This is indeed an interesting concept, undoubtedly quite handy. The auto companies could compete on their inverter technology, to see which could be the most efficient. Of course, adequate guaging would be quite important, and restarting the engine to recharge could be an issue, and possibly a hazard.
But it certainly could be an unanticipated advantage of the hybrid vehicle.
In April, tornadoes ripped up the TVA transmission lines and left Huntsville AL without electrical power for 112 hours in my neighborhood. But my first Prius modification was to install a 1 kW, modified sine-wave inverter in November 2005:
Until the April tornadoes, we were averaging one use per year from 4-18 hours. A 1kW inverter is enough power for TV, radio and lights. In the winter, it powers the gas-heater fan and electronics and in the summer, enough power for a bedroom, 5,000 BTU window air conditioner. This is not full house power but 'camping out at home' to survive a power outage.
Compared to our distant neighbor's generator, two houses down and across the street: Prius power is quiet as it can not be heard beyond the property line; the catalytic converter makes a 100 fold reduction in carbon monoxide, and; the engine cycles to recharge the traction battery. Also, the Prius can drive to the gas station to refuel the 11.5 gallon tank and after the emergency is also a well maintained, commuting car. Home generator maintenance needs are often discovered when several years later they don't start.
I have some ideas for Prius whole house power but perfect is the enemy of 'good enough' and that is what we have now. I'm planning to install a pure sine wave, inverter in my wife's Prius. This will provide a way to run either one or the other or both to improve 'house camping.' It also makes it easier to take down the first Prius for whole house experiments.
I think it would be an even better concept if they incorporated the design into a hybid. At least then you would have gas as a back-up. Nothing worse then a really heavy paper weight, right. But by incorporating a gas powered engine into the design this could become a nice little portable generator.
Of course, with anything else on the edge of the new designs the price tag is probably going to keep this technology from people that it would really help. I don't see people in areas without a reliable power grid able to afford the car.
Jenn: In answer to your question, it's an electric car, so it's not cheap. At its launch last year in Japan, it was around 4 million yen ($43,000 USD), without its government incentive. Prices aren't official yet in the U.S. because it hasn't launched here yet, but the rumor is it will start around $30,000 before incentives.
Beth: In answer to your question, you still need the grid to recharge, just as you would always need it. The vehicle doesn't reduce dependence on the grid, it just gives the grid a little mobility. As I understand it, many areas of Japan still have limited access to power. This enables AC power to be transported to them.
I was wondering the same thing. If this were a hybrid, I could see the advantage since you could take it for a drive to recharge. The only thing that I can think of is that it might help out in load balancing. You charge the car for the grid during non-peak hours and then run your appliances from the car during the day. However, with only a 62 mile range, how much appliance work can you do before your car is a GIANT paper weight?
I was wondering the same thing, Beth. This seems like it would be a great short term solution for an area that is experiencing power outages, but in an area with ongoing power outages, having to recharge the car again would be putting a strain on the grid.
Interesting concept charging appliances and the like off of your EV vehicle. Here's my question Chuck: If you're drawing power off the EV battery supply, how do you recharge that without reliance on the grid and how long can you actually draw off of it before it's depleted. Unless I'm misunderstanding, what are you really doing to alleviate power surges and power problems?
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