A recent occurrence in a small New England town has us thinking that a working future for the smart garage -- a concept which promises symbiotic energy-sharing links between buildings, plug-in hybrid vehicles and the energy grid -- is not too far off.
When residents of Harvard, Massachusetts were hit with an ice storm that left many without power for a full four days, one innovative neighbor successfully used his Prius as a generator.
From last Friday's edition of the independent local publication The Harvard Press:
Around the corner at Madigan Lane, John Sweeney, a member of the town’s conservation-minded Heat Advisory Committee, took a characteristically green approach to powering his home during the storm. He reported his achievement in an e-mail, saying it was no big deal, but that his wife thought it an impressive tale worth sharing: Sweeney ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan, and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas.
“When it looked like we were going to be without power for awhile, I dug out an inverter (which takes 12v DC and creates 120v AC from it) and wired it into our Prius…These inverters are available for about $100 many places online,” he wrote.
The device allowed the engine to run every half hour, automatically charging the car battery and indirectly supplying the required power.
Read more about smart grids in these articles from the Worldchanging archives:
Photo credit: flickr/Raymond Brigleb, Creative Commons license.
Smart idea, it would be great if the auto companies threw in the inverters with the purchase or lease of the cars.
So, how does the efficiency of using the Prius as a generator compare to the efficiency of the average standalone gasoline generator?
I'm not an expert on generators by any means, but this site offers an overview that seems pretty thorough: http://www.endtimesreport.com/Generators.html. It says that to run a 3,500 watt generator for 4 hours at 50% capacity to power basic home energy needs like the refrigerator and freezer would require 3 gallons of gasoline. Comparing that to the story above, which states that "Sweeney ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan, and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas," it seems like the Prius is more fuel efficient. I'd like to welcome anyone with more mechanical expertise to weigh in on this!
Don't forget that the Prius has a gigantic battery in it already (to power the electric motor) and that battery might have been used to power the items mentioned. I don't think its an apples to apples comparison between the generator and the Prius.