All plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles offer detailed information about in-car energy usage. They have to--without that information, drivers could run out of battery power without knowing it. But Toyota wants to take energy monitoring a step further with the Smart Center, a system that links homes, vehicles, utilities, and users into an all-in-one energy management hub. There's just one catch: It will only be available in Japan.
The Smart Center syncs Toyota's upcoming plug-in hybrids with home energy management system-equipped homes (including information about power consumption, solar panel electricity production, and electric heat pump hot water volume) to allow remote energy monitoring and coordination. Toyota's system also takes into account weather forecasts and utility charge-rate information for different times of day to cut down on household energy use and costs. And smartphone users can remotely check on vehicle battery charge, tweak the charging time, and turn the air-conditioning on or off in preparation for use.
The Smart Center system is currently in testing, but Toyota hopes to have it ready to go by 2012--just in time for the release of Toyota's plug-in hybrids. Only Toyota Homes  (yes, Toyota has a housing division in Japan) will be able to use the control center.
U.S. customers won't be able to use Toyota's system, but they can take advantage of a similar system in the 2011 Ford Focus Electric, which syncs with Microsoft's Hohm energy monitoring software to optimize charging. Ford's system doesn't control home energy use, however--for that, we'll have to wait for Toyota to expand its Smart Center worldwide.