Toyota City town a showcase for ecologically sustainable community living
- Category: News
- Published: Sunday, 15 November 2015 07:57
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
Toyota City, Japan—Pacific Islands journalists may have been the first from the Pacific Islands to have ridden in a hydrogen powered car, a Toyota Mirai. The unique opportunity came during a visit to the "Toyota City Ecoful Town," which serves as a showcase for ecologically sustainable community living.
The visit began at a restaurant on the grounds. All of the vegetables that were served were grown in a hydroponic green house on the grounds. The herbs and spices came from a unique vertical garden, which is also on the grounds. Both systems are self watering.
Toyota City is a town of 420,000 people. Kasuya Tadahiro, Toyota City's vice director of the Model Environment City Promotion Division, said that the town has set an ambitious carbon emissions goal that goes even beyond what the national government has committed to doing. By 2030 they will decrease their carbon output by 30% of the 1990 levels. By 2050 their goal is for a 50% reduction in carbon emissions from the 1990 levels. They're very serious about the goal.
Tadahiro said that in 2008 the city developed a master plan with the environment at the center of the plan. In 2011, the National Government selected the city as a model city and established the ecoful town as a showpiece of their efforts. It's one of several across Japan.
In the last three years 150,000 people from 90 countries have visited the sample "town".
Ayumi Nagamatsu, an employee who works for Toyota the car manufacturer, has been assigned to the town and gave the Pacific Islands journalists a tour. She explained the "smart home" concept and HEMS (Home Energy Management System) that is behind it. HEMS monitors every aspect of energy management and consumption in the homes where it is installed.
Smart homes have solar power systems that store the power the cells generate from the sun in a battery bank.
The HEMS monitors power consumption and know when to switch to the public utility system grid if necessary. If the home owners choose to drive a plug in electric vehicle, the batteries in those cars can also be used as extra power storage for the home. Not only would the home charge the vehicle from a photovoltaic systems but the car could be used to power the home if the main battery bank becomes low.
At 35 million yen (approximately $301,000) the systems are not cheap and for existing homes, substantial renovation would have to be done. The city representatives say that the city is offering incentives such as property tax breaks for home owners who install the system. They also provide a subsidy for the purchase of the system.
Nagamatsu also showed the journalists a charging station for small electric vehicles on the compound. She said that Toyota City has 45 similar charging stations and members of a special coop can rent the vehicles in a scheme similar in design to the bicycle rental programs that are in operation in large cities. Members can leave the vehicle at any of the charging stations when they are done with the vehicle and they need not return in the exact same vehicle in which they left.
Members pay 200 yen for the first 10 minutes and 20 yen for each minute thereafter. "It's more expensive than a bus," the enthusiastic tour guide said, "but less expensive than a taxi."
Tadahiro said that Toyota City runs and manages the displays at the "Ecoful Town" but that several corporations are also taking part in the project.
The last demonstration was of the Toyota Mirai. Each of the journalists was treated to a ride in the car that uses hydrogen to produce the electricity that runs the car. The Ecoful Town produces its own Hydrogen and operates a hydrogen fueling station as well. Like the electric cars that are increasing in popularity in Japan where buyers can get subsidies to purchase one of the expensive vehicles, the Mirai makes very little sound. It produces no exhaust other than water vapor. It can handle highway speeds without breaking a sweat
Unlike the standard vehicles that Toyota produces, Toyota can only make three Miraies a day because it requires a significant amount of hand assembly. There is currently no international market for the vehicle because other than in Japan there are few hydrogen refueling centers. Japan's central Government hopes to have completed the construction of 100 such filling stations by the end of this fiscal year .
"This (Hydrogen) could be a game changer for Japan," Nagamatsu said, "because we have no fuel resources of our own."
The vehicles are quite expensive but again, a government subsidy eases the sticker shock of the vehicle for consumers.
The government of Toyota City has a few of the cars and they also operate a hydrogen powered bus.