Hybrids, Plug-ins to Emphasize Emergency Power Potential

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake, stories began to emerge of hybrid vehicle owners using their cars to power appliances and cook food when power was cut off for hours or even days at a time. Unfortunately, only Toyota’s Estima hybrid van actually comes with a standard electrical outlet. But that’s about to change according to Bloomberg, which claims several manufacturers are working to add electrical output capacity to their hybrid and plug-in and vehicles.

In order to provide drivers with the basic power necessary to say, power a rice cooker, Mitsubishi and Toyota plan to offer outputs of up to 1,500 watts in their i-MiEV and Prius, respectively. The i-MiEV (or “i” as it’s called here in the United States,) will soon have an optional $200 output cable capable of sending out 1,500 watts for more than 10 hours.

The Toyota Prius hybrid will also include an outlet option, though the feature will initially be available only in Japan. Eventually, Bloomberg says that Toyota will offer the feature on its full lineup of hybrids. Unlike fully electric vehicles, these hybrids can essentially serve as generators, provide more than two days worth of power with a full tank of gas. Nissan will also reportedly considering offering outlets in its LEAF all-electric, though wattage and other details are still being settled upon.

In markets like Japan and other regions subject to power outages or natural disasters, the electrical storage and generating capacity of hybrid and electric vehicles could provide an added incentive to invest in an alternative drive vehicle. Look for some carmakers to use this to their advantage in marketing efforts, and highlight the fact that the feature can also be used for camping and other recreational activities.


  • Nelson Lu

    I don’t believe the article is correct. The Ford Fusion Hybrid that I drive has a 110V outlet. I believe, but am not sure, that the Escape also does, as do the GM hybrid SUVs and trucks.

  • Old Man Crowder

    I don’t know my energy conversions, but the article states 1500 watts. Is that the same as 120 volts?

    I think this is a great idea. Having that sort of power capability for upwards of 10 hours could be life saving, under some situations.

  • Nelson Lu

    Old Man Chowder, that’s not what I was referring to; we’re referring to two different things:

    “Unfortunately, only Toyota’s Estima hybrid van actually comes with a standard electrical outlet. “

    “In order to provide drivers with the basic power necessary to say, power a rice cooker, Mitsubishi and Toyota plan to offer outputs of up to 1,500 watts in their i-MiEV and Prius, respectively.”

    The 1500-watt output (and volt and watt are units that measure different things: I have no idea what the voltage of the 1500-watt output outlet will be) refers to *future* models. The “standard electrical outlet” language refers to what is already available, and it is not true that the Estima (which we don’t have in the United States) is the only hybrid that has a standard electrical outlet. That’s what I was referring to. My guess is that by the time that Toyota came out with this higher-output outlet for its hybrids, Ford and GM (and quite possibly others) will be doing the same thing as well. The article made it sound like this is a Toyota-only feature, and that is false.

  • Anonymous

    @Nelson:

    Apparently you miss the point of the article (of bloomberg).

    Try to connect a rice cooker to your Fusion hybrid and wait, wait, ….and wait, see what happens. Will it cook some rice for you? I think not. LOL.

  • Nelson Lu

    I didn’t say that the main point is incorrect. But how can such an awfully-researched article be defended?

    As far as connecting the rice cooker is concerned, I am not going to try it, but certain my car is quite capable of powering a laptop. I have done *that*.

  • hybridwatercar

    Get a Hydrogen hybrid Conversion installed in the SF Bay Area for $1600 for most cars and small trucks. These are HOD (hydrogen on demand) nothing is stored. Gas or Diesel on hybrid or not. Plus you get a tax credit for installing hybrid hydrogen upgrades. 35%-60% gains. Talk to @hybridwatercar on twitter or tinyurl.com/waterpowered

  • RobS

    110V outlets for cars often cannot be used with engine in idle, making this application useless for people in disaster zones, who most likely aren’t driving around and wasting precious fuel. Will cars powered by hybrid battery systems get around this problem, by operating in purely electric mode?

  • Nelson Lu

    The Fusion Hybrid’s outlet can be used when engine is off but the car is in drive mode; if the car is turned off completely, it cannot. I can’t speak about any other hybrids that I haven’t driven. Again, my entire point is that the article was mistaken, not that the Fusion Hybrid is a practical energy source.

  • Nelson Lu

    Indeed, this *2006* article talks about the police use of the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid as an emergency power source. (http://www.hendonpub.com/resources/articlearchive/details.aspx?ID=578) I don’t know if this article’s author basically was spreading Toyota propaganda that only Toyota hybrids can be used in this manner. If so, shame on Toyota.

  • Robert A

    I’ve used mine to cook chili while driving to a potluck before. The chili was piping hot upon arrival. It’s rated to a max of 150W, so it’s a bit limited, but it can do some things.

  • Shines

    This is what I know about it.
    Cars run on DC (Direct current), houses on AC (alternating current (not air conditioning)). You can buy at most auto shops (and some cars come equipped with) an inverter which can convert the car’s DC to AC. (Most home generators have inverters built in.) The amount of power available from the car depends on several things including the capacity of the inverter and the size of the car’s battery. Traditional vehicles have a small lead acid battery that mainly functions as a power supply to the starter to get the ice running. Once running the alternator (converts some of the ice engines power to DC) recharges the battery and powers fans, windshield wipers, defoggers and other electrical equipment on the vehicle. With an inverter any ice vehicle can be used as a generator to power AC equipment (such as a rice cooker). In most situations the engine must be running as the small battery cannot do much on its own. The point of this article is that hybrids have much larger batteries and can therefore handle more work (with or without the use of the ice engine) than conventional vehicles. Other than the false statement in the article that only the Toyota Estima van comes with a standard AC outlet (maybe this is true in Japan (but I doubt it)) – I don’t think the article is saying anything in particular about Toyota except that Toyota may be offering inverter options with all their hybrids. Today’s onboard computing would allow the inverter to run when the engine is in neutral.
    hybridwatercar – I think your water to hydrogen is bogus as the amount of energy needed to get the hydrogen out of water is at best equal to the amount of energy in the hydrogen produced.
    Anyway, having the car available to provide power in an emergency is certainly a good idea.

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