Global Observer

In Germany, house powers car

In Germany, house powers car

Posting in Design

BERLIN -- The German government is testing a house that produces twice the energy it consumes, a model that may see its inhabitants never fill a tank of gas again.

BERLIN -- The German government is testing a bold new energy efficient home and mobility system that produces twice as much energy as it consumes.

The current prototype, dubbed Efficiency House Plus, is fully functional including a system which redirects excess energy from the house to charge an electric vehicle outside.

A family of four is scheduled to spend 15 months in the west Berlin unit as part of a live test beginning March 2012.

"I do not want this house to remain a prototype," Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Development Peter Ramsauer said. "That is why we have our own research programme to fund the development of such houses."

The 130-square-meter (1,399-square-foot) housing unit features solar energy systems, storage batteries, heat storage units and other energy management technology, according to the ministry. It is also completely recyclable.

"[The building utilizes] something called a predictive energy management system, meaning it anticipates the amount of energy the house will consume," Thomas Feldman of Offenburg College explained.

"It relies upon models that consider weather conditions and other existing data to predict how much energy the house will produce and how much it will consume. It then makes decisions [about which energy system to engage]."

The house was designed by Professor Werner Sobek and his team at the Stuttgart University Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK), who won a government-sponsored competition to design an "Efficiency House Plus with Electric Mobility" at the end of 2010.

Officials say the prototype is intended to demonstrate how energy-efficient buildings and electric mobility can be practically and realistically combined.

"This house shows what is already possible today," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said of the project at the showhouse's opening.

"Energy-efficient buildings and electric mobility are major keystones for speeding up the implementation of our energy strategy. There is still a lot of potential in both sectors. I am delighted that we are testing ground-breaking innovations in everyday conditions here."

Audi, BMW, Daimler, Opel and VW will provide the live-in family with one electric vehicle a piece for three months each.

"Buildings and transport make up some 70 percent of our total energy consumption," Ramsauer said.

"In order to reach our climate goals, we want to utilize the options at our disposal to the fullest. To this end, we view buildings and transport as a single unit... we want to demonstrate that it is possible for a family to use energy produced by its home for transport, … [the kind of innovative idea] that can and should help Germany become a leading provider of - and market for - electromobility."

The project is being closely monitored before the family moves in, according to officials. This initial test phase runs parallel to a public viewing of the house that will go through the end of February.

Results of the project will be available to aide in the development of workable, large-scale housing and technical systems in the future.

Photo: Werner Sobek

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Shannon Smith

Correspondent (Berlin)

Shannon N. Smith has written for WNYC's The Takeaway and TheLocal.de. She holds a degree from the University of Texas at Austin. She is based in Berlin, Germany. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure