With 'Smart Center,' Toyota seeks to link homes, utilities, electric vehicles

Toyota's getting into the smart grid business with "Smart Center," a home energy management solution that links electric cars to homes and utility companies.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

Toyota is getting into the smart grid business.

The Japanese automaker -- the world's largest -- is combining the expertise of its automotive and buildings businesses (believe it or not, the company sells pre-fabricated homes in Japan) to offer a home energy management solution that will link your (intelligent) home to your (green) car and the (smart) power grid.

The goal? Reduce energy use.

The launch of the system, called the "Toyota Smart Center," in Japan will coincide with the sale of its plug-in hybrid cars, due to arrive to market in early 2012.

The system allows consumers to view -- on a smartphone or a connected TV -- how much electricity is being consumed by their household, or how how much a plug-in EV has charged.

It also crunches the data to tell you the most efficient way of using energy.

The hope: that a change in behavior lowers energy bills, smooths out demand on the utility side and leaves smart appliances -- dishwashers, clothes dryers, water heaters and even your EV -- room to charge when time-of-day rates are lowest.

The move shows Toyota broadening its footprint in the smart grid market, as well as reinforcing its bet that its coming plug-in hybrid vehicles will be successful.

The company has been testing the system in two houses in Rokkasho Village, linking the homes to eight plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Trials are scheduled for the next two years.

For now, Toyota's product will only work with Toyota vehicles. It did not reveal a price for the system.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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