Electric Cars Used As Emergency Power: DoD Begins Tests

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Nissan Leaf To Home System

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Picture the scene: There's a power cut. It goes dark. Your TV, refrigerator and computer all shut down. How long will it last? Who knows?

Power outages are normally brief affairs, but in disasters like 2012's Superstorm Sandy, people could be left without power for days.

A potential solution, increasingly coming to light, is that of using electric vehicles as a backup energy source. And now, the Department of Defense is taking the idea seriously too.

The DoD's interest is twofold, explains the Federal Times.

Firstly, the department is looking to cut money, and electric vehicles are looking more tempting than ever for vehicles which only ever run around Army and Air Force bases.

However, not all vehicles are running all the time, and many may sit unused for periods of time. Here, the DoD can potentially save even more money, as power from the vehicles can be returned to the grid, generating a little extra revenue.

To determine just how effective this could be, a trial will run from August for a year. Each vehicle--including passenger cars, trucks, and buses--could bring in as much as $7,300 per year using this technique. If successful, the scheme will expand from five initial installations, to 30 installations across the country.

The other benefit, as alluded to, is that of mitigation for grid failures.

At Fort Carson, Colorado, the Army is researching into a project to help the base become energy independent of the local civilian grid.

Should the local grid go down, the base could use electric vehicles, plugged into a "microgrid", to stay online until the main grid is repaired. Energy could be directed through the microgrid to whichever buildings or systems needed it.

The grid would be used in conjunction with diesel generators and solar power, keeping energy use as low as possible.

Electric vehicles have already proved their worth in similar situations, including during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami where some vehicles were turned into backup power sources in devastated regions.

Nissan also offers a "Leaf to home" backup power system, in its Japanese home market.

While tsunamis are a rare occurrence, general power outages are less rare--and if electric vehicles can provide power when the lights go out, then that's just another string to their bow.


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Comments (10)
  1. I'd love for this to be true, but I am very skeptical of the $7300 per year per vehicle number. Googling didn't provide any supporting data.

  2. if my math is right, assuming 12 cents/kwh, that's some 61 thousand KWH.
    divide by 365 days and that's some 166 KWH per day or about 7 KWs/hour

    now could a car produce 7 KW? sure, a prius is over 30 KW.

    now that said, could you produce 7 KW economically? what's the cost in gas per hour, to produce that? I don't have good numbers, but i am dubious. now could you sell power during peak for more? yeah, maybe.

    it's nowhere as efficient or economical as Solar PV though.

    It makes lots of sense for some GI's to use their HMMWV to crank out power so they can run electronics. It makes way less sense as anything other then emergency power in the home. Post Sandy, Post Katrina, Post Andrew, Sure. Anything else, less useful an idea.

  3. Let's have a little fun with the $7300 each vehicle energy arbitrage number.

    For this example we will give the EV all the advantages such as high utility cost and dramatic TOU price swings all 12 months of the year. We will not consider battery cycle life issues or the fact that the powers that be (utilities) can change the TOU rates thus ending or lowering the arbitrage advantage.

    Average car battery size 30kw.
    Average available to store and sell 20 kww
    Price during off peak when charging, $0.10 kwh
    Price during peak when discharging to the grid $0.30 kwh

    Daily income from sale of higher priced energy $4.00
    Annual income from sale of higher priced energy $1,460.

    That's a long way away from $7300 per vehicle per year.


  4. it might make more sense, if the Night time charge was 6 cents or less and the day time was higher, 50-75 cents, and the vehicle had more battery,
    you need to either get up to a 1.50 in price differential, you need to
    get the battery available to close to 70 KWH or you need some combination therein. A Tesla would work, although spending 80K for 1500 a year in electricity profits is a pretty narrow business.

    It's more useful as an emergency battery. Plug in the house, run charge and when it's low, drive off somewhere and get a charge dumped back in.

  5. I won't get bogged down by numbers, governments are notoriously bad at calculating things, just look at the budget mess they can't dig themselves out of. In the meantime, V2G and V2H are solid technologies that will help many people, especially those living in areas where the grid is weak.

  6. if the Chevy Volt had a decent outgoing inverter, to allow someone to run essential service in their home, I think Chevy would start selling them like hotcakes. People drive SUV's just in case they face bad weather or go camping. People would pay good money for an "Emergency Generator on Wheels". It would totally make the zombie apocalypse way more tolerable.

  7. I agree. That is my suggestion to load the Voltec on a large pickup/SUV for backup power.

    The Voltec generator is rated for 74 HP. That is a lot of power...

  8. You can already run a continuous 1,000 watts with 2,000 watt surge with a basic conversion kit and inverter....


  9. This is exactly as visionary Shai Agassi foretold: parked vehicles could return power to the grid ad mitigate uptics in electric consumption on the one hand, ans soak up overproduction of base-load at night and weekends
    Which is why the fast-charge idea for Tesla is wrong. You need lots of power right when its scarce, instead of switch a battery that was charged overnight.

  10. I just plug my volt in to run my fridge or pellet stove... not a big deal.


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