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'Fuelling' up at home

BY NADINE WILSON Observer reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, January 24, 2014    

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THE idea of using solar energy to fuel your car at home instead of joining long service station queues may seem far-fetched.

But thanks to a recent initiative by Japanese electronic manufacturer, Panasonic, the future is here.

The company has implemented electric charging stations for motor cars and bicycles under its PanaHome Smart City Development plan and intends to outfit the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town with these stations.

"This system allows residents living in an apartment to share the usage of the battery. To use this system, you use a smartphone to book the time you want to use and before use, you tap the smartphone to the stand, and you get a fully charged battery from the box. So this means that you don't have to carry the battery, which weighs about two kilogrammes, back into the house," Asuka Nomura, Panasonic Osaka Centre showroom attendant, told the Jamaica Observer during a recent tour of the facility.

Thirty miles southwest of Tokyo, the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town is a 19-hectare subdivision built on a former Panasonic plant site. The development is expected to house about 3,000 residents whose lives will revolve around being energy-conscious. The homes will all have solar and back-up battery systems.

The homes will start going on sale in 2014.

The attendant — who gave a demonstration of how the system would be used — said the station will be able to charge only Japanese-made cars for now. And Panasonic is still fine-tuning the operation of electric-charging stations, so it will be possible for individuals to interchange between using fuel and having their batteries solar-charged. Older model cars will also stand to benefit through retrofitting.

"We are planning to introduce this system in other countries as well, but we are not sure when or where we are going to introduce it," she said.

Satoshi Ishida, manager at Panasonic Centre in Osaka, said several things would have to happen first before marketing would take place outside Japan.

"Before introducing this system overseas, we have to pre-market the electronic-assisted bicycle first. The electronic-assisted bicycle is not sold overseas," he said.

Founded in 1918, Panasonic is a Japanese multinational electronics corporation headquartered in Osaka, Japan. The company is the world's fourth-largest television manufacturer.

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