Your Hybrid can double as an emergency generator

So it seems there is another advantage to owning a hybrid! It can double as an emergency generator in case of a blackout:


Ever been caught with no power in the midst of a winter storm and not have a generator? Well, if you have a hybrid, you may not need one. An enterprising Boston man hooked up his house to his Toyota Prius recently during a three-day-long power outage. The Boston Herald reports: "John Sweeney of Harvard, Mass., has provided a tantalizing glimpse of the future. ... Sweeney, an electrical engineer, told the Boston Business Journal he used an inverter to convert direct current from the car battery to 120-volt alternating current for the refrigerator, freezer, the fan for a wood stove, television and some lights. The car ran for a few minutes every half an hour and 'burned about five gallons of gas' while producing about 17 kilowatt-hours, Sweeney said." Of course, this may be a bit over the heads of those of us who are not Harvard electrical engineers ... Several cities and states around the U.S. have had promising developments on the hybrid and electric car front recently. San Jose debuted its first electric car charging station earlier this week. As of the start of 2009, New Jersey "will now implement the California Low Emission Vehicle program that 'requires that more hybrid cars be sold in New Jersey' and 'also requires automakers to sell zero-emission cars in the state by 2011.'" And New York Governor Paterson announced a new initiative on hybrid car production and research earlier this week. It's great to see so many state and local initiatives leading the way towards decreasing greenhouse gas emissions ... And, via the Washington Times Out of Context, we learn that Toyota is secretly developing car powered by cells on the roof. Initially, the solar cells would just power some of the cars battery and accessories but the automaker hopes the car could eventually be powered completely by energy from the sun ..

(recieved via unsolicited email from Hybrid Owners of America)

More like this

17 kwh. electricity produced, using 5 gallons of gas @ 36.6 kwh per US gallon; or 183 kwh of fuel. 166 kwh lost as heat.

9% efficiency; not so hot even if you throw in inverter losses. And the Prius is pretty darn efficient, for a car. Better than a lot of purpose-built generators, in fact!


Well the Saw from a Swiss Army Knive isn't as efficent as a Lumberjack's, but a bad saw is better than none if you need one.

Same for the Hybrid: when all others are out of power, you aren't. Priceless.


By Patrick G. (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink

The numbers provided do not allow a good comparison of the efficiency of the Prius for this use. A more appropriate comparison would be kWh/day available 24/7. A typical generator wastes a lot more energy running in standby little or no load 24/7. The critical household appliance load is very variable.

Not only was this guy not out of electricity, but he was using much less gas than his neighbors with standard portable generators. As written about elsewhere on this guy's efforts, there is no reason you can't do this with a normal car either. The coolness here is the hybrid efficiency for electricity generation with variable loads.

By Eric Hacker (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink

Re: Electric cars double as home emergency generators...

I was wondering who would finally realize the reality of this concept. Why aren't the car manufacturers discussing this more fully? Very minor enhancements would be all that is necessary in order to produce a very practical emergency generator with a battery run car; which has over 90% of the parts and fuel to accomplish all that is needed. Has anyone ever completed an approx. 10-15 kw emergency generator??? and which of the current battery powered cars is the best one to use (for both purposes)?

By Steven Prastien (not verified) on 09 Feb 2011 #permalink

Not an bad idea. I was just researching about hybrid cars, when i came across this. Just another advantage of them. I should get one seriously. Thanks for posting.