“By 2018, we aim to cut our CO2 emissionsby 40 million tons,” explained Mr. Kikuchi. Panasonic has already implemented many eco-initiatives within its own operations such as recycling, but the company realizes that it can cut even more CO2 by enabling consumers to decrease emissions in their own homes by offering energy efficient and even energy-generating products.
We were lucky enough to see one of those said products – the newest version of Panasonic’s fuel cell cogeneration unit – first hand today at the company’s factory in Osaka, Japan. Unlike some of the other companies that manufacture fuel calls, Panasonic classifies their ENE-Farms as home appliances (putting them in a much more accessible category) and envisions individual home owners using them to generate their own power right in their houses. In fact, Panasonic’s line of fuel cells has been on the market since 2009 and Japanese homeowners – albeit only a select group of early adopters – already utilize them in their homes.
Just in case you’re not familiar with fuel cell cogeneration units, they work by generating electricity through an electro-chemical reaction between hydrogen extracted from city gas and oxygen. Fuel cells result in a large reduction in CO2 emissions and propose a safer alternative to nuclear power, which Japan is planning to halt in the next one or two years. On our tour of Panasonic’s factory, we were able to see several actual fuel cells being assembled (sadly, we were not allowed to take photos of this process), and learned that currently, 40 of these units can be completed in one day – as opposed to 2 or 3 units per day when Panasonic first began making them several years ago. The increase in production capability coincides with a growing demand for the fuel cells, but at 2,500,000 yen or about $25,000 a unit (with a $15,000 government subsidy), these babies aren’t exactly what you’d call cheap yet. However, as with most other products, those numbers will decrease with higher volume.
While we’re particularly interested in fuel cell technology, it’s just one leg in Panasonic’s strategy to infuse green innovation into every part of their business. From solar panels to energy-efficient appliances for the entire home to batteries and charging systems for EVs to an entire sustainable smart town, they’ve made it their mission to bring all kinds of eco-friendly products to the public. We applaud Panasonic for embracing green technology (whether it be for truly environmental reasons or for profit – in this day and age, we actually think the two go hand in hand) and we hope that other electronics companies join them in their quest, or risk being left in the dust.