Via Motors Latest To Try Electric Vehicle-To-Home Backup Power Tech

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Via Motors' X-Truck

Via Motors' X-Truck

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Japanese companies have explored the concept of electric vehicles powering houses for some time, but with events like last year's Hurricane Sandy fresh in peoples' minds, some U.S. organizations are investigating it too.

One of these is the Department of Defense. Another is Via Motors, the Bob Lutz-backed electric vehicle company converting GM's trucks and vans into range-extended vehicles.

Together with utility company PG&E, Via Motors is experimenting with a "power export" feature allowing its trucks to hook up to a house in the event of a power outage, supplying it with electricity.

Actually, it goes a little further than that.

In disaster response scenarios, says Plugin Cars, PG&E's Via trucks would be much more than just backup power for a house--they could power a whole street. A plug-in truck with a 125 kilowatt generator would be able to supply enough power to hook it to a grid segment and power up a neighborhood.

And naturally, the truck would have got the engineers there in the first place--plus their tools and anything else needed to effect repairs and bring a street back on-line.

The duo's development vehicle is a Via Motors VTRUX--a range-extended electric truck with a 300 kilowatt traction motor, 150 kW generator and 4.3-liter V-6 engine to power the pair.

As a truck, it'll do 40 miles on electric power alone and a further 400 miles in generator mode, but its interest to PG&E is in running an AC inverter and 120V and 240V power outlets, capable of powering tools and exporting power to wherever it's needed. It also avoids the complication of moving static generators from place to place when there's a power outage.

There are issues to overcome with running the generator for extended periods of time, but once solved the company could adopt a fleet of working trucks useful for both regular grid maintenance and more urgent response scenarios.

It means that, when a Sandy-like storm hits again, utility companies may be better equipped to deal with it than ever.

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