President & CEO Takahiro Hachigo announcing the Clarity FCV and Power Exporter 9000 to a crowd of journalists at the Tokyo Motor Show
Power Exporter 9000 draws energy from electric vehicles to power a wide range of appliances
Honda’s vision to “generate, use, and get connected” with zero-carbon hydrogen energy
At the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show, a major exhibition of mobility products from Japan and around the world, Honda staged the world premiere of the planned production model of its Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle (FCV), announcing a scheduled released date of March 2016.
Basking in the spotlight alongside the FCV was Power Exporter 9000 external power feeding device.
As a so-called external power feeding device, Power Exporter 9000 plugs into an electric vehicle (EV)—whether it’s a battery-electric vehicle (BEV), fuel cell vehicle (FCV), or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)—and extracts the electricity stored in its batteries—or generated in real-time in the case of FCVs—for external use. Power Export 9000, in other words, turns EVs into the ultimate portable generators, extending power to a broad range of appliances anywhere electricity is typically lacking.
The device is also easy to use: it connects to an EV through a single cable, and turns on at the press of a button. Simply plug an appliance into any one of its several outlets and it’s ready to go. Power Exporter 9000 thus offers new recreational possibilities, allowing campers to cook hot food or listen to music, for instance, while also providing backup power in emergencies.
Power Exporter 9000 is also the first external power feeding device to comply with the Charging and Discharging System Guideline for EVs V2H for DC,*1 a protocol designed to ensure electrical safety and compatibility between EVs and connected devices. This means that Power Exporter 9000 can connect to BEVs, FCVs, and PHEVs made not only by Honda but by other auto manufacturers as well.*2
Speaking at a press conference before Tokyo Motor Show public access, Honda President and CEO Takahiro Hachigo announced plans to release Power Exporter 9000 and the Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle together. After explaining that the device could power an ordinary home for an entire week when plugged into the new FCV,*3 he stated:
“Combining the Clarity FCV, Smart Hydrogen Station, and Power Exporter 9000 will bring us closer to creating a society where people will ‘generate,’ ‘use,’ and ‘get connected’ with hydrogen energy.”
As Hachigo’s words indicate, Honda is aspiring to build a zero-carbon hydrogen society: a society that generates hydrogen from renewable energy sources, uses the hydrogen to run its automobiles, and gets connected with the energy in those vehicles to power other myriad activities.
Power Exporter 9000 is not Honda’s first external power feeding device. Around 2010 Honda developers had started exploring the idea of adding value to electric vehicles by using them like a storage battery to power the domestic and outdoor activities. They saw potential in the fact that most cars spend more time parked than on the road.
Then something happened in 2011 that would kick development of an external power feeding device into high gear: the Great East Japan Earthquake. As power shortages spread across Japan, disaster-hit communities went days without electricity, gasoline, and other forms of energy. Without energy, people couldn’t stay warm, cook food, or turn on the lights. They couldn’t use their televisions, radios, computers, or mobile phones to gather information and communicate with the outside world. A lack of power during a disaster, as it turned out, can have life-threatening consequences.
For Honda, the disaster was a painful reminder of just how critical it was that EVs be usable as a backup power source in emergencies—and of the need for an external power feeding device that could make that happen. If EVs were adopted on a mass scale, the vehicles people use on a daily basis would always serve the additional function as a backup power source. Seeing that function as essential to the creation of a safer, more secure mobility future, Honda thus began full-fledged development of an external power feeding device.
”We had the generator know-how, so we had confidence in our ability to develop an external power feeding device,” says Hiroyuki Eguchi, Chief Engineer at Honda R&D’s Power Products R&D Center who has been involved in development since the first-generation model.
“Honda has 50 years of experience working to improve the quality of electrical power since it released a portable generator in 1965. Our goal has always been to provide generators that can power any electrical device without damaging the device or damaging itself. As we’ve addressed user needs throughout this process, we’ve acquired the expertise to deliver reliable, high-quality power in all sorts of environments and situations. For example, some customers observed that rice made in a rice cooker using a generator lacked the normal texture. That might not sound reasonable, but it was a problem we could fix by improving the electricity to a more consistent voltage level. It was through repeated improvements like that enabled Honda to achieve its current quality of electrical power. We had the confidence to say that Honda was the only company that could make an external power feeding device that would be truly useful in a disaster.”
Hiroyuki Eguchi, Chief Engineer, Power Products R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
Previous generations of Honda external power feeding devices (9 kVA)
First device, developed in 2012
Second-generation device, developed in 2013 with additional 200-volt outlet
The Honda EX500 generator, the first to be equipped with a sine wave inverter for delivering uniform power output
Honda’s external power feeding device offers a level of power quality equivalent to or even better than household utility power. Power below a certain level of voltage consistency will cause fluorescent lights to flicker, and computers and other sensitive electronics to malfunction or even break
Koichi Tsuno, Assistant Chief Engineer, Power Products R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
Hakaru Sadano, Chief Engineer, Automobile R&D Center, Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
Compact and lightweight, the planned production model of Power Exporter 9000 delivers three times the output of the comparably sized red Honda generator (3 kVA) behind it
Wheels attached to the rear allow the device to be moved by one person
This see-through diagram shows numerous components, including the power supply connector, densely packed inside
Its parts are structurally designed to be lightweight and durable without their insides being filled with plastic
Two years after Honda’s first-generation external power feeding device, development of Power Exporter 9000 came with many of its own challenges. While the transition may seem simple—even the first-generation device had a large output of 9 kVA and could feed power from an EV, Power Exporter 9000 is different from previous models in two significant ways: The first is its universal compatibility—its ability to be plugged into EVs from other car brands—and the second is its scale of production.
“All previous models could only plug into the FCX Clarity,” explains Eguchi. “But we couldn’t say our device doesn’t work with this or that car and still claim its usefulness in emergencies. Achieving universal compatibility was crucial to ensuring that EVs of all makes could be used as a portable power source.”
Koichi Tsuno, Assistant Chief Engineer at the Power Products R&D Center, looks back on the most difficult challenge: complying with the Charging and Discharging System Guideline for EVs V2H for DC, the technical standard for confirming universal compatibility.
“We’re the only company in the world making a universal external power feeding device. Power Exporter 9000 is the first product to comply with the guidelines, so there was no precedent to fall back on. We had to check the acceptability of each item in the specifications one-by-one with the organization that developed the guidelines—a job as laborious, if not more so, than creating the guidelines themselves. In the end, though, all of this work was to ensure that the device can be relied on in a moment of crisis. The necessity of this process was just another sign we were creating a world-first product.”
Power Exporter 9000, moreover, is only half the equation; it needs an EV. And there was a mountain of work to do with the developers of Honda’s new FCV to ensure a successful simultaneous launch, including testing the connection between the two and setting their respective operating specifications
Hakaru Sadano, Chief Engineer at the Automobile R&D Center and project leader for developing the Clarity FCV’s external power supply function, describes how Power Exporter 9000’s mass production scale necessitated a complete reassessment of the device’s functionality.
“All previous devices were limited in their scope of use or intended users, being designed only for either testing purposes or use by organizations. The moment you change that to consumers in general, you have to consider the fact that a wide range of customers will use it in different settings and in different ways. We had to imagine all those different scenarios and then build the most convenient and useful functions into the device from the design phase.”
“For example, what kind of alert will the car issue and how will the device behave when used beyond its maximum output?” suggests Tsuno. “For each scenario we had to either have the vehicle’s specifications changed or change Power Exporter 9000’s specifications.”
Marketing the external power feeding device to consumers impacted not only its core features, but also development of the vehicle with which it would be paired. Typically, the durability of a vehicle’s powertrain is calculated primarily based on driving use. But the external power feeding device uses the vehicle when it’s in park. Mass-producing the device required making sure that both the device and the vehicle could withstand the expansion of use from simply testing to more practical scenarios. This meant that durability and other comprehensive measures of performance had to be reassessed for parts throughout the vehicle, taking into account the use of the vehicle as a power source as well as for normal driving.
“It took time for the entire development team, people from different technical fields, to understand the value of the device and offer their assistance. In the future, ‘get connected’ should be placed on a par with the other vehicle functions, ‘go, stop, turn.’ That’s how strong we felt about developing a useful product.”
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