Up until the present, society has developed by increasingly consuming the Earth's valuable resources. What is more, since vehicles play an essential role in society, they have a profound impact on the Earth's environment as a result of creating air and noise pollution. However, as we move into the future, we will plunge into a clean energy era - where solar and wind power are used to generate electricity. This electricity will be connected to communication tools and promote a smart and clean society. When this happens, EVs running on electricity won't just be transporting people and cargo, they will also begin to take on an important and essential role of transporting and storing electricity.
Let us now introduce you to a smart and clean vehicle society, where EVs play an active part in the social infrastructure.
A Future Society with EVs Taking a Central Role
What if all the vehicles in the world were EVs? In a future society, with a 100% clean energy cycle, vehicles don't contribute to air pollution. Even the heart of the city will always have clean and fresh air - because EVs never emit exhaust. There will be huge changes to the look of the city, with tree-shaped solar panels lining both sides of the road, blending into the city landscape. Freeways will have lanes designed exclusively for EVs, where electric vehicles will be recharged just by driving on them.
In this future society, EVs that store and transport energy are now an essential part of society. EVs are able to provide electricity at their destination with their onboard batteries. In times of disaster, they will take on the role of "driving batteries" that can bring electricity to a disaster affected area.
EVs are used at home as rechargeable batteries that can store electricity generated from solar power. In office buildings, rooftop solar panels connect with the electric power stored in the numerous EVs parked in the basement parking lot for efficient energy management. Even on days with weather that doesn't allow for energy to be generated from solar power, power can be supplied to the entire office using the energy stored in EVs.
Clean Energy with Solar Power
The society of the future is one where solar and wind power generation allow for a clean energy cycle. All energy is produced through clean power generation, without any reliance on the use of fossil fuels.
Modern society is dependent upon energy from fossil fuels, but from the viewpoint of environmental problems and because of natural resource depletion, the conversion to clean energy is necessary and is a major issue in every nation on the planet. Global energy demands are increasing every year. For example, according to the IEA (International Energy Agency) World Energy Outlook, China, with its rapidly growing economy, is expected to reach a level of yearly energy consumption in 2030 that doubles the current consumption. Thermal electric power generation is currently the main method used to produce power in China. Although China is the world's 5th largest oil producing nation, China began importing oil in 1992. By 2009, it was reliant on importing approximately 50% of its oil from other nations. In recent years, China has been the nation with the fastest growing electricity consumption, followed by South Korea, India, and Brazil.
There has been a strong push for the conversion to clean energy in Japan. According to data from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the amount of energy generated from solar power in 2005 was 1.4 million kW, which is planned to increase to 28 million kW by the year 2020. Seventy percent of that energy will be from small-scale solar panels, such as those used in homes. Moreover, solar power generation will continue to spread with the establishment of goals (NEDO: Solar Power Generation Roadmap) to increase solar generated power to 53 million kW by 2030, while decreasing costs from the 2010 cost of 27 yen per 1 kWh generated to 7 yen.
Rechargeable Batteries that Can Store Clean Energy
Clean energy generation, however, has a weak point. Because the energy generated from solar and wind is largely dependent on weather conditions, the amount of energy generated is unstable. In addition, solar power can only be generated when the sun is out. What is necessary to solve this dilemma is a battery that can store energy.
In a smart and clean society, energy generated from solar power is stored in rechargeable batteries. Clean energy is closely linked with rechargeable batteries. Thanks to control over energy supply and demand, energy is used more efficiently than ever before.
If society becomes reliant upon clean energy generation for all of its energy needs, high capacity rechargeable batteries will be needed in order to meet that demand. However, cost and battery placement are major issues. Therefore the built-in lithium-ion batteries in EVs must be used as small scale rechargeable power sources. Because EVs are used as driving batteries, clean energy can be used more efficiently.
Smart Management of Electricity and Batteries
Clean energy generated by solar power that is stored in rechargeable batteries or EVs can be used even more effectively by combining it with information technology (IT) that allows for the real-time management of electricity supply and demand.
Solar panels installed on the rooftops of homes can generate power and provide that power for household use. Surplus power can be stored in the EV. Through the use of IT, data regarding the volume of daily electricity use can be combined with data regarding the next day's weather or vehicle usage frequency to determine how much electricity should be stored in the EV overnight, or how much energy can be drawn from the EV for use for the home. The IT capabilities make the ideal of a "smart home" a reality by making the home able to manage the electricity being used in the home to lower electricity costs.
"Smart buildings" are large scale structures with smart homes inside. In smart buildings, energy generated by solar power is combined with parked EVs to carry out advanced energy management en masse. Smart buildings won't only manage electricity supply and demand; they also serve to help avoid needless electric usage by using sensors to automatically control energy consuming functions in the home, such as illumination and air conditioning.
The IT implementation of this type of power grid is already beginning to form around the globe. In Japan, the Tokyo Electric Power Company has begun experimental tests of smart readers that record the electricity consumption of homes every 30 minutes. By collecting this data over the internet, Tokyo Electric Power Company is able to manage the hourly energy consumption of each home and the energy volume of the entire electric grid. The company plans to introduce smart meters to approximately 27 million homes beginning in 2013.
In addition, according to America's ABI Research, China is estimated to introduce approximately 200 million smart meters in the next five years. The entire world is proceeding with the introduction of smart meters, with nations such as India planning for the introduction of 500,000 smart meters in New Delhi alone. (Mitsubishi UFJ Research & Consulting "IT Industry Society System Field International Development Survey" consigned to JIPDEC)
Buying a Car for Mobility and Personal Experience
Along with increased IT utilization in the power grid, IT use in EVs can allow for complete vehicle information control at any time. No matter where you are, the controls can be kept at your fingertips by remote control of vehicle information, along with the ability to remotely start the recharge cycle, confirm recharge, or turn the air conditioner on before driving your EV. Other functions are also available, such as sending a message to your cell phone when the battery is fully recharged. If the battery becomes low while driving, the EV will automatically guide you to the nearest recharge station.
Park-and-ride is evolving through combining public transportation, such as busses or trains, with the use of your own EV or rental car. This evolved version of park-and-ride fully takes advantage of the transportation network in order for you to be able to arrive at your destination via the shortest route. For example, when going on a business trip, you can use your EV to go to the closest station, then transfer to a train there. When you arrive at your station, you can then borrow an EV to travel to your final destination. The total energy spent in your travels will be taken from your own EV. If you recharge when you get home, using your home solar panels, there will be no electric bill at all.
Heading to a Smart & Clean EV Society
It is estimated that rechargeable EV batteries that are cheaper and more efficient than the ones today will be perfected after 2030. Energy-dense rechargeable batteries are expected to have an energy density approximately seven times greater than those of today - while cost will be 1/40th of present costs. (NEDO 2008 Roadmap for the Development of Next Generation Automotive Battery Technology) The adoption rate of EVs will increase as the efficiency of rechargeable batteries improves, and vehicles will gradually head toward a 100% clean existence.
However, a clean society won't be created by the transition to EVs alone. The most vital part of a clean society is that each industry shares a vision of our future society, and that all industries cooperate with one another to promote the conversion to clean energy. Not only corporations are involved. The cooperation of national and local governments is essential. The shortcut to a clean society is having society as a whole work together toward that end.
Nissan is aiming for a clean society and is an active participant in working toward future energy and future mobility. In Yokohama, where Nissan is based, Nissan is involved in projects that involve cooperation with many national and local governments, as well as with other corporations - such as its participation in the "Yokohama Smart City Project" that supports local production and local consumption. Nissan also supports "YOKOHAMA Mobility 'Project Zero' " that aims to create a clean mobile society.
If only all the vehicles in the world were EVs... Our vehicle society has only begun to race off towards an EV future.