It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
The automobile could become an unlikely crucial new backstop for keeping the lights on in an era of more frequent wildfires, hotter heat waves and aging power infrastructure in California.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and General Motors announced Tuesday that the companies are in the early stages of developing a system for people to electrify their homes using vehicle batteries — it’s the latest corporate collaboration exploring this new use for the largest battery most people own. And it could minimize power disruptions from rolling blackouts or emergency shutoffs during dangerous weather.
Last year, Ford Motor Co. and San Francisco-based solar installer Sunrun announced the debut of an all-electric pickup capable of electrifying a house. Scheduled to be available later this year, the Ford F-150 Lightning is advertised as being able to provide power to a home for up to three days on a fully charged battery, or longer if power is rationed.
The idea for using electric vehicles as emergency power sources first came about in Japan during the nuclear disaster of 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. With communities turned to rubble, gasoline became scarce, but electric cars were crucial for moving emergency responders, refugees and supplies.
Japaneses automakers soon after began manufacturing electric vehicles with two-way charging systems capable of stepping in during emergency power outages,but that technology hasn’t yet reached United States consumers.
Most electric vehicles already have the capacity to be sources of power, said Rick Spina, General Motors’ vice president of electric vehicle infrastructure. What’s needed is further development of battery software and hardware to bring that power into the home.
The system the company is developing will include safeguards so people can control the outflow and ensure the battery retains enough of a charge so they can drive a certain amount of miles. That could be essential during an emergency, Spina said.
Vehicle batteries could become a linchpin for solar power during emergencies, said James Bushnell, an energy economist at UC Davis.