A house whose energy needs are partially met by a car: this is no futuristic scenario but the concrete result of the AMIE project run by researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In May Elon Musk announced the launch of Tesla’s PowerWall battery, which is designed to store electricity from solar panels installed on your roof so as to be able to continue powering your home all through the day and night.
Very much in line with the PowerWall aim of helping to reduce worldwide energy consumption and make our living spaces more sustainable is the AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy) project, being run by scientists at the United States Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, in partnership with the University of Tennessee and around twenty private sector companies.
‟We wanted to illustrate what the future might look like if we succeeded in meeting the challenges of supplying the world’s population with energy in an efficient way,” explains Roderick Jackson, Group Leader of Building Envelope Systems Research and Project Lead for the AMIE project at ORNL.
Rethinking the way we generate, store and consume energy
AMIE shakes up our traditional way of looking at things, encouraging us to think again about the way we generate, store and consume energy.
‟When we use our vehicles, we’re consuming energy, just as we do in our homes, but these two energy flows usually circulate completely independently of one another. Similarly, when I’m not using my car, the battery isn’t being used either,” Jackson points out, explaining: “So we asked ourselves the question: what if we integrated the two separate strains of energy?”
AMIE version 1 heralds the era of energy sharing between buildings and vehicles (Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory)
Nine months later, the idea has come up trumps. The project team has succeeded in developing a house that can draw at need on energy generated by a vehicle, thus increasing its degree of self-sufficiency. In addition, 80% of the house has been built using the Additive Manufacturing process, commonly known as 3D printing, on an industrial scale. General Electric has also contributed to the project. ‟With AMIE 1.0, we wanted to put the idea out there, share our vision with the world and try to familiarise people with this new type of housing,” Jackson underlines.
AMIE 2.0 will need to be scalable
One of the aspects the Oak Ridge scientists have been working on is wireless energy transfer between vehicle and house. ‟We’ve already seen how this technology works with smartphones – no need to plug anything in. The principle is the same here. The car is parked on an energy transmission platform, which works out how much power can be transferred to the house,” explains the AMIE project leader.
Meanwhile, indications are that AMIE version two will soon be up and running. ‟Now that we know we can connect a house with a car, the next step will be to run the project on a bigger scale. What about connecting a vehicle to several buildings, basically combining several elements together?” Discussions on the manufacturing and commercial applications of the research are already underway. ‟We’ve been working with an outstanding team of scientists and professionals. Now we need to think about what AMIE 2.0 is going to look like,” says Roderick Jackson.