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.