In the event of a power outage, the electric car is more useful than you think

What if the electric car was more useful than you might think in the event of a power outage? Behind this paradox, in fact, hides a two-way charging technology, which can really help out in the event of a power failure.

The Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, warned on September 1, 2022 that power cuts could occur this winter due to supply issues. California is also faced with this electricity shortage: the network manager appeals to the common sense of owners of electric vehicles about charging their car.

In this context, for critics of electric vehicles, the announcement of possible power cuts makes people jubilant, imagining the drivers of electric cars unable to move. They see it as one more argument, in their favour, to refuse to do without their thermal vehicle. However, as you can imagine, the reflection is biased.

For some models, it’s even the opposite. By having a two-way charging function, they can actually help out the house by powering it with the energy contained in their battery.

Without recharging, electric cars would be useless

Unless you drive 200, 300 or 400 km daily, it’s hard to understand the argument put forward by some. Not all electric vehicles are equal when it comes to range. However, statistics show that the French average less than 50 km per day by car. At this rate, any electric car can last several days without running dry, even in winter.

Hyundai Ioniq 5 V2L charging socket. // Source: Raphaelle Baut for numerama

Apart from climatic disasters that permanently damage the network, cuts, load shedding and other restrictions that could be imposed on electricity will concern the day and periods of high network tension. The government often calls for reducing consumption, in the morning between 8 a.m. and 12 p.m., as well as in the evening for the peak of 6 p.m. Nevertheless, owners of electric vehicles, who charge at home, do so mainly at night. A period which is therefore not really threatened by ration cuts.

Moreover, speaking of occasional cuts in the power supply, it should not be forgotten that service stations do not operate without electricity either, not to mention the refineries which also consume a lot of it. Thermal vehicles also depend on electricity. If the autonomy of diesel vehicles is important, that of petrol models is generally closer to what an equivalent electric car can achieve.

Bidirectional charging (V2G, V2X, V2L, etc.): what can it be used for in the event of a power cut?

Not all electric cars offer it. It is often even an additional option with the manufacturers concerned. But bi-directional charging allows the energy stored in the car battery to be used to plug in and power other equipment.

MG5 and its V2L socket. // Source: Raphaelle Baut for Numerama

The electric car is even being developed so that it can, in the near future, be an integral part of the domestic electricity grid. This is called V2G or vehicle-to-grid. In the event of a voltage drop or outage, the car battery connected to the domestic network automatically supplements the needs of the home. It then recharges when the network is back to normal.

There are several different names with more or less similar functions:

  • V2X or vehicle-to-everything – from vehicle to multiple undefined sources,
  • V2H or vehicle-to-home – from the vehicle to the home,
  • V2B or vehicle-to-building – from the vehicle to a building,
  • V2L or vehicle-to-load – of the vehicle to recharge.

We are not yet able to really integrate the car into the electrical diagram of a house. The V2X or V2L are more generally presented and used as a gadget for many purposes, such as being able to plug: an electric bike, a plancha, a coffee machine or a computer on the socket in the middle of nowhere. An anecdotal function, but which turns out to be very practical in certain cases.

On Twitter, it’s a message from a Californian urologist who smiled on September 1. This clearly demonstrates the possible use of an electric vehicle to help out in the event of a power outage. He was able to provide a service to his patient, despite a power outage, by plugging his equipment into his Rivian.

A little earlier in the year, we came across the example of an Englishman who found himself without electricity following the Eunice storm. He had been able to connect several electrical devices in his home to his Hyundai Ioniq 5: the fridge, the coffee machine, the internet box and his computer, to continue to work and live more or less normally. In any case, the time that the current is restored.

Ford had even made it an axis of communication by releasing its Ford Lightning. Anecdotally, this feature could well prove to be much more useful than we think in the years to come.

Source: Numerama by

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