A New Job for Electric Vehicles: Powering Homes During Blackouts

In early March, high winds knocked down trees and power lines in the Nashville area, powering thousands of homes. But about 32 miles outside of the city, an electric pickup truck powered the home of John and Rachel Raygard and kept the lights on.

“I look around the house and they all have power outages,” said Mr. Reigard, who bought a Ford F-150 Lightning pickup more than a year ago. “A lot of people ask, ‘How do you have power?'”

The Rygards are among a small group of pioneers using electric vehicle batteries as a backup power source for their homes. Energy and automotive experts say that as auto and energy companies make it easier for people and businesses to harness the energy of electric vehicles for purposes other than driving, more people will do the same in the coming years. Expect.

Power grids are increasingly strained and buckling during extreme weather events associated with climate change, such as prolonged heat waves, severe storms and devastating floods. Many people buy generators, home solar systems and battery storage systems, often at high costs.

For some, electric vehicles are a better option because they can serve multiple functions. Another big advantage is that the batteries in the F-150 Lightning and the Chevrolet Silverado electric pick-up due to go on sale this year are much more powerful than home batteries, which often have solar panels on the roof. It means that you can store a lot of energy. An electric truck combined with a home solar system could keep the lights on for days, or even weeks, for families.

The use of electric vehicles as a source of power is of interest to utility executives. Among them is Pedro Pizarro, president of the Edison Electric Association, the industry’s leading trade association, and CEO of Edison International, which powers millions of people. Number of homes and businesses in Southern California.

Pissarro’s company and other utilities are testing whether it’s practical and safe to send electricity from electric vehicles to the grid.

By absorbing power when it’s abundant and releasing it when it’s scarce, he said, electric cars are “a bigger rubber band to absorb shocks and manage them from day to day, week to week.” Said it might work.

This increased use of electric vehicles will encourage utilities and homeowners to rely more on intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind to reduce global warming emissions. It should be possible.

Currently, very few electric vehicles can provide backup power. However, executives Teslathe dominant electric car companies, and other automakers said they were working on updates that would allow more vehicles to do so.

When a power outage hit the Raygard family’s neighborhood in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, their truck had enough power to keep the lights on, four refrigerators running, and fans in a natural gas-fueled heating system. supply. Trucks don’t keep their air conditioners running, but other essentials come on just minutes after the power outage begins.

Rygard’s parents, who were visiting, were worried because it was cold outside when the family lost power around Christmas. “They started thinking, ‘What the hell is going on?'” said Reygard. Here is his answer: “Nothing happened. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

The couple were so pleased with their truck that they purchased 10 more for their business, Grade A Construction. They estimate that the investment will save him $300 a month per vehicle, as it costs him less per mile to run on electricity than it does on gasoline.

The trucks would cut operating costs, but they would have had to hire professionals and spend thousands of dollars to equip the Reygards’ home with electrical equipment that could be powered by an F-150. The couple turned to Qmerit, a company that manages the development, installation and maintenance of electric vehicles, energy storage systems, and vehicle-to-home energy systems.

Several components relay information between the truck and home electrical systems, appliances and lighting. Set the homeowner’s preferences and the system will decide when the truck will recharge its batteries and when it will send electricity back to the house.

However, such systems can be complex, and some early adopters ran into problems.

Kevin Dyer, a software quality engineer who lives near Los Angeles, has been using electric vehicles since 2009 and purchased an F-150 Lightning in September. He wanted to use the truck to help his family survive the rolling blackouts that have become common in California in recent years.

“The installation is complete,” Dyer said. “The truck was actually powering my house. It was a high-five moment.

Dyer, 59, said he hoped a software update or another minor fix would fix the problem.

Energy industry executives said the industry is working to improve and simplify the technology that connects electric vehicles to homes, and that will happen within a few years.

Over time, more people will be able to easily combine solar panels, home batteries and electric vehicles, said Oliver Phillips, chief operating officer of QMerrit. Combined, these devices can make people “bulletproof” from power outages, he said.

Battery-powered vehicles could ultimately play an even bigger role by supplying energy to the grid when demand for electricity exceeds supply, said the company, working with Qmerit to install the system. Gus Puga, owner of electricity and heating company Airstream Services, said. Raygard’s house.

Some energy experts fear that the growth of electric vehicles could significantly increase energy demand and strain the power grid. Puga objected, saying, “I believe it will bring stability to the grid.”

In the automotive industry, it is commonly believed that frequent use of a vehicle to power homes and the grid can cause batteries to degrade more quickly, reducing range (the distance a vehicle can travel on a full charge). Department experts warn. But automakers have downplayed those risks.

Ford and General Motors are keen to sell the versatility of their battery-powered models to those affected by or afraid of power outages.

“This is a real game changer,” said Ryan O’Gorman, Ford’s business development energy services manager. “Trucks are huge powerhouses. EVs are big and can power a house for days.”

Mark Ball, GM’s head of energy connectivity and battery solutions, said the company plans to offer a package of devices and services to help customers get the most out of their electric vehicles. “What we think is absolutely critical is making it simple and affordable for our customers,” he said.

But Mr. Pissarro, a utility executive, warned that energy and auto companies need to get better at the technology that allows cars to send power to homes and the grid. He expects to identify more issues as more people start using electric vehicles for backup power.

“It’s still in the early stages,” Pizarro said. “There will be surprises.”

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button