Jan 15, 2024

Vehicle To Load: Can You Power Your House With Your EV? Part 1



Looks like I stirred up a hornet’s nest. After a post appeared in my news feed about powering your house from your electric vehicle using “vehicle to load” (V2L), I thought I would ask my various Facebook groups what has actually been done.

This is what I sent out: Hi all, I would like to write an article for about using the power take off on EV’s like the Atto 3 and the Ioniq 5. I am looking for people who are willing to share photos and real life experiences. Is it possible to power your house with your EV in an emergency? How? Unfortunately, I have a Tesla so cannot do this experiment myself.

This is the story that stirred up my enquiry — I didn’t think it was real: Katie Pie told me that she was able power her “basics” for the 4 days her power was off. The car supplied power for lights, fridge, freezer, wifi, coffee machine, kettle, washing machine and dryer. She used an extension cord and a multibox. The family had to manually manage the load (e.g., unplug the freezer while the washing machine was running, etc.).

Using a BYD Atto 3 and lots of extension cords, Katie was able to keep her house running during the blackout caused by Cyclone Gabriel. It is no longer a case of asking what do you do in an emergency if you have an electric car; it is proving to be a case of, what do you do if you don’t!

Here is her original post: “4 days and 4 nights no power and the car ended on 70% from 100%. Basics + 1 load of washing. Keeping in mind V2L will only work to 15% SoC, my new estimate is more like 7-10 days of usage in a power cut (half what I had guessed before lol). We didn’t turn the car on during the 4 days and had no 12v batt issue on restarting once our power came back. We used extension cords for everything but currently figuring out a system to plug into the house. Hope this is helpful. All the best to those still dealing with the cyclone aftermath xx.”

“Edit: hubby came home (electrician) and said it would be more like 14 days as we didn’t have the deep freezer or fridge on continuously to begin with. Yet to test if it will handle the water pump up to the top tank as we are gravity fed from there and haven’t run it dry yet. Our V2L cable arrived literally the day before the storm! So lucky.”

Coffee by Kona. Photo courtesy of Tom Brady.

Wikipedia tells us that Severe Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle devastated parts of the North Island of New Zealand in February 2023. It is the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere, with total damages estimated to be at least NZ$13.5 billion (US$8.4 billion), of which the provisional cost of insured damage is at least NZ$1.5 billion (US$920 million).

Ecotricity NZ deployed EVs on loan from BYD, Hyundai, and MG as mobile power stations to its customers. Watch (it’s only 6 minutes) them navigate severely damaged roads to get power to those afflicted by the blackout. It is no wonder BYD is on the rise in Australia and New Zealand. The BYD is currently the second best selling EV in Australia and Zealand, behind the Tesla Model Y.

Another story of V2L helping out in a crisis from New Zealand: “I have a 4 kW solar panel system connected to an 8 kW battery backup for my house. The battery backup can discharge at a rate of 2.5-3 kW per hour. When cycling, I used up the house battery in approximately 5 hours while powering three circuits: the TV, fridge, microwave, and internet. After that, I had to plug in my BYD battery. With the BYD battery, I was able to power the TV, internet, two lights, and occasionally use the kettle as needed. The fridge also remained operational. Surprisingly, the BYD battery lasted for a day and a half, and I only used around 10% of its capacity. The BYD battery can discharge at a similar rate as the house battery, around 2.5-3 kW. Overall, it worked really well.”

Numerous people shared stories of using their V2L capacity for camping and other outdoor needs:

BYD Atto 3 helps out when power is needed. Photo courtesy of Andrew Mcauley.

“At a local park and the public bbq was broken, meaning we couldn’t cook our snags. Atto to the rescue with the help of an air fryer!”

“Earlier this year my grandson and I were asked to play a gig at a function here in Gayndah. We turned up to find the power could not be turned on so we plugged into our Atto3 and got the job done.”

“We did that. We have an Atto 3. We had a power outage for 6 hours in the middle of winter. We ran a heater and the kettle off the car. Brilliant!”

During last year’s floods in Brisbane, a friend was able to help his neighbours by powering a high-pressure cleaner from his Ioniq 5. He tells me he bought the Ioniq over the Tesla specifically for this feature. He and his friends frequently go rogaining (similar to orienteering) in the Australian bush. With his Ioniq 5, he can power the entire campsite.

Getting back to my Facebook request: most people understood what I meant, but others had a little fun with the phrase “power take off,” explaining the PTO on tractors and land rovers or telling me that you just put your foot down and get plenty of power to take off.

So, your electric car is great for emergencies, and for convenience when you’re away from home and need some power — but can you plug your car into your house? If you can, is it legal? Would it be convenient? “Honey — I just have to pop out for a few hours — I’m unplugging the house.” I guess you would need some backup anyway, like a home battery or grid access. Stay tuned for the next article on this topic when we look at what people have done to power their homes using their EV batteries.

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

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