Can your shiny new electric vehicle power your house? It’s a question we see a lot these days, especially with the rise in popularity of electric vehicles. Technically, most electric vehicles have enough energy in the battery to power a home for several days, but things are a bit more complicated.
All EVs on the road store tons of energy in the battery, but they lack the right hardware and functionality to transfer all of the battery power to another location. So for most EV owners the answer is no, you cannot power your home with an EV. However, new vehicles like the Chevy Silverado E and Ford F-150 Lightning have bi-directional charging and can share that battery power.
Here are a few additional details on how this technology works, how you can turn an EV into a generator, and how long your EV could power your home.
What is bi-directional charging?
Let’s say you want to use your electric vehicle as a generator and power your home in an emergency, power outage, or other situation like we’ve seen in California or Texas. In this case, you need a newer electric vehicle that supports bi-directional charging. And while Nissan technically had its Leaf-to-Home program, you generally need a new electric vehicle.
This will likely be one of the biggest selling points for new electric vehicles in the near future. So what does this word mean? Bi-directional charging means your electric car or truck can send battery power in either direction. So instead of just getting power from the wall, it can send it back to your house or the grid.
This may also be listed as “V2H” or “V2G” technology, which stands for “Vehicle-to-Home” and “Vehicle-to-Grid”. In any case, they’re all about a similar idea, sharing EV battery power with other devices.
In fact, GMC and Chevrolet just signed a partnership in California to conduct a pilot program where the new Silverado E electric pickup truck can power homes or even help send power back to the grid during peak periods. Some automakers call it Vehicle-to-Everything, like the Hyundai IONIQ 5.
How does bidirectional charging work?
The first electric truck with bi-directional charging is the Ford F-150 Lightning. This technology is built into the truck, allowing it to use the built-in battery to power tools at a construction site or at home in the event of an emergency.
However, you need more than just the vehicle to power your home with an electric vehicle. Owners need an improved charging system, a power box that can convert DC power from the car into usable AC power for home outlets, and pay an electrician to securely wire everything. It’s more expensive than a traditional EV charger, that’s for sure.
Since the Ford F-150 Lightning is one of the first vehicles with bi-directional charging, let’s use it as an example. Ford already sells what it calls the Ford Power Station Pro, and it costs $1,300 to add to your home.
Connecting the F-150 Lightning to your home requires the 19.2kW Ford Charger Pro, which comes standard on extended range models and costs extra on base models.
You’ll be ready as soon as your home is wired for bi-directional charging. Although V2H capabilities are in place now, we expect to have to wait a while before it sees widespread adoption. It’s also worth noting that older homes may not have wiring that can handle the high current from vehicles.
Basically it’s still a new technology, complicated and not as simple as buying a new electric vehicle and getting all the necessary chargers. That means it’s the future, and we expect most new EVs to support this feature.
In addition, Tesla has its Powerwall technology, which stores electricity drawn from solar panels on the roof. It’s a completely different technology. The Tesla Powerwall is an industry-leading backup battery storage system for your entire home, but it’s not powered by a Tesla vehicle.
How long can an electric vehicle power a home?
Now that you know that your next electric vehicle could potentially power your home, you’re probably wondering for how long. Again, this is not an easy answer for various reasons. This depends on the size of the battery in your electric car or truck, the size of the house and the amount of electricity you use on a typical day.
The Chevy Silverado E, for example, has a large 200kWh battery inside, which is larger than most electric vehicles on the market today. According to the EPA and the US Energy Information Administration, the average US home uses about 893 kWh per month, or 30 kWh per day.
If you do the math, the Silverado’s 200kWh battery, at 30kWh per day, could power an average home for about six days. However, the real numbers will differ due to the energy loss from DC to AC and other factors.
Then several other electric cars have far smaller battery capacities, often around 70 KWh, meaning you could maybe get power for a day or two as long as it supports bi-directional charging.
Is there enough electricity to walk around?
One thing to keep in mind is the overall power requirement. We’ve seen power outages in California, Texas, and Nevada during the hot summer months. For example, last summer in Las Vegas, we had several days when the city asked residents to avoid using the air conditioner to keep the electric grid running.
When you consider the millions of electric vehicles that will hit the roads in the coming weeks, months and years, this could make things worse. As a result, we see a future where cars can use and share power for a home or an entire city grid as needed.
When it comes to bi-directional charging and electric vehicles, we are still in the early stages. However, as things continue to evolve, improve and battery capacities increase, this technology could be crucial for any EV buyer.
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