Oak Ridge National Laboratory helped produce the first atomic bombs, but now it’s churning out cars and houses. Well, one of each, at least. The Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project demonstrates not only how 3D printing can be used to manufacture both vehicles and domiciles, but also how their energy needs can be integrated.
The Jeep-esque vehicle created by the project can go 35 miles per charge, although that can be augmented with a natural-gas range extender. The 210-square-foot house, which looks like a seashell, has solar panels that generate electricity for both it and the car. While neither house nor car offers much in the way of luxuries, the hook is that they can transfer power between each other.
The car can be charged from the house in a manner similar to the solar-powered home-charging installations some electric-car owners already have, but it can also send power from its battery pack back to the abode. That essentially turns the car into a mobile storage unit for solar energy harvested by the house’s panels, making the whole system more flexible. And because AMIE uses an inductive-charging system, there are no wires involved, either.
AMIE combines several technologies that have already attracted interest from researchers and future-trend spotters. The integration of electric cars with electricity infrastructure into a “vehicle-to-grid” (V2G) arrangement is being investigated by groups like the University of Delaware and the U.S. Air Force. It could allow cars to absorb excess electricity and discharge it back into the grid when needed. In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government and carmakers have also looked at electric cars as backup power sources for buildings.
Oak Ridge has also experimented with 3D-printed cars before, building an electric Shelby Cobra replica. And in line with Oak Ridge’s work, Local Motors had 3D-printed car bodies at last year’s International Manufacturing Technology show, and again at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. And it plans to put its 3D-printed Strati electric car into production soon.