With Hurricane Sandy fast-approaching and power outages seeming imminent, many families along the Eastern seaboard are hurrying to purchase backup electrical generators. As a result, stores like Home Depot have sold out of generators in New Jersey, and a basic gasoline-powered portable generator sold by Amazon.com recently jumped from 13,478 to 78 on the site’s overall best-selling items list.
As generators fly off the shelves to provide a backup power source for households, an interesting question arises: could electric cars do the same job? Major auto companies like Honda and Toyota think the answer may be yes.
In the aftermath of Japan’s massive 2011 earthquake and the associated power outages, automakers there began to ramp up development of electric vehicle technology that could feed electricity back into a home’s power supply during emergencies. The idea is that a hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle could draw upon its tankful of gasoline and charged battery to enable a flow of electrons from “vehicle to home,” as the approach is called.
For example, a Toyota Prius acting as a power source would be capable of supplying about 10 kilowatt-hours of backup daily electricity to a home for four days — more than enough to cover basic energy needs like lights, refrigeration, and computer/cell-phone charging.