Our homes and cars are the two things in day-to-day life that consume the most power, but they don’t really mesh together very well in that respect. A project from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory offers a vision of a more integrated future with Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AIME). It consists of a power-sharing shelter and a vehicle which are simultaneously futuristic and awkwardly utilitarian. Oh, and they’re 3D printed.
AIME takes advantage of the world’s largest 3D printer, which is housed at Oak Ridge. It’s been used to 3D print cars in the past, but this time it’s less about showing off and more about presenting a real vision for the future. The vehicle is boxy and has an open two-seat cab with a large back compartment housing the battery and motor.
In this design, the electric vehicle is powered by a single traction motor with a transmission to the rear wheels. It has a range of just 35 miles, with only electric power. When it is driven someplace a bit farther away, it has a small natural gas tank that can be used to recharge the battery. The top speed is about 60 miles per hour. A Tesla this is not, but it is 30% carbon fiber-reinforced ABS plastic. It took about 20 hours to 3D print this vehicle.
The matching home is somewhat more unusual in appearance — you might not immediately realize you’re looking at a shelter as it has a serious cargo container vibe. It’s composed of multiple segments, each with a pair of small windows on one side. Insulation, electrical systems, and even roof solar panels are all built into the structure of the home. It’s arranged in segments because that makes it feasible to print in the same ABS plastic used in the EV.
The real magic of the AIME project is the way it manages energy. The shelter and vehicle share a 6.6kW bi-directional wireless power system. It uses resonant technology, allowing for power to be transmitted between the batteries at distances of a few feet with efficiency around 85%. So the home charges itself and the car using solar power, and recharges the vehicle after it has returned from a trip. If the home is running low on power, but the car is fully charged, it can beam power back to the house.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory plans to continue exploring the AIME concept for the future of housing and transportation. Researchers are interested in trying out different engines and power sources on the vehicle and more configurations for the shelter.