Now here’s a corporate America green mashup for you: Ford Motor Company has teamed with US home building giant KB Home to create an ultra-efficient model house that seamlessly integrates plug-in electric vehicles and solar power into its energy mix. Specifically, KB’s ZeroHouse 2.0 is being introduced in San Marcos, California complete with Ford’s new MyEnergi Lifestyle household and EV energy management system. The idea is to demonstrate that the interaction between house and car will result in greater affordability, bringing the renewable energy lifestyle within reach of more consumers.
KB Home’s ZeroHouse 2.0
Since ZeroHouse 2.0 came first (KB Home rolled it out in 2011), let’s begin by unpacking that one. ZeroHouse 2.0 is one of the first production homes in the country to aim for net zero home status, an achievement that won kudos for KB as the #1 Green Homebuilder according to a recent Calvert Investments study.
ZeroHouse includes roof-mounted solar panels by yet another corporate leader, SunPower, combined with improved insulation, HVAC systems, and windows.
KB has been constantly tweaking ZeroHouse since its initial roll-out, and the San Marcos edition features even more bells and whistles including all EPA-rated WaterSense and Whirlpool 6th Sense Live appliances, along with a Schneider Electric Wiser Home Management System. The end result is a fully automated, wireless system that enables consumers to exercise pinpoint control over their home appliances and squeeze the most juice out of off-peak utility rates.
Take all that and combine it with a smart phone app, and you’ve got an enormous degree of flexibility that enables consumers to adjust their home controls even when they’re on the go.
Ford’s MyEnergi Lifestyle
The final piece of the ZeroHouse puzzle is a built in charging station that integrates Ford’s C-MAX Energi plug-in EV and the Ford MyEnergi Lifestyle remote control system.
Like ZeroHouse, MyEnergi is a collaboration with heavy hitters including Eaton, Infineon, and Nest Labs as well as SunPower and Whirlpool, all with the goal of maximizing the use of renewable energy and off-peak utility rates.
Last year, Ford unveiled the results of a computer model engineered by the Georgia Institute of Technology for its bundle of renewable energy, efficient appliances (including the EV), and automated controls in a typical single family home, and it found a drop of 60 percent in energy costs along with a 55 percent reduction in carbon emissions.
With the car and house systems combined (and in the context of San Marcos’s solar resources), KB Home anticipates that a fully tricked out ZeroHouse could end up with no monthly electricity bill, even with the additional load of an EV charging station.
Net Zero Homes And Electric Cars
Given America’s continued dependency on fossil fuels, the rap on electric cars has always been that they simply shift emissions from the tailpipe to the power plant. In that context, EVs are an obstacle to net zero home design because they basically add a huge new appliance to the standard household energy load.
Well, that is rapidly changing. The Ford/KB Home collaboration provides one answer, in the form of on site renewable energy that enables a homeowner to offset the additional energy consumption of an EV charging station with clean energy.
Offsetting is just the tip of the iceberg, by the way. In a typical rooftop solar arrangement, solar energy gets shunted into the grid and becomes part of the utility company’s mix. In emerging systems, property owners can store the energy from their own rooftop installations to use at will, and they could use their EV battery as a storage system for powering other home appliances.
That still leaves millions of homes that are not suitable for on site solar installations, but that’s where the smart controls and wireless technology provide a boost.
Utility companies are adding more renewable energy to the grid, and typically the mix tilts in favor of renewables during off-peak hours. When you combine energy-efficient appliances with the ability to program them to maximize operations during off-peak utility hours, even a fully grid-dependent home is going to end up using more renewable energy.
Another thing to keep in mind is that in addition to greater control over home appliances (including the EV charging station), many EV owners are going to have multiple public and workplace charging stations to choose from, an increasing number of which are powered exclusively by renewable energy/energy storage systems.
You could make the argument that the whole single family home/single family car lifestyle is ultimately unsustainable, but for the here and now it looks like single family homeowners can have their green cake and drive it, too.