What probably seemed like a post-apocalyptic precaution a few weeks ago is coming into play: electric vehicles as a reverse power source for homes.
Relegated to the back burner portion of the EV brochure, automakers have been quietly developing ways for EVs to spout rather than suck electricity in the event of a power outage. Like insurance on a rental car, being able to source power from your EV probably seemed good but unlikely to prove necessary. That is, until Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Cost, leaving some still waiting for power.
Now, Maryland resident Scott Wilson is finding new use for his Nissan Leaf. For Wilson, having power reserves means little more than charging his Leaf in anticipation and having $25 worth of cables and a DC-to-AC converter. While most are left without power, Wilson can run his refrigerator, microwave and even coffee maker with power from his Leaf’s 24 kWh battery. In total, the rig cost him abou $300.
Wilson’s approach is a boxed-product buyer’s nightmare, but a DIY fan’s wet dream. Plug the converter’s terminals into the Leaf’s negative post and it can damage the car’s charging system. The unconventional approach works, but in Japan Nissan already sells a system to allow Leaf owners the same luxury. Currently, the system isn’t sold in North America. But for those who care to be careful, it can probably serve to power a short list of appliances for a few days.
That still wouldn’t be enough to carry some New Jersey residents who have been in the dark since the storm first robbed grids of power, but for most instances it would be more than enough.
Meanwhile, Leaf Owner Varun Bhatia of Long Island found that he was one of a handful able to drive right after the storm. While many sit in hours-long lines waiting for a tank of gas, Bhatia can drive uninhibited — provided his area has power. But finding a place to plug in and finding an available gas station are different animals altogether.
“I didn’t realize I would be the only one driving for a couple of days and everybody else would be just in a tough position,” he said. ”I never thought we would have a fuel shortage because that didn’t happen last year. We actually had a very big storm, more water last year. And I didn’t realize New Jersey got so hit [during Sandy] that they couldn’t get fuel out of there.”
Yet another wave of bad press washed over EVs as a whole after 18 Fisker Karmas short circuited and burned after being flooded during the storm. In fact, the storm is estimated to have claimed some 200,000 vehicles between those ruined in dealer inventory and private ownership. But at least there are a few EV owners with positive stories.
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