What if you could live and drive without having to depend on traditional energy or fuel? That’s what a new prototype from Oak Ridge National Lab means to do–and it brings new meaning to “off-grid” living.

Yesterday, Oak Ridge unveiled something called the Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy demonstration project (AMIE), which it launched only one year ago. AMIE is a 3D-printed house equipped with solar panels and a 3D-printed utility car–together, they create an electrical symbiosis between the building and the vehicle, showcasing the possibilities of going completely off-the-grid for long periods of time.


The video below illustrates the flow of electrical energy through the components of the integrated energy system. Inside the car, there’s an electric motor and energy generator, as well as tanks for traditional fuel. When the car backs up over a wireless charging pad, it can borrow energy from the home-or give it back. The same goes for the house, which is designed to be aerodynamic to reduce drag and energy waste.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the architecture and engineering firm which designed the building itself, say the 28-foot-long home was designed to be as strong as possible while as light as possible, as well as very sleek to avoid incurring more energy usage. One benefit of printing the structure? They say they could embed things like insulation and moisture barriers into the printed “shell,” speeding up construction time and reducing waste.

Here’s how the home itself uses power, explains the firm:

Its photovoltaics (PV) will work in tandem with a natural gas powered generator located in the DOE-created vehicle, to supply energy for lighting and the GE-developed central microkitchen that incorporates advanced digital display screens, inductive cooking surfaces, waste-filtering faucet and sinks, and an under-counter refrigerator. The PV will charge the enclosure’s battery when the fixtures are not in use. ORNL’s 3D-printed personal vehicle connects to the structure and its battery to provide supplementary power. AMIE demonstrates the use of bi-directional wireless energy technology and high-performance materials to achieve independence from the power grid at peak-demand times.

The system shares energy between the building and the vehicle, a symbiosis that the Oak Ridge researchers say illustrates the future of green energy, rapid innovation, and advanced manufacturing. One day, your car might be powered by energy harvested at home–or your home might borrow power from your car.

Here are a few more photos showing the main steps of the manufacturing process:

Photos: ORNL