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How EV batteries can power up your house during outage

Posted at 1:16 PM, Feb 05, 2024

When you lose power, a generator is great, but some people are turning to their electric vehicles to turn their lights back on.

"It could be anywhere from two to five days, depending on the size of the EV," said Al-Thaddeus Avestruz, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

The U.S. Energy Information Administrationreports the average U.S. household uses about 30 kilowatt hours of energy per day.

Avestruz says a typical EV battery has about 60 kilowatt hours stored while larger EV's like some trucks have more. To make it happen, he says you need certain equipment.

"Certain EV's are equipped with what's called a bi-directional charger."

Avestruz explains it's a charger that allows your EV to function like a generator, bringing energy from your home to your EV battery and from your EV to your home, which would be needed in a power outage.

If you're using this charger, Avestruz says you need a professional to install a "transfer switch" so you can disconnect from the grid.

"So, some of the reasons for disconnecting from the grid is that there might be fault in the grid somewhere and it's just pulling down your generator. Another reason is if there are line service workers trying to work on the grid thinking it's off and you're pumping power in there, it's a safety hazard for them. So, a transfer switch would be required."

Safety, he says, has to be a top priority if you're looking into alternative ways to use your EV battery in an outage.

"Generally speaking, your EV battery is at least at 400 volts around there. So, it's pretty dangerous to go in there and muck about it yourself."