Thursday, July 28, 2011

Using a Hybrid vehicle as a Generator

You can of course connect any inverter to the 12 volt battery of any vehicle and use AC output. The problem with using the alternator of a standard family saloon is that it is very inefficient. Most vehicles will only output around 300 watts and is insufficient to keep fridges and freezers running.

The energy density of 1 litre of petrol is about 8.7 kWh/L. In a standard vehicle the alternator can output between 300 - 700 watts. ( 1.5 - 7 amps at 12 volts depending on the condition of the alternator). You will also need to keep the vehicle's engine running continuously.

In the Prius, the Dc/Dc converter outputs about1300 watts to charge the 12 volt battery. The High Voltage Battery has a capacity of 1500 watts. As the capacity of this battery is drained down to 50%, the petrol engine will switch on to charge the HVB and switch off when the HVB it is fully charged.

You can connect any 1000 watts inverter to the battery of the hybrid car to use it as a generator to provide emergency power in a blackout or any place where you do not have access to mains power. There is no danger of engine overheating as it will shut down as soon as the HVB battery is fully charged. There is enough power to keep your fridges and lights running in an emergency.

You can also use this setup in your prius to run computers and instruments "on the go". If you do this  you should use a sine wave inverter or you may cause damage to your sensitive equipment.

Below is an example of a situation where this feature was used in a blackout.

[ #priusgenerator - http://bit.ly/VRtz6y  ]

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Pressed for Details: Hybrid car powers home during blackout

John Sweeney with the inverter that allowed him to power his home with his Prius during the recent power outage after the Dec. 11 ice storm. (Photo by Lisa Aciukewicz)
John Sweeney with the inverter that allowed him to power his home with his Prius during the recent power outage after the Dec. 11 ice storm. (Photo by Lisa Aciukewicz)
After losing our home’s power in the December ice storm, we used our Toyota Prius as an emergency generator for the four days we were without electricity. The story has spread across the Internet, and many people have asked Mary and me how we thought to use our car as an emergency generator, how we wired it up, and how well it worked. As background, I am an electrical engineer. My senior project in college (during the energy crisis of the 1970s) was a paper design of a hybrid car. This led me to closely follow the development of the Prius, as well as to purchase one of the earliest current-generation Priuses in Harvard. There are several online forums where people discuss the technical details of the car, and I watch and participate in them as time permits. In these forums people have described various means of getting emergency power out of the Prius.
Our summer house is a sailboat and we power it completely with the power of the wind. On the sailboat, we have two windmills that charge very large 12-volt batteries. We run the refrigerator, lights, computer, and navigation electronics from this stored energy. Part of the system is a large inverter that takes 12-volt direct current (DC) and creates 120-volt alternating current (AC), the same as standard household power. We use the 120-volt AC to run many appliances exactly as we would at home, such as a microwave oven, cell phone chargers, rechargeable flashlights, and standard laptop power adapters.
At home, we are very energy conscious, and we have a whole-house electric meter that sits on the counter in the kitchen, as well as several small “kill-a-watt” meters to measure the power used by individual appliances. Simply by being aware of our power usage, we cut our electric bill by roughly $50 per month.
With this background, it seemed like using the Prius along with an inverter would be a simple and cost-effective solution to our power-outage problem.
The 12-volt system in the Prius is slightly larger than that in a normal car because all the accessories such as coolant pumps and power steering are electrical rather than driven off the engine.

One of the components in the Prius is a specialized DC-DC converter that uses energy out of the drive battery at roughly 200 volts DC to create 12-volt DC. Twelve volts is the “nominal” voltage of a 12-volt power system in the Prius as well as other standard cars; in actual usage the 12-volt system runs from 13.7 volts to 14.4 volts. In the Prius, the DC-DC converter (which is equivalent to the alternator in a normal car) is limited to 100 amps. Power = volts × amps, so in the Prius, we can get a total of 13.7 × 100 = 1,370 watts out of the 12-volt system. From the online forums, it turns out that the internal Prius electronics take about 300 watts, which leaves about 1,000 watts available for external use, and I had a 1,000-watt inverter in my basement. How I did it
Because an inverter uses quite a bit of current, I put it close to the 12-volt source and used large diameter wires. In the 2004 and later model years, the 12-volt battery is located in the rear of the car on the passenger side, so I wired the inverter directly to the 12-volt battery, attaching the wires right to the bolts on the battery posts. This location also has an easy way to route the fat 12-volter wires, and leave the inverter sitting in the hatchback area semipermanently.
IF YOU WANT TO TRY THIS AT HOME
Here are some safety tips for readers tempted to try something similar:
1. Do not use an inverter larger than 1,000 watts because this can overload and damage the Prius 12-volt system. Keep in mind that running the inverter close to the 1,000-watt limit could also overload it because the startup power to many appliances greatly exceeds the steady-state power.
2. Follow normal safety procedures when dealing with the Prius 12-volt system. You should feel completely comfortable changing the 12-volt battery in the Prius by yourself before you attempt to make any changes to that system.
3. The Prius is a super low-emissions vehicle with a very efficient catalytic converter. In contrast, a standalone generator lacks a catalytic converter. Although the Prius is less risky than a standalone generator, the exhaust should be routed outside to eliminate the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous and has no odor.
I ran a long high-capacity extension cord from the 120-volt plug on the inverter into the house. Inside the house I plugged the “kill-a-watt” meter into the extension cord to make sure I wasn’t over the 1,000 watts the inverter/Prius could supply. From there, I plugged in the refrigerator and freezer that were stuffed full of our frozen food for Christmas dinner (remember that this was a freezing-rain storm, and because the temperature varied around freezing we could not simply put this food outside as many bloggers have suggested). In addition, we ran the woodstove fan, the TV (we get over-the-air HDTV so it didn’t matter that the cable system was out), and several lights at night.
In the Prius, I put the car in “ready” mode, which means it is completely on and ready to drive. I left it in park and applied the emergency brake. I also turned off all accessories, particularly the climate control system, headlights, and stereo because these use the most power. In this mode, the car is fully on, and the gasoline engine will start if the drive battery voltage gets low due to the draw on the 12-volt system. If the climate control system is on, the car will run the engine if it senses the need for heat or cooling.
In this mode, the gas engine ran roughly five minutes every half hour to charge the drive battery. Over the four days we ran the house from the Prius, we used about 17 kilowatt hours of energy, and the car burned about five gallons of gas.
This could have been done using a nonhybrid car, but it would also have to be on, which means the gas engine would be idling constantly. My other car uses about a half gallon per hour idling, so if a normal car had been used it would have burned 40 gallons of gas during the 80 hours of “emergency generator” usage.
I am not the first person to use the Prius in this manner, and I would like to give credit to the other folks in the Prius technical community who have done the research making this possible. Bob Wilson wrote up the same technique for the second-generation Prius (http://home.hiwaay.net/~bzwilson/prius/priups.html). “Hobbit” used an uninterruptible power supply tied into the current, third-generation Prius to run a sump pump (http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?p=25346). “Hobbit” also explained how to change the 12-volt battery in the third-generation Prius and provided some good pictures of the battery location and hookup (http://www.techno-fandom.org/~hobbit/cars/prius-12V/ela/ela.html).
It would be possible to get much more power out of the car if you wanted to connect directly to the 200+-volt drive battery. However, this technique is probably best left to the car designers because they have the knowledge to design it safely and economically.
In summary, the Prius is ideally suited for use as an emergency generator, in addition to being a great car in its own right. I believe that this use of a car will seem normal in five to 10 years when we have plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars available to the general public. In addition, we will have implemented a “smart grid” that can charge the electric cars during nonpeak hours and potentially store renewable energy from intermittent sources such as wind and solar.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Fantastic work :) Thank you very much for posting this detailed information up. I own a 2000 Honda Insight which I would like to instal an Inverter such that you have, to be able to use the auto for short periods of time, for power needs. I really hope I can locate some information specific to my model car that will guide me in how to do such an instal :) Otherwise, you detailed post may very well be enough information to get me started, where with a little help from those more knowledgable than I ie Insight Central Forum- I just may be able to get this system up and running :) Thank's again, Great Work :D

Blackthorn Environmental said...

Great work! I never thought this can be possible.

Blackthorn Environmental said...

Quite a good idea! It really works, I am pretty impressed with the idea.

Kyoko Nitori said...

I would say that hybrid car is a good vehicle because aside from it helps the environment its fuel-efficient as well. tradecarview

Trent Palmer said...

Hello,
Its a fantastic topic.I enjoyed the topic so much.As for as my consolation we can of course connect an inverter to the 12 volt battery of any vehicle and use the vehicle as an emergency generator.Thanks
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Unknown said...

My 1999 Civic DX has a cheapo 165 Amp rebuilt alternator. It can output about 600 watts at idle, 1200 watts at 2000 engine RPM without overheating.
It can provide up to about 900 watts at idle and 2,000 watts at 2,000 engine RPM or so, but it starts to get too hot after a few minutes.

So, any car with a decent alternator can provide power to power a few refrigerators, computers, lights, even a coffee maker or microwave. But watch the Amps. unplug the refrigerators and incandescent lights when you run the high wattage appliances.

An idling Honda Civic generating about 600 watts will use about .33 gallons of gas an hour, I'm guessing. I know it uses about .25 gallons of gas an hour if it is idling without a load.

Trent Palmer said...

Hello,
Thank u dear for this valuable posting.I am really imprresed on this topic .Using of Hybrid vechile as a generator is a super idea for this generation.Thanks a lot dear.
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Srikanto Bormon said...

Volta thought that electricity was produced by contact between the two metals rather than as a result of chemical reaction. His invention would remove the study of electricity from the realm of curiosity and propel it directly into scientific laboratories. In France, André-Marie Ampère, professor of chemistry and physics, also drew on work by another researcher, Christian Oersted. In1820, this Danish physicist discovered that an electric current produced a magnetic field. A few weeks after the announcement of Oersted's results, Ampère succeeded in making a coil (solenoid) to create a magnetic field.
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Srikanto Bormon said...

The invention of the dynamo laid the foundation to discovery of other electric power conversion instruments such as the electric motor, the alternator which uses alternating current and the rotary converter. In later years, Faraday built a rectangular rotator which consisted of magnetic field regions of opposite directions. Some of the earliest alternators were built by Lord Kelvin and Sebastian Ferranti which produced frequencies of between 100 and 300 Hz; though in 1882 J.E.H Gordon, a British electrician built large two face alternating current generators.
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Sesilia said...

For the very first time i am going to know that a hybrid vehicle can be used as a generator,thanks i am greatly impressed by the work you done!In the event that you are unsure of the status of your Solar batteries, make sure to talk about it with
your aid counsel.

Chandler Covey said...

Excellent article! I have seen a lot of different home generator services, but this is excellent!

Van Roof Bars said...

There are many positive effects of using a hybrid car on the environment, and this is one of the main reasons why many people have chosen to buy a hybrid over a conventional gas-powered automobile.

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suki lee said...

Nice Post!! pretty informative..thanks for providing such a nice post.Much interesting describe about vehicle inverter technology.
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Steve Paul said...

It seems to be like an inverter! That is really helpful where there is no electricity i am gonna read that stuff to help my houston used cars

John Curtis said...

I think that the idea which you have shared is really interesting and I should try this to get some power to recharge my laptop. Thanks again for this useful idea.
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David richard said...
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hayley antoli said...
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Vehicle Inverter said...

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