When a house becomes a filling station

Car manufacturers and architects are working on sustainable solutions that combine mobility and housing.
by Oliver Sefrin

Every car driver knows that moment when the fuel indicator lights up on the display, clearly instructing them to head for the nearest filling station. In future, this could mean heading straight outside your own front door. And instead of fossil fuel, green electricity will supply new energy for the car. The visionary idea of combining mobility and housing is actually becoming reality at Fasanenstrasse 87 in Berlin where a residential house will also act as a filling station for electric cars. From autumn 2011 onwards, an innovative electromobility and building research project will be completed at this address. The plus-energy house has been commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development and will generate twice as much electricity as it consumes. High-performance batteries in the one-family house will store surplus energy that will either be fed into the grid or used to charge an electric car at a charging station.

Federal Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer aims to contribute to a further expansion of electromobility in Germany with the project named “My House, My Filling Station!”. The house will serve as a showcase for collaborative developments and the sustainable use of synergy effects in civil engineering and vehicle technology: “Buildings and transport together are responsible for a roughly 70% share of total final energy consumption,” says the minister. The project is receiving scientific support from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Several German carmakers have indicated their interest in cooperation.

Professor Dr. Werner Sobek, the architect, can quickly name the structural and technological prerequisites for the house to generate additional energy to charge an electric car: meaningful heat insulation, intelligent use of renewable energy sources, recycling-friendly construction techniques and state-of-the-art building automation. Sobek is an internationally renowned expert on resource- and climate-friendly construction. He sees a building as part of an urban fabric: “Mobility is an important element of this urban fabric. That’s why architects and engineers must consider appropriate solutions for the mobility of the future in their planning.”

The Audi car group recently established the Urban Future Initiative to promote debate on the interplay between mobility, architecture and urban development. On the other hand, Weber Haus, the German producer of prefabricated houses, is already offering customers an especially energy-efficient house. It makes do without a conventional heating system, supplies itself with heat and energy using solar technology – and also charges an electric car. The people at Weber Haus are convinced that the next generation of car will be powered by electricity, which is why there is no better filling station than your own home. The building company is collaborating with Mitsubishi Motors, which is contributing the i-MiEV, its electrically powered small car. Similar to Sobek’s project in Berlin, this collaboration is relying on re-using the electric car’s battery: when its performance begins to decline, it can still be used as a means of storing energy in the house.

Starting in 2012, a family of four will be able to experience what living in a high-tech house with an electric car actually means in practice in Berlin’s Fasanenstrasse. They will then put the plus-­energy house through its paces for a year – test living on 130 square metres with their own private filling station.

by Oliver Sefrin

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