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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Comments (15)
  1. I don't think 150 kw, could power a neighborhood, if folks started turning on their AC and Hot Water Heaters, but
    if they could just stick with the frig, and some lights.... But how could you control THAT.

  2. I suppose it would depend on the size of the neighborhood, if it was a small trailer park with only 20 trailers, I think so.

  3. ask people to turn off their A/C and large appliances, to for the good of the neighborhood stick to a few lights and the fridge, or,
    instead of direct powering the grid, power a little 80 Amp distribution panel with 6 15 amp breakers, have NEMA 15 outlets on it, run a #2 wire to the panel and tell people they can come bring an extension cord and get some power. It's a free service from the utility company while they clear a wrecked fuse.

  4. @ Steven: If there was some way to remove them from the grid,those that got greedy might be removed from the neighborhood grid. I am not sure that is technically possible but worth a thought.

  5. We have wasted a full century thank to this "black gold" that enriched a few tycoons and built up a few hostile countries while slowly poisoning our planet. We have to put the fossil fuel companies back underground where they belong. The coal and oil remained safely underground for tens of millions of years, and lets hope we can keep most of the poisons underground as we turn to the sun, wind and water for power we need. No more excuses.

  6. @Jack: That is easy to say, but what will the hundreds of thousands (even millions) of workers working for oil and coal companies do. How will they feed their families. I think that a phase out (lasting a decade or more) would relocate these employees.

  7. This would be something if it hadn't already been done many times.

    But the problem is why any advanced vehicle needs over 50hp generator? And that is only big city trucks.

    A lightweight EV can use as low as 4kw RE as I do. A Leaf will only need about 10-12kw. And could be put on a trailer hitch as no need for a 12kw/15hp be more than 60lbs. The batt pack supplies the rest.

    Nor will powering neighborhoods like this work as it'll get workers electrocuted without mods.

    What will happen is homes, building will make their own power so if the grid goes out, one would still have power. Yet few systems are set up this way.

    And they will supply peak power that makes the most money, 2-5x's as much as baseload. It's called V2G with time

  8. You are talking about sustain low speed driving. The truck is heavy and a lot more drag. Also, towing and hauling will require far more power for any kind of grade climbing...

    Battery can supplement, but if you are going to a long climb, then the battery might NOT have enough juice to do so.

  9. In the Book Reinventing Fire, Amory Lovins at the RMI discusses the concept of micro-grids and the possibilities of islanding these micro-grids to prevent wide-spread blackouts like we've experienced before. There are people working on this concept with safety of the workers being paramount followed by grid reliability being greatly improved.

  10. A power outtage doesn't occur because electricity magically stops be distributed to a particular area. There are reasons; broken poles, downed lines and transformers, blown fuses, etc. Not only do the trucks not address these issues, but backfeeding the grid comes along with its own concerns such as electrocuting workers repairing downed lines. It seems like the effort spent isolated particular areas of the grid would be better spent getting things up and running permanently. I can see individuals shutting off their main and powering their own homes, but I'm a bit skeptical of such a large scale application.

  11. This truck has more appeals to a construction site than average home neighborhood.

    In a remote work site, it is ideal to have this technology.

    I am surprised that GM hasn't jumped on it to turn its Voltec powertain into a work truck powertrain.

  12. Any idea how Via Motors is doing in terms of sales. Pretty much every EV startup, besides Tesla, is circling if not already gone down the drain.

  13. Don't forget that the Prius can also be a great emergency generator for the home. Google up Prius as Generator.

  14. The truck looks like a brick and so has a lot of surface area for solar cells. That good for a few reasons. One is that it may generate enough power with solar cells on the roof, hood, sides and a solar sleeve for the back to power freezers and lights etc. if the gasoline runs out. Or to keep the battery above a 20 percent charge so the engine doesn't kick in while driving. So for power or extending the power and charge of the battery.

  15. Coupled with the utility company PG & E Corporation, through the car test "Electricity export" feature that allows truck hitch a house in case of power failure, to provide electricity.

    To learn more please visit:

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