my home while I have 60 kWh or more of storage capacity available in my garage doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps I am just weird, but this wireless V2G system sounds like something I would be very interested in.
Honda Autonomous Work Vehicle
What happens if you take a tried and true Honda ATV and augment it with self-driving capability? You get a vehicle that can access places that humans either can’t or shouldn’t go. It has already proven its worth for search and rescue operations and as a vehicle to bring needed supplies to firefighters battling forest fires. “It was designed by Honda R&D Americas to bring efficiencies and increased safety to public, commercial, and consumer enterprises, such as construction, agriculture, search and rescue and firefighting,” Honda says.
“The Autonomous Work Vehicle is based on Honda’s proven ATV chassis, which has a 30-year history of accessing hard-to-reach locations with its rugged four-wheel drive system. The vehicle features GPS and sensor-based autonomy capable of guiding the unit in almost any environment, a rail accessory mount system for limitless accessories and attachments, and onboard power plug-ins.”
Sure, it would be better if it was battery powered, but maybe Honda will get around to that someday soon. The fact that the company is experimenting with wireless V2G systems gives us hope it is working on electric cars to install them in. But they better hurry up. The EV revolution is happening and many companies are in danger of getting left behind.
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