Can your brand new electric vehicle power your home? It’s a question we see a lot these days, especially with the rise in popularity of electric vehicles. Technically, most EVs have enough battery power to power a home for several days, but things are a bit more complicated than that.
All EVs on the road store tons of energy in the battery, but they lack the proper hardware and functionality to transfer all that battery power elsewhere. So for most EV owners the answer is no, you can’t power your home from an EV. However, newer vehicles like the Chevy Silverado E and Ford F-150 Lightning feature two-way charging and can share that battery power.
Here are some more 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?
Say you want to use your electric vehicle as a generator and power your home in case of an emergency, power outage, or other situations like the ones we saw in California or Texas. In this case, you need a newer EV that supports two-way charging. And while yes, technically Nissan had its Leaf-to-home program, in general you’ll need a new EV.
This will probably be one of the main 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 back and forth. So instead of just receiving electricity from the wall, it can send it back into your home or into the grid.
You may also see this listed as “V2H” or “V2G” technology, which stands for vehicle to home and vehicle to network. Anyway, they all have a similar idea, which is to share the battery power of electric vehicles with other devices.
In fact, GMC and Chevrolet just signed a partnership in California to run a pilot program where its new Silverado E electric pickup can power homes or even help send electricity back to the grid during peak periods. Some automakers call it a go-anywhere vehicle, like the Hyundai IONIQ 5.
How does two-way charging work?
The first two-way charging electric truck is the Ford F-150 Lightning. This technology is built into the truck, allowing it to use the built-in battery to power tools on a job site or at your home in an emergency.
However, you will need more than the vehicle to power your home with an EV. Homeowners will need an upgraded charging system, a power box that can convert car DC to usable AC for wall outlets at home, and pay an electrician to wire everything up safely . It’s more expensive than a traditional EV charger, that’s for sure.
Since the Ford F-150 Lightning is one of the first two-way charging vehicles, we’ll use it as an example. Ford already sells what it calls the Ford Power Station Pro, and it’s $1,300 to add to your home.
Plugging in the F-150 Lightning in your home requires the 19.2kW Ford Charge Station Pro, which comes standard on extended range models and costs extra on base models.
You’re ready once your home is wired to handle two-way charging. Although V2H capabilities exist now, we expect to be a while before they begin to gain widespread adoption. It’s also worth mentioning that older homes may not have wiring that can handle the high current coming from vehicles.
Basically, it’s still new technology, complicated and not as simple as just buying a new electric vehicle and getting all the necessary chargers. That said, this is the future and we expect most new EVs to support this feature.
Additionally, Tesla has its Powerwall technology, which stores energy drawn from rooftop solar panels. It’s a completely different technology. The Tesla Powerwall is an industry-leading backup battery storage system for your whole home, but it doesn’t run from a Tesla vehicle.
How long can an electric vehicle power a home?
Now that you know your next electric vehicle could potentially power your home, you’re probably wondering how long. Again, this is not a simple answer for several different reasons. It depends on the battery size of your electric car or truck, the size of the house, and the power you use in a typical day.
For example, the Chevy Silverado E has a large 200 kWh 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 household consumes about 893 kWh per month, or 30 kWh per day.
Doing the math, at 30 kWh per day, the Silverado’s 200 kWh battery could power an average home for about six days. That said, actual numbers will differ due to energy loss from DC to AC and other factors.
Then several other electric cars have much smaller battery capacities, often around 70kWh, which means you might be able to get a day or two of power, as long as they support two-way charging.
Is there enough power to go around?
One thing to keep in mind is the overall power demand. We have seen power outages in California, Texas and Nevada during the hot summer months. For example, last summer in Las Vegas, we had several days where the city asked residents to avoid using air conditioning to help keep the grid running.
When you consider the millions of electric vehicles hitting the road in the weeks, months and years to come, this could make the situation worse. As a result, we see a future where cars can use and share energy on the fly, as needed, for a home or an entire city’s grid.
We are still in the early stages of two-way charging and electric vehicles. However, as things evolve and improve and battery capacities increase, this technology could be vital for any EV buyer.