Electric vehicles (EVs) have become a symbol of clean technology. Elon Musk, the founder of Telsa and SolarCity, often describes the new era of personalized renewable energy infrastructure: solar panels on rooftops (SolarCity), residential battery storage systems (Powerwall), and electric vehicles (Tesla). In Musk’s picture, home is already a place for reliable energy generation that can provide comfort and mobility for residents. In addition to the critical savings in carbon emissions, a self-contained renewable energy system delivers users a critical value that fossil fuels cannot: autonomy.
Solar is omnipresent. As long as you have tools to convert solar into thermal energy or electricity, you can personalize and localize your power….like Musk advocates. And the tools available to us are getting smaller and increasingly more affordable. When you are no longer dependent upon pipelines, grids or gas stations, you will experience an unthinkable level of freedom. What is the best way to take advantage of this freedom? What if you transplant rooftop solar to an EV? Maybe we no longer need a house?
At House Vision, Toyota and architect Kengo Kuma focuses on the mobility of cars. Toyota’s plug-in hybrid Prius is equipped with solar panels and has quite a substantial battery storage. It’s a mobile energy generator.
Owning a PHV now means owning a source for transportation AND a source of energy at the same time. It’s capable of functioning as a mobile infrastructure to support your life even in isolated, remote places. It’s a smaller and mobile version of a personal energy infrastructure Musk says, simply condensed in a car.
What about the “house” part? Architect Kuma chose a “textile house,” which is something in between a house and a tent. The structure has rafter-like wooden beams, which supports the tent at the center. It is covered by a non-permeable and stretchable fabric, which is attached to the ground at multiple points. It is surprisingly simple, but looks like some sort of natural object (a flower upside-down?) and dissolves into the environment. They looked beautiful.
Several Prius PHVs can support a surprisingly large number of tents to house a group of people. Energy source + mobility + flexible house could potentially allow a small village to emerge in the middle of nowhere.
It’s very interesting to think about stability and mobility. When we are fixed in one location with a sturdy house, we start collecting stuff. What’s INSIDE your house has value. But once you obtain agility and start going places, what’s OUTSIDE your house is suddenly more valuable. When there’s more abundance outside, you want your house to be something minimal so it does not separate you from the outside. You want to be connected with the environment seamlessly (but without losing comfort).
Although the question this project raises is rather philosophical, because you cannot live anywhere you want in reality, it makes us think where true abundance and enjoyment of life lies. We may forget about it if we keep thinking that it’s best to take ownership of fixed assets to lead a rich life.