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Toyota Prius is Now an Emergency Backup Generator

Prius External Power Toyota Prius is Now an Emergency Backup GeneratorPower inverters have been available for years now, and they make it possible to provide power to equipment and devices on a regular 120 volt circuit. In a typical vehicle, the inverter takes 12 V DC current input, and provides 120 V AC current. Laptops, radios, and even televisions can run off this kind of device.

In case of a power outage in your home, you have some tough choices to make, especially if everything in your house runs on electricity. Electric stoves and heating systems cease to function, but if you have a gasoline-powered backup generator, you can keep warm and well-fed for just the price of gasoline.

Toyota has just introduced a new option for the Prius Hybrid and Prius Plug-In Hybrid, which effectively turns them into backup generators for your home. Seeing as Prius hybrids already come with an inverter, the price of the factory-installed option doesn’t add too much to the cost of the vehicle.

The Prius’ option is $787, and installs standard outlets in the front and rear of the vehicle. The Prius Plug-In’s option goes for $1,179, and uses a special adapter in the charging port. The system is rated at 1,500W and 100V, which is enough to run a refrigerator, lights, television, radio, laptop, network, and cell phones.

The Prius version was released on the 22nd this month, and the Prius Plug-In version will be available November 1, 2012.

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About the author

Ben has been a Master Automobile Technician for over ten years, certified by ASE, Toyota, and Lexus. He specialized in electronic systems and hybrid technology. Branching out now, as a Professional Freelance Writer, he specializes in research and writing about his main area of interest, Automotive Technology, Alternative Fuels, and Concept Vehicles.

Comments

7 comments
tsvieps
tsvieps

Can you supply more info on these cars to house power generating devices. I just bought a '13 Prius Plugin. Part no? A contact a Toyota?

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@tsvieps From what I can tell, this is a dealer installed accessory, so you'll have to contact your dealer about availability and pricing. It doesn't look like something that even a DIYer can do. I'll send a shout to my friends at Toyota and see what they know. :)

tsvieps
tsvieps

@LoneWolffe @tsvieps 

Great. 

This could a good tool. I wonder how the details work. Most convenient would be if it just ran power backwards through the charging cable into an AC outlet. But then one would also need a switch to separate the house from the grid until the grid came back up.

Are you available to answer other questions about the Prius Plugin that are not clear from the Toyota supplied manuals and sales people are not able to answer? For example what does "Cons" in units of mpg mean? It is on some displays.

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@tsvieps @LoneWolffe as for your question about economics, i would say that the numbers probably don't support running your house off gasoline in any situation other than an emergency.

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@tsvieps @LoneWolffe  been a while, i know, but you needn't worry about finding a special extension cord. you can safely go up to 100ft with an extension cord, the typical ones you find in Home Depot.


Both this 12ga 100ft http://www.homedepot.com/p/Husky-100-ft-12-3-SJTW-Extension-Cord-Red-and-Black-AW62613/100661444 and this 10ga, http://www.homedepot.com/p/YELLOW-JACKET-100-ft-10-3-SJTW-Extension-Cord-with-Lighted-T-Blade-2992/204667728 extension cords, for example, are rated for 15A/125V/1875W


That's a lot of power, and we're not talking about superconductors, here. plug in and don't worry about it. Just be sure of the draw that your appliances are using. For example, you can use a hair dryer OR a clothes iron, but nothing else. On the other hand, you could plug in your fridge and a radio, perhaps a couple of CFLs, with no problems.

tsvieps
tsvieps

@LoneWolffe @tsvieps 

I will be interested in what you can find on the smart grid option. Running an extension cord to a frig from a car may work, but the cord would be long and therefore would need to have large diameter, low resistance wires. 

I wonder if your suggestion that running a Prius engine to create house power may be economical when there is not a power outage is realistic. Have you run any numbers that support this? I am not sure the below is meaningful...but...

1 gal of gas worth $3.50 moves the car 50 miles. So does 13 KWH of electric power which is worth about $1. Moving a car has losses from wind, tires and moving mechanical parts that just driving the generator/inverter would not have, but there would still be mechanical losses in the running engine and mechanical coupling to the generator. My guess would be that a gal of gas just running the generator and not moving the car would supply about 30 KWH. Maybe near break even with power bought from the electric company if some taxes and charges not directly related to the electric company's cost of selling power also dropped out., but no overall financial advantage. Hook up charges, etc would stay in place.

But quite useful for emergency power and portable and no new pieces of equipment to store and move around.

LoneWolffe
LoneWolffe moderator

@tsvieps @LoneWolffe Well, depending on the setup [still a dealer-installed or factory-installed option], I recall that one of the Prius has a 120V plug in the center console, while the other one has an adapter that plugs into the charge port. With both of these, you'd basically run an extension cord into the house and plug in a couple of items, such as the refrigerator, laptop, and cell phone.

The other option, which I'm looking for information on, is more along the lines of smart-grid operation, which would require switching gear and a smart meter. Not so much for power outages, but to save on home energy costs. I'm sure it could be set up that way, but I'm still looking for information.

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