Soon, you’ll be able to say goodbye to gas-powered generators and storage batteries if you want to power your home during a power outage.
Your backup power source will be set up in your driveway or garage, ready to keep your lights on, your fridge cold, and your air conditioner blowing.
Best of all, your power source will operate quietly, emit no hazardous exhaust gases, and be able to operate safely indoors or outdoors during hurricanes and for at least a few days afterward while your utility is running to restore power.
Electric vehicles with two-way charging capabilities are beginning to hit the market as the auto industry moves away from internal combustion engines. Only a handful of vehicles with so-called vehicle-to-home capabilities are currently available – and require expensive aftermarket equipment – but industry analysts expect the number to grow as more vehicles electric come on the market.
“It’s still evolving because you don’t have off-the-shelf technologies to do it,” says Seth Blumsack, co-director of the Penn State University Center for Energy, Law and Policy. “It’s not as ‘plug-and-play’ as you might like.”
Bi-directional charging, as the term implies, is the ability to both receive and send power, and its availability in electric vehicles could provide a valuable layer of security to owners as weather patterns violence become more frequent and destructive.
One of the few vehicles with two-way charging capability is also one of the nation’s best-selling trucks: Ford’s F-150 pickup. The new electric version, called the F-150 Lightning, is aimed at truck owners who haven’t been drawn to small electric sedans and crossover SUVs.
In addition to touting its big-truck size and towing capacity, Ford is promoting the Lightning’s ability to provide power to homes during outages as an added value, Blumsack said. “It’s going to have a lot of appeal for those who live in areas where the network is vulnerable to disruption from hurricanes or harsh winter weather.”
“More than just an electric vehicle”
Ford spokeswoman Debra Hotaling said Ford wanted the F-150 Lightning to be more than just an electric vehicle. “It had to provide engaging and fun features that went way beyond how it’s powered,” she said over email. “Bi-directional power is one of them. We’ve launched it on the F-150 Lightning, and customers tell us it’s great comfort knowing the truck can seamlessly supply power in the event of a breakdown.
Since Ford began taking orders for the vehicle in August 2021, Sawgrass Ford in Sunrise, Fla., has sold more than 400, including 200 in its first week of availability, said dealership owner David Menten. .
Four models are available. Prices range from around $42,000 for the base model to just under $94,000 for the Platinum version currently on display on the showroom floor of Sawgrass Ford.
Strong demand and supply chain issues plaguing the global auto industry have caused buyers to wait up to a year for delivery, but that hasn’t hurt sales, Menten said. “I don’t think Ford expected to sell that many,” he said. “Now they’re building them as fast as they can.”
Ford is betting that once Lightning owners get to grips with the truck’s ability to share stored energy from its batteries, they’ll make an additional investment in the components needed to pump that energy back into their homes when needed. Menten said.
The Lightning can deliver some power without owners having to buy anything extra. It comes standard with USB ports for personal electronics and eight 110-volt outlets that can run power tools and other jobsite machinery. Homeowners can plug extension cords into these outlets during outages if they just want to run a few items at a time, like a small refrigerator, a few lights, a fan, and a TV.
This is a common feature of electric vehicles. An increasing number of vehicles are equipped with 110-volt outlets, and consumers can purchase adapters to add outlets to vehicles not sold with them.
The Lightning goes a lot further: it also comes with an EV charging socket that can charge other EVs, including Teslas, if they get stuck.
Ford claims the truck can store enough energy to run an entire house for three days. This of course depends on the size of the house and what needs to be powered. The standard range battery can store 98 kilowatt hours and the optional extended range battery stores 131 kWh. Typical homes consume about 30kWh per day, but that’s hard to sustain if a home uses central air conditioning, computers, televisions, washer and dryers, and other comforts. You may have to make choices.
You will need to install extras
To power your entire home, you will need to purchase a few additional components and hire an electrician.
First, you’ll need Ford’s Charge Station Pro, a home charging port that costs around $1,310 but comes standard on range-topping models, according to a May article in Car and Driver. The Charge Station Pro is an 80-amp device that can charge the truck in eight hours, compared to the 30 hours it takes to charge with a typical 110-volt outlet.
You’ll also need a home integration system that converts the high-current DC power from the Pro Charging Station to the AC power your home needs. It costs $3,895 and connects between your home’s electricity meter and your main power panel. Before drawing electricity from the truck, it disconnects your home from the grid.
Installation costs will depend on your current home configuration, whether your panel needs to be upgraded, and how much cable needs to be installed to reach the charging port.
To manage the installation of the home integration system, Ford is partnering with Sunrun, a nationwide solar system installer. Sunrun can combine the home integration system with solar panels, because the system can also work as an inverter for the panels, transferring the energy generated by the solar panels to the Lightning battery to extend the time the truck can supply power the House.
In such a configuration, the Lightning serves as a storage system for the solar panel battery. If used regularly, the setup can reduce the amount of electricity homeowners need to purchase from the grid.
This is the setup Delray Beach resident Glen Hammer is considering instead of adding storage batteries to his rooftop solar system.
It has several advantages, Hammer said via email.
“I need a car anyway, so although more expensive than a standard petrol vehicle, it would act as a backup instead of a generator or battery array,” he said. said, adding that the vehicle and inverter would rival the cost of storage batteries or a whole-house generator.
“I can fill up for pennies, because my solar roof would keep the battery charged. So I would avoid the $3.50 a gallon problem that we face. That’s great because we may not have an annual hurricane, but we’ll still need power for cars. A generator can only be used during a breakdown. It would be permanently usable.
Another benefit, he said, is “I would support clean energy more.”
The electric vehicle industry is watchingOnly a few other vehicles currently have two-way charging capabilities when paired with inverters from various third-party manufacturers. They include the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, according to the cleanenergyreviews.info website. Volkswagen’s ID.4 will include the feature from the 2022 model year, Car and Driver reported.
Tesla, the world’s most popular electric vehicle, has yet to announce the bi-directional capabilities of its products, but Blumsack says the company is likely working on it.
Another potential application for two-way charging is storage from the grid. Owners of electric vehicles served by utilities that charge less for electricity during times of low demand could charge their cars when electricity is cheapest, then sell back to the grid when prices are highest and realize a profit. Such a plan, which could help utilities meet the increased demand that will accompany wider acceptance of electric vehicles, would hinge on whether utilities are willing to pay a premium for energy stored in customers’ EV batteries.
Blumsack expects it to take a few years before home charging becomes an affordable and mainstream feature of electric vehicles.
“If the Lightning proves capable of doing what Ford claims and manufacturers provide consumers with lower cost options for garage charging stations, I suspect other EV manufacturers will look with interest at the Lightning and say ‘How do we do that?’ ”
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