Panasonic opens doors to smart town

Vinay Kamath Fujisawa (Japan) | Updated on March 12, 2018

An aerial view of Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town with solar panels on rooftops. Mount Fuji is in the background.

Will invest 60 billion yen to develop around 1,000 homes in Fujisawa

On a bright sunny morning, after several days of rain and chilly winds, Panasonic Corporation flagged off here on Thursday what could emerge as a new business for it, the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town (SST).

Fujisawa, a town 40 km from Tokyo, from where one can sight the country's storied Mount Fuji, is the site of the Japanese conglomerate’s experiment with sustainable living.

On a 47-acre disused factory site in the Kanagawa prefecture, Panasonic will eventually invest 60 billion yen (around $500 million) by 2018, when the site will see around 1,000 homes spring up, and around 3,000 people will live there.

Masahiro Ido, Executive Officer of Panasonic Corp, who made a presentation on the city to media from around the world, said the town will generate 30 per cent of its power requirements from solar energy and will share services such as electric cars and electric-powered bicycles. Already 100 families have moved into the SST and been living there since April when the project was soft-launched.

The day also marks the 120th birth centenary of Kounosuke Matsushita, who founded the consumer electronics giant in the city of Osaka in the 1920s.

A Panasonic spokesman, who took the media on a tour of the SST, says the group expects to earn 27 billion yen in revenues initially when all the houses are sold by 2018. Around 600 single homes and 400 apartments will be constructed.

Panasonic heads a consortium of 18 companies, which have collaborated in setting up this smart town and Fujisawa SST Management Company, which will manage the town’s essential services of energy, security, mobility and healthcare, will continue to earn revenue from providing these services. In a 30-year period, the company expects to earn 40 billion yen in revenues.

Ido said three more such towns are planned in the country in Osaka and near Fujisawa, commencement of which will be announced next spring.

The media walk-through takes us first to the Square Centre, which is the nerve centre of the town.

The square has a well stocked book store, a cafe and kitchen that residents can experiment, while a Square Lab hosts a food and craft studio that offers interactive workshops for residents. Our Japanese guide proudly points to several Christmas tree decorations that the residents made using the 3 D printer in the lab.

At the rear of the Square is a fleet of gleaming new electric vehicles, the BMW i3; Nissan's hybrid vehicle, Leaf; and a snazzy roadster, a Tesla car; which we are told, uses Panasonic lithium ion batteries to run on. To the side are a clutch of electric bicycles. These are vehicles that residents can use on a rental basis to either use inside the town or outside it.

Walking through the orderly town, with its neat villas and well-paved roads, one can see solar panels on the roofs of all the houses. The solar panels installed are expected to generate 3 MW of power a day, enough to meet 30 per cent of the town's requirements. On the town's periphery, with the city authorities’ permission, Panasonic has installed an array of solar panels abutting the pavement. The power from these panels, 103 kw a day, will be fed to the city grid, explained a spokesperson. Water conservation methods for toilets and washing machines, too, will see a 30 per cent reduction in consumption.

Having set up 100 houses in the first phase, the SST will embark on new initiatives in the next few years.

The land to be developed will be used in collaboration with partner companies as a venue to test next generation businesses and lifestyles.

Starting with a car life lab facility to be opened shortly, which will be used as a place to test-drive new electric vehicles, it will also look at new innovations. That apart, Panasonic is also readying to showcase the Fujisawa SST to the world community when Japan hosts the Tokyo Colympics in 2020.

(This writer is in Fujisawa at the invitation of Panasonic India)

Published on November 27, 2014

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