How To Power Your House In an Emergency From Your Electric Car

How To Power Your House In an Emergency From Your Electric Car


Thanks primarily to Tesla and its PowerWall
consumer energy storage product — not to mention the many other grid-tied and off-grid
energy storage products now available, there are more people than ever before who can keep
their houses powered when there’s a brownout or power cut. But not everyone can afford to put thousands
of dollars of solar panels on their roof or battery packs in their garage, meaning that
when the power goes out, they’re at the mercy of the local utility company. That is, unless you happen to own pretty much
any electric car on the market today. Because with one of those, a little time,
and a few hundred in cash, you can keep your refrigerator running, power some low-power
lights, and yes, even edit a YouTube show. Want to know more? Stick around to find out next. Hi there! My name’s Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield from Transport
Evolved, and today I want to show you how it’s possible to get emergency backup power
from your electric car with little more than an inexpensive twelve-volt to mains power
inverter from your local hardware store and a correctly-rated extension cord. And while a commercial battery backup system
(and solar panels) are a preferred option, if like me, you rent, that’s not an option. So this solution (as I learned,) works perfectly. Y’see, as regular viewers will know, we
had a powercut at the house on Friday morning thanks to a major storm passing through the
Pacific Northwest. And while some of our neighbors got their
power back by the end of the day, our house — and consequently my editing studio — stayed
without power for the best part of thirty-six hours. Nevertheless, I was able to keep the refrigerator
cool and some basic equipment powered thanks to this twelve-volt mains inverter and the
twenty four kilowatt-hour battery pack inside our twenty-thirteen Nissan LEAF. Best of all, the solution cost me just two
hundred dollars and with a little extra work, should be adaptable so that either of our
electric cars can provide a constant one kilowatt to run our home in any future powercut. To start, I headed out to my local DIY store,
where I picked up this inexpensive twelve volt power inverter for just under a hundred
dollars. Added to that, I picked up a heavy-duty, one
hundred foot power cord, a secondary twenty-foot extension cord, and a spare power strip. As a side, make sure the inverter you buy
comes with a way to direct-connect to your car’s 12-volt battery — either using post
terminal connections or in the case of mine, heavy-duty clips. With all my equipment purchased, I stopped
off at my local Fred Meyers which happened to still have power and a working CHAdeMO
DC quick charger in the parking lot. Thirty-minutes later, and I had a Nissan LEAF
with about a ninety six percent battery charge and by the time I got back to the house, that
was down to ninety-one percent. Luckily, I rent a townhouse with a garage,
so I can always pull an almost-full electric car into my garage, pull down the garage door
and leave the car on without worrying about anyone running off with my car. Obviously however, if you don’t have a way
to secure your car, this solution will require a little extra work on your part. With the car switched off, locate your car’s
twelve-volt ‘starter’ battery. The location of this does vary according to
your car, but for the Nissan LEAF, you’ll find it under the bonnet. Other cars — like the Chevy Volt — have
it hidden under the load bay floor at the back. With the twelve-volt battery found, connect
the appropriate side of the battery to the corresponding side of the inverter. Negative goes to negative, and positive goes
to positive. Next, power your electric car on. To keep power drain at a minimum, make sure
you turn off automatic headlights and daytime running lights (if you can), as well as the
radio, heating, and air conditioning. It’s important here to keep the car in its
‘ready’ state too: simply turning on the accessory circuit won’t work, as the car
needs to be able to charge its twelve volt battery from the main traction battery pack. I’ll cover this a little more in a second. With your inverter connected and your car
on, plug in your extension cord to your inverter and then, when ready, press the power button
on your inverter. If it’s like mine, you should hear a reassuring
‘beep’ as the inverter powers up. Congrats! You’ve now got power running from your car
to your mains lead, and at this point you can plug in the devices you need to power. Bear in mind that things like kettles and
microwaves require far more power than your inverter will be able to provide — unless
you have a special low-power one designed for use when camping. Refrigerators — at least smaller ones — should
be just fine operating on just one kilowatt of power, but to be extra-prepared, check
the specifications for your refrigerator and other appliances before a power cut so you
know which devices can be powered and which ones can’t. Another point here is that while laptop computers
are generally really happy operating from power from a cheap inverter, some desktop
computers, televisions, and other large appliances aren’t, even if their power drain is lower
than the max continuous power output of your inverter, cheap inverters output something
called a ‘modified sine wave’ rather than the ‘pure sine wave’ you’ll find coming
out of the wall in most houses. I’m not going to go into the technical differences
between the two here, but the important thing here is that the sensitive power electronics
inside some devices need a pure, clean power signal, while others can happily work with
the choppy, blocking output of a cheap twelve volt inverter. Again, if you’re worried about which devices
can and can’t use the modified sine wave output of a cheap power inverter, check with
your device manufacturers ahead of time. Or, alternatively, invest in a more expensive
twelve-volt inverter that produces a cleaner mains signal. As always, your mileage may vary, and while
some say modified sine wave can damage appliances, most modern equipment does seem to withstand
the fluctuations without a problem. As for buzzing? You may find some things ‘buzz’ when you
use them from a twelve-volt inverter, either because the power is too dirty for the appliance,
or because there’s no ground (since most 12-volt inverters have none). It’s up to you if you decide to continue
using devices that buzz or unplug them (I’d err on the side of caution). So, you’ve got all your things plugged in,
you’re not overloading the circuit, and everything is operating as it should. What next? Well, you’re going to want to keep an eye
on your car, so make sure to check in on it every hour or so. Based on my experiences, a fully-charged car
like the LEAF will happily keep things running for hours without breaking into a sweat, although
if you’re pulling the full 1 kilowatt for example, you’ll have about twenty hours
of battery power before you need to think about disconnecting your system and finding
a functioning charging station. Why? Well, while the house is running off the twelve-volt
battery, your car has a DC to DC circuit in it to ensure the twelve-volt battery stays
fully charged when the car is on and running. In the LEAF, this circuit can provide about
one kilowatt of power from the traction battery pack to the twelve-volt battery under load,
which is why I went for a one kilowatt inverter. You could technically go for a larger one,
but you’ll ultimately drain the twelve-volt battery if you do. This is also the reason why your car needs
to be on and ready to drive, as the main contactors on the battery pack need to be engaged for
the DC to DC to keep the twelve-volt battery topped up. Yes, this is all a bit lossy, and there are
inefficiencies at every step here. However, if this is the only choice, it’s
a good one. Disconnecting everything is of course the
opposite of connection. Unplug devices first, then switch off the
inverter. Then you can switch off your car and disconnect
the twelve-volt cables. And of course, this works best if you know
there’s a nearby charging station that works — if not, you’ll need to ensure you keep
enough power in your car’s battery pack to make it to the charging station (and back
home) otherwise you’ll be stuck. As for me? Well, having spent nearly two days powering
my house from my LEAF, I’m going to invest in a couple of extra connectors so that I
can wire a permanent solution into both my LEAF and my RAV4 EV. That way, even in a major disaster, I can
use both cars to keep the house powered if I need, switching one out for the other so
I can find a local charging station. Given that I live near both a solar-powered
CHAdeMO DC quick charging station and a major city, I’m hopeful that even in a major earthquake
I’ll have enough power to keep the house running until local hubs get their power back,
and then I can use both cars to keep things running at home. Of course, the best option would be for me
to purchase a LEAF to Home backup power solution for my home, have a powerwall, or solar panels
on the house. And when I finally get my own home stateside
we may do just that. Until then, this is a solution I think works
pretty darned well. What do you think? Have you used a similar solution before? Have you used an electric car to power your
home in an emergency? And how was it? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below,
don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe — and make sure you hit the notification
bell so you don’t miss a single video. If you’d like to see more videos from Transport
Evolved, please consider supporting me through Patreon (there’s a link below and at the
end of this video) and I’ll be back tomorrow with more clean, green, awesomeness. Until then, I’m Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield,
thanks for watching and as always, Keep Evolving!

About the Author: Michael Flood

92 Comments

  1. Have been giving that "Car to Home and Back" option a little consideration.
    Sure would be a Very Nice Thing to have available, if Grandma was hooked up to an Oxygen concentrator.
    (Yes, I know that there are metal tanks that do the same thing; but when it is something a little more vital than
    "working up" a YouTube video segment, well; even a much-loathed General Motors Bolt EV could be a Godsend.
    {That Bolt would keep your home 'somewhat' functional, for as long as TWO Nissan "Leaves." After that; well it
    is a Hard Thing to admit; but an ICE powerplant does have a few uses. Sitting and Running in a closed garage
    probably wouldn't be one, that you'd like to recommend to your listeners tho.})

  2. If only the chademo port was open source so we could buy an efficient Leaf to home electric system.
    More than that. Most home appliances will run on DC to 400V quite nicely. The failings today are usually with motors used on pumps, many older fridges etc.

    The inefficiencies of leaving the car on, (250W), conversion, (DC-DC convertor) then to the lead acid battery (inefficient) and off through an inverter… Are sadly not great.
    But a 12V house would be the dogs..

  3. I've powered tv, modem etc from my Prius several times. Driveway and not in a garage and you can lock the car from the outside using the little key while the normal key fob is in the ignition. Only 300W max though @ 230v. The DC/DC is rated at 100amps and I was using max of 25A as a buffer as some of the cars loads would be used for radiator fan etc. 1kW does seem very large inverter to run continuously.
    I've got a petrol generator for the bigger stuff should power be out for more than a few hours like a storm.

  4. My "UPS" didn't like the "Generac" back up generators power, it created. Not clean enough power, was less that 0.6 percent total harmonic distortion, they say that's clean enough for electronics.

  5. Glad to see another way I could used my crashed ion to power my grid tied solar and water turbine inverters in a power cut

  6. Please do your homework on your specific vehicle. The LEAF ground should not be connected to the battery ground as it can damage the sensor that's measuring current. Follow the ground leads and there's other places you can connect that won't risk damage.

  7. Off grid Nikki – well done. Hope the experience doesn't make you a doomsday warrior with nuclear bunker in the garden 🙂

  8. Great video!!! It is more than time for the government to encourage the entire EV segment. The amount of peripheral technology is almost infinite, while that of fuel vehicles only sustains oligopolies and their lobbies. When will they see this blessed solution to solve this crisis of American unemployment? Given such a capacity of companies to form a structure much more self-sufficient than of vehicles to the fuels, segmented for each brand?

  9. I've not owned a true desktop PC in years, but doesn't everything in a PC run on DC? The power supply of the PC just converts AC to low voltage DC. Usually voltages like -5vdc, +5vdc and +12vdc. I can't think of anything is a PC PS that would be so sensitive to modified sine waves.

  10. I'm surprised that you were able to power your fridge while plugged into a series of power strips. 1 or 2 long heavy gauge extension cords would be desirable but I guess you'll be getting that for next time. Very good video! thanks

  11. This has just upped the value of an electric car in my opinion to a strong 10 points. Just checked with our project manager who works with solar ev, etc.. He said what you did was brilliant as we had been discussing emergency backup and I definitely do not want to support the fossil fuel industry further. There IS some homework to be done on my part as to what our local stores carry and my specific ev, but Nikki,.. you have no idea how important this idea is. You are a genius! (especially since no one else ever mentioned this.)

  12. So, I just discovered your channel (first video I watched was your "edited via the power of Leaf" video!) and I love it! Thanks for a great channel! (And I was hit by the same storm, amazingly, even though a tree fell across our driveway – a tree that our power AND internet lines ran through – our power and internet stayed up and running. In general, we lose power every storm.)

  13. It's too bad they don't build 120V inverters into all EVs.  It would be great for camping, not just blackouts.  And the car's computer could ensure you don't run down your battery so far that you become stranded.

  14. If the electric device uses a motor for things like a fan or fridge compressor then you will prefer a pure-sine inverter so you don't prematurely kill the motor. If you are charging a laptop or monitor or things going through an AC/DC converter then a modified-sine inverter is fine.

  15. It's too bad that a device doesn't exist to hook up to the Chademo port and convert the ~400VDC to 110VAC. That would be more efficient, and you'd have a lot more capacity. It really shouldn't be that difficult to build a device like that for a few hundred dollars.

  16. It seems strange to me that there's no simple solution available yet which would use the charging port rather than this type of DIY solution, which is definitely impressive and it's great in an emergency. But we should have a more elegant option as well.

  17. AFAIK negative should go to chassis as there is a current measuring device that needs to measure current flow from the car.

  18. We don't have natural disasters in Denmark, so I'm not really worried about things like that. But a few years ago, our local area had a 30 minute power shortage just after midnight. Not sure if it was just due to suboptimal grid management, a maintenance failure, or something actually happened. There was no news on it though.

  19. Chinese manufacturer BYD has built in so called VTOL (vehicle to load) feature on almost all its electric and hybrid vehicles. The AC/DC charger contains an inverter which can supply up to 3kW 230V AC 50Hz on the charging port using the dedicated VTOL plug (identical with the standard charging plug except a different value resistor between PP and Earth pins to activate the inverter).When the battery gets low the engine automatically start and charge it up to a preset value.

  20. Based on your idea I came up with a thought of purchasing batteries and connect them all together in closet in the basement or a locked storage unit next to the house. Can't I plug in the batteries unit to the house and let the grid charge the batteries to full then use that power back to keep the house going for 8-12 hours on a power outage. Just an idea.

  21. Are there any electric cars with a regular socket (not 12V) built in so that you can use it to charge power tools, make coffee etc with regular equipment?

  22. A… I inquired in the UK about Powerwall and batteries in general… It does not mean that when the grid fails you can switch over to you battery and roof. Due to there being no safe way to ensure you are not sending current down your side of the local grid lighting up the technicians trying to fix the fault. I suppose you could isolate your end between the meter and your house circuit. But that's manual and I would not want yo rely on mr consumer not to forget to switch off!

  23. I've done the same with a Fluence ZE and a 2kW pure sine wave inverter. You can use the Fluence ZE Spy App or Leafspy App to check the 12V current and voltage.

  24. NGB you're so cool! I love your backup power solution, but would take it a step further. With an EV and inverter we could come to the rescue of friends and neighbors . . . or supply power at a remote emergency. Or supply power at a community event, which would promote EVs. This cool power solution could be used in so many great ways!

  25. A difference between US and UK English. A "power cut" in the US is when they turn off your power because you didn't pay the bill. A "power outage" is what we say you experienced.

  26. But Leaf has an inverter for motor.
    Nissan, with simple contactor could disconnect motor and reroute power to charge plug. You would just need an adapter to connect house to car. That way you can have at least 50kW of pure sine wave.

  27. Gosh Nikki you can't do that with out a lot of expensive kit… unless a bright person in a jam, uses their head and thinks outside of the box!! Well done.

  28. Bloody good idea, i did think of try to take power off the main battery, but not off the starter battery.
    Very simple.

  29. I am missing something. Is it possible to use the 120 VAC charger that comes with the LEAF in the other direction, so to speak, to get power out of the car?

  30. There are pure sign wave inverters on the market that can convert up to 450 volts D.C. from the big traction battery in the Electric car to power your entire home. Even a leaf should be able to power your entire home for 3 or 4 days. A Tesla could run a house for a week and a half.

  31. Very clever but some LED camping lights stove and leave the fridge off for several hours far cheaper easier. Can use your old gas guzzler to power your laptop etc

  32. With my Nissan Leaf I powered a veterinary clinic where I work because of a power cut that happened during a power transformer replacement during a bad wind storm. We didn’t power the high power stuff (X-Ray) but we powered the point of sale equipment, computers, phone system, and the refrigerators (full size ones ) which have all the vaccines. I used one of my true sine inverters that I used on my house before I upgraded to a larger true sine. It worked fantastic and worked so well that it ran for several hours – basically a whole day shift. We had full lighting in all treatment rooms and surgery and continued operations like normal. I only lost 1 bar from a 75% charged car. Thank you Nissan Leaf!!! The other clinics in the area had to shut down (no power ) and we got patients from the other clinics nearby funneling into ours. The owner loved it so much that I installed solar panels and a battery backup system for the clinic. He is going to buy a Nissan Leaf also.

  33. First time I understood sinewave in simple layman terms .Need to try this with my 500w inverter…..thanks for the great tips here …..majic.

  34. I have a Ford Focus EV. Any objections to me using a 1500w, or even 3000w, pure sine wave inverter? Purpose would be to handle any inrush, but maintaining 1000w draw (steady state) to allow the car to keep pace with charging the 12v battery.

  35. it basically kind of sucks that some of these cars don't simply include a convertor to 220V. i mean considering it can run at 100kmh(that is about 35kWh for every 100km of range) for a few hours, powering a fridge or even a kette shouldn't really be a problem. i am not saying "run a house off of it" but lets say i go campling for a few days and there is a quick charger near the camp. it could turn from having a rattling unefficent power generator to simply plugging in a cable and getting to the quickcharger at the end of the day.

  36. The Japanese thought I have a power inverter that handshake for to chat Mo's system and you take it right out of the main battery Direct

  37. You do know nissan makes a vehicle to home electrical supply station which can power your home directly off the high voltage DC pack

  38. This was a very helpful video as I intend to set up my tesla model three with the extra battery pack to charge the house during the day Because I just got a quote from my local installer of tesla power wall’s and for two power walls it would cost me $30,000 Canadian all-inclusive.

  39. The modified sign wave is more or less a-stable DC so there isn't any ramping up or ramping down as with proper AC. Computers actually run on DC but yes they need proper AC to convert to smooth DC.

  40. You could also do this with a hybrid car. It would use the ICE to charge the system intermittently – until it runs out of fuel!

  41. speaking as a professional electrician, you did a wonderful job on this video from start to finish. I learned stuff.

  42. We have a solution our portal solar generators . Config with AGM or Nissan Leaf Lit-Ion Battery nodules. https://sites.google.com/tfs-financialstore.com/tfssolargenerators

  43. Just set up a battery bank of 2 or 4 deep cycle batts offboard, then hook up the Leaf 12v battery via heavy #2 jumper cables to your offboard battery pack. That way you can hook up a 2 or 3kw PSW pure sine wave inverter and run larger loads for a couple hours. Then let your Leaf replenish the 24 or 4800w 12vdc offboard bank when household loads are off. Leaf will simply recharge your pack while you watch the ball game. That's what I do….;-)

  44. It's really a shame that the main drive battery cannot be directly used. As mentioned, there's a TON of losses in conversion – so taking the 380v DC drive battery, charging a 12v DC battery, then using the inverter to give you 120v AC (about 8 amps) – you're going to lose about 30% energy to heat and conversion inefficiency. 240v AC output at your on-board charger's maximum input is doable with the existing hardware, it's just not implemented anywhere in North America :/ Thanks partly to the silly, limited J1772 port used on North American EVs currently.

  45. I am in Charleston, South Carolina — getting ready for Hurricane Florence. I've been researching this option and found your video -thanks for the detail and simplicity. I've set up to run a series of box fans to keep the house cooler after we loose power (anticipated). Great job – Thanks!

  46. There is lots of good stuff here and I haven't yet read it all. But I think you should tell punters that iff they are using an off-grid inverter, be it dirty or sine wave, then the main circit breker to the utility should be off. If it isn't, if the power comes back on it will likely blow your inverter.

  47. I'm considering buying a solar generator (Inergy Kodiak) which has a 1500W battery and you can hook up more 12v batteries to it to extend it's usage time. Since it has it's own inverter in it, I was wondering if I could recharge it from my EV battery the same way you hooked up your inverter?

  48. Thanks. Note that if you usually charge your Leaf from home, you can simply use this setup until you get to, say, 5%, and then just wait for your power to come back on and recharge your leaf. IOW, you won't get stuck.

  49. Possibly your most interesting video I've seen, and it's also the oldest. Lots of possibilities here. This stuff really gets complicated, and potentially dangerous. I definitely recommend checking this out well ahead of time; it would be hellacious to have to figure it all out in the dark in your freezing dwelling.

    Unfortunately, I have NO car, and rent an apartment, so the options are quite limited. So all I can offer is some armchair speculation. As I just said in the comments for another video, I don't take apocalyptic scenarios seriously, but power outages are a real thing; in fact, not that rare around here. So I do care about that kind of problem and any good solutions.

    What you MUST not do is to connect things such that you energize a bunch of downed power lines. The utility guys do not find that amusing at all.

  50. I used exactly this technique in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. See https://www.facebook.com/notes/charlie-behrens/how-to-use-an-electric-vehicle-for-emergency-power/1571597529564391/.
    One important difference: connect the negative cable to the chassis, not the battery itself. The Leaf senses current on the negative terminal, so don’t connect directly to it.

  51. this is not a good idea if you have to crarge the car if there no way to charge the car batterys  you don't have energy  but I,have a very good solucion  but I will no dicuse in here [email protected]

  52. Thank you very much for this. I've gotten a lot of compliments over the course of my life for supposedly being smart, because of my "book-larnin'" about things like history and philosophy, but, unfortunately, when people talk about things like volts and amps and current and transformers and Herz and so forth, the hamster on the wheel inside my brain takes a nap. I didn't get any of that. WHOOSH! "This simple method will get you through a blackout." It might get a lot of people through. I'll keep trying to learn. I'm going to have to watch some videos over and over, I think. And maybe read some books about electronics too.

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