Ultra-small EVs to Be Tested With Solar-powered Charging Stations

2014/01/30 11:01
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute

Toshiba Corp announced that it has launched the "Field Test Project Related to Utilization of Small Electric Vehicles, etc in Miyakojima City" Jan 28, 2014, in cooperation with the government of Miyakojima City (Okinawa Prefecture), Honda Motor Co Ltd and Honda R&D Co Ltd.

The project is aimed at collecting data on the introduction, utilization and operation management of power supply equipment and ultra-small electric vehicles (EVs) as new means of transportation in the Miyakojima island for the "eco island" project. The field test will be performed from Jan 28, 2014, to March 31, 2016.

Specifically, Toshiba will build charging stations equipped with solar panels and rechargeable batteries on three sites: the government office buildings of Shimoji, Gusukube and Irabu. Also, the company aims to know the optimal amount of solar electricity and the optimal capacity of rechargeable batteries necessary for EVs in the island in addition to the EVs for the test to run only on renewable energy by using the "Feminity," Toshiba's HEMS (home energy management system), to visualize power supply and demand.

For the charging stations, Toshiba's "eneGoon" home-use stationary power storage system equipped with its high-efficiency solar panels and "SCiB" lithium-ion (Li-ion) storage batteries is used. Because power outage frequently occurs in Miyakojima City due to typhoons, the company expects to use the storage batteries as an emergency power source.

Toshiba aims to promote the use of the power storage system for normal households based on a model to be established through the experiment. Part of the facilities of the charging stations was selected for the "Project for Promoting Installation of Infrastructure for Charging Next-generation Vehicles" of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

The SCiB is also used in the "Micro Commuter Prototype β (MC-β)," Honda R&D's ultra-small EV that is used in the driving test part of the field test, as a power source to drive the vehicle. Taking advantage of the long product life of the SCiB, Toshiba is considering reusing the battery as a stationary battery after using it for the vehicle. Also, it plans to accelerate the development and application of advanced technologies for establishing infrastructure, etc using next-generation vehicle systems and renewable energy.

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Honda made an announcement about its participation in field tests including the one in Miyakojima City on the same day as Toshiba. Honda concluded an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the governments of Miyakojima City and Kumamoto Prefecture to perform a field test using the MC-β, an ultra-small EV for short-range driving. The EV is targeted at a vehicle category whose introduction is being considered mainly by Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) for ultra-small vehicles as well as the L7 category in Europe.

To start the test in the fall of 2014, Honda began to consider specific issues. In the field test, the company will (1) help elderly people move within a short range on a daily basis, (2) test various applications of the EV such as commuting and car sharing for business purposes and (3) check the development of communities including infrastructure designed for each environment in cooperation with each local government. Also, it begins to consider applications for parents raising children.

The MC-β is based on the "Variable Design Platform," which has a rechargeable battery, motor and controller under the floor and in the rear space, compactly realizing a driving mechanism. It enables to easily develop and produce bodies and interiors for various applications and in response to various customer requests, compared with existing vehicles. In the field test, Honda uses two-seater vehicles.

In Miyakojima City, Honda will check the effect of the ultra-small EV combined with urban planning and green businesses in the island on the reduction of CO2 emissions as an effort for the "environmental model city." Also, as one of the environmental measures for the tourist site, the company will consider zero CO2 emissions by using renewable energy to power the ultra-small EV in collaboration with Toshiba.

In Kumamoto Prefecture, Honda plans to solve issues related to means of transportation in each area to energize local communities, create new attractions for the tourist site and tackle problems related to green energy. And the company will check the effect of each facility.