Can your shiny new electric vehicle power your house? It’s a question we’re seeing a lot these days, especially with the rise in EV popularity. Technically, most EVs have enough energy in the battery to power a home for multiple days, but things are a little more complicated than that.
All EVs on the road store tons of energy in the battery, but they lack the proper hardware and features 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, new vehicles like the Chevy Silverado E and Ford F-150 Lightning feature bi-directional charging and can share that battery power.
Here are a few additional details about how this technology works, how you can turn an electric vehicle into a generator, and how long your EV could power your house.
Suppose 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 we’ve seen in California or Texas. In that case, you need a newer EV that supports bi-directional charging. And while yes, technically, Nissan had its Leaf-to-home program, generally speaking, you’ll need a new EV.
This will likely be one of the biggest selling points for new EVs in the near future. So what does that word mean? Bi-directional charging means your electric car or truck can send battery power in both directions. So instead of only receiving power from the wall, it can send it back into your house or the grid.
You may also see this listed as “V2H” or “V2G” technology, which stands for vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid. Either way, they’re all a similar idea, which is sharing the battery power from 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 power back to the grid during peak load times. Some car manufacturers call it vehicle-to-everything, like the Hyundai IONIQ 5.
The first electric truck with bi-directional charging 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 your home in an emergency.
However, you’ll need more than just the vehicle to power your home with an EV. Owners will need an upgraded charging system, a power box that can convert the DC current from the car into usable AC power for the wall outlets at home, and pay an electrician to wire everything 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 vehicles with bi-directional charging, we’ll use it as an example. Ford already sells what it’s calling the Ford Power Station Pro, and it’s $1,300 to add to your house.
Plugging the F-150 Lightning into your home requires the 19.2-kW Ford Charge Station Pro, which comes standard on extended-range models and costs extra on base models.
You’re all set once your home is wired to handle bi-directional charging. While V2H capabilities exist now, we’re expecting to wait a while before it starts seeing widespread adoption. It’s also worth mentioning older homes may not have wiring capable of handling the high current coming from vehicles.
Basically, it’s still new technology, complicated, and not as easy as simply buying a new EV and getting all the required chargers. That said, it is the future, and we expect most new EVs to support the feature.
Additionally, Tesla has its Powerwall technology, which stores power pulled from roof solar panels. This is different technology completely. The Tesla Powerwall is an industry-leading backup battery storage system for your entire home, but it doesn’t run off of a Tesla vehicle.
Now that you know your next EV could potentially power your home, you’re likely wondering for how long. Again, this isn’t a straightforward answer for several different reasons. This depends on the size of the battery in your electric car or truck, the size of the house, and how much power you use on a typical day.
For example, the Chevy Silverado E has a large 200 kWh battery inside, which is bigger than most EVs on the market today. According to the EPA and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. household consumes around 893 kWh per month, or 30 kWh a day.
Doing the math, at 30 kWh a day, the Silverado’s 200 kWh battery could power the average home for around six days. That said, real-world numbers will differ due to the loss of energy from DC to AC, and other factors.
Then, several other electric cars have far smaller battery capacities, often around 70 KwH, meaning you could maybe get a day or two of power, as long as it supports bi-directional charging.
One thing to keep in mind is the overall power demand. We’ve 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 the air conditioning to help keep the grid running.
When you consider the millions of EVs that will hit the road in the coming weeks, months, and years, this could make the situation even worse. As a result, we see a future where cars can use and share power on the fly, as needed, for a home or an entire city grid.
We’re still at the early stages of bi-directional charging and electric vehicles. However, as things evolve, improve, and battery capacities increase, this technology could be vital for any EV buyer.