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Run house on Chevy volt?

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Rob Q · · 6 years ago

Can you use the Chevy Volt as a backup source of power for your house in the event of a power outage?


· · 6 years ago

@Rob Q - No. Not to my knowledge, although there are pilot programs underway, in Japan, to give the Nissan LEAF that capability. Folks have been talking about vehicle-to-grid exchange for a long time, but it's still an R&D effort, with practical products on the market still years away.

Check this out:

· Alex B (not verified) · 6 years ago

It may be possible, to some extent. I would not be as quick as Brad about dismissing the possibility of using your Volt as an emergency electrical power source.
In theory, for any automobile, it is possible to draw 12 volt DC power for accessories, be them connected through the lighter plug or under the hood directly to the car's electrical system. Even though this hybrid does not have at all the same battery system used by gasoline and diesel cars, it surely makes available some amount of standard, 12V DC power for accessories.
If you acquire a simple consumer device called a power inverter, you get standard 120 volt AC outlets to run off your car's electrical system. They are commonly used in RVs and for solar and wind home power systems.
There are smaller and larger inverters, and tests would need to be done of course, but some inverters will provide 3000 watts of 120-volt AC power, which is equivalent to medium-sized gasoline generators typically used by homeowners in emergency situations. Can’t power the whole house electrical heating system, or power your water heating tank while you dry your clothes, but still enough power, like any medium-sized home generator, to get by in an emergency situation if you plan your power needs before the emergency strikes.
We are not talking about nearly enough power or efficiency for selling electricity to the grid here, but that's not Rob's point.
For an emergency situation, in theory if you left your Chevy Volt "running" idle, and connected a power inverter to the Volt's lighter plug or ideally directly to the 12v source under the hood, you would possibly be able to draw anywhere between 200 watts and 3000 watts for a period of time.
Now, who owns a Volt and wants to test it out for us? Am I making sense?

· · 6 years ago

@Alex B,
You're right that the Volt can provide 12 volts. I'd need to hear from someone who knows exactly how the 12 volts is provided before we'd know how long it can provide that. The big battery in the Volt is much higher than 12 volts and I don't know how it steps the voltage down to 12 volts. With some EVs, such as the RAV4EV, the 12 volt battery is only charged when the car is on. On these cars, you'd only be able to draw 12 volts for the short time that the small 12 volt accessory battery lasts. With other cars such as the Tesla Roadster, the 12 volt supply comes from a DC-to-DC converter so they can supply 12 volts at reasonable current (200 to 1000 watts or more) for a very long time. With its 55 kWh battery, a Tesla Roadster could provide 200 watts for 11 days.
The question for the Volt would be: Does the Volt provide 12 volts when the car is not running? If you left it running, how much power would the car be drawing?

· James_from_yesteryear (not verified) · 6 years ago

Chevy is really missing out here. To provide a kit for back up generator use would be a great selling point.
If it were to be used for selling electricity to the grid there would need to be a cogen ( electricity and heat) system to maximize efficiency. The exhaust could be connected to a gutted gas water heater and the radiator hoses could be tapped to provide hot water for underfloor heating.
The hard part would be the creation and programming of a smart meter system that would only activate the ICE when it was cost effective for both the owner and the utility company.
If 10% of dwellings were hooked up outages could be a thing of history.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

The Volt is not sending 12 volts to the motors its in the 120-140DC range. It would be far wiser to simply skip the battery since it is only a 16Kwh capacity and use the generator on it. It is capable of making 80-90KW This is enough to run a neighborhood. Our home draws 6-8KW load when running all the toys. We use LNG for heat and cooking as well as drying clothes.

There are hacks in the works for both the Volt, Prius and Leaf.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

It would make sense to use the batteries to power the house, and when they get low, charge them with the generator. This would allow the power system in the car to operate pretty much as usual. I wonder if there would be heating issues in the battery and charger, since the car isn't moving.

This angle really needs to be looked at. In disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima tsunami, it would be amazingly useful to have lots of mobile power stations that can run lighting, refrigeration, and communications gear. The main problem would be finding fuel to keep the generator fed. If FEMA has fuel and AC power on site you could charge one vehicleat the base camp while another is on-site, and literally drive the batteries around to where they are neded.

I just added 4.8 kW of solar panels to my home, so I am beginning to consider a large conventional lead-acid battery bank with inverter and charger. Think of it as a really big UPS system. With an electric-only vehicle like the 24kWh Leaf, I could augment the batteries for a day or two of zero solar power.

· RM (not verified) · 6 years ago

I read about someone who hooked up the high power battery of his Prius to a commercial sized Uninteruptable Power Supply.

I don't know how the DC voltage compares between Volt and Gen II Prius, but it is a starting place.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Could a DC source such as a solar panel be used to recharge the Volt batteries without using an inverter?

· Sparky (not verified) · 6 years ago

Do not try to supply power to your house without a transfer switch to protect lineman repairing downed lines during a power outage. Keep it safe for everyone.

· · 6 years ago

@Anonymous, "Could a DC source such as a solar panel be used to recharge the Volt batteries without using an inverter?"

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: The Volt is designed to charge from an AC source only. To bypass the charger and go directly to the battery would take a major hack of the car. It would be more straightforward to use an inverter with the solar panels to generate AC.

· rcbryan (not verified) · 6 years ago

Re: Can you use the Chevy Volt as a backup source of power for your house in the event of a power outage?

Answer: My company provides a similar product for the Prius [1-2-3-4kw systems], and could conceivably do so for a Volt. Our 1kw unit can easily work on the Volt, but there are technical hurtles to be surmounted for larger wattages. Still it could be done.

· rcbryan (not verified) · 6 years ago

Can a Volt be used to provide emergency power to a house? Yes.
My company,, makes a similar product for the Prius [Plug-Out 1-2-3-4kw systems]. The 1kw unit will work on the Volt, but larger wattages require more research.

· Franklyn Knapick (not verified) · 5 years ago

Power from government sponsered wind and solar farms is a scam being forced on everyone by those who think that the technology really is green. solar panel

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 5 years ago

Well, kinda, yeah.. The volt has 2 - 20 amp 12 accessory jack cirucuits into 3 jacks. Assume you had 2 - 200 watt cigarette lighter inverters, I suppose thats enough to have one run a couple of CFL's and a radio/computer/cable box. And the other could run a TV set. Better have some backup "Happy Ice" for the milk and icecream though... You'd need some other facility for the refrigerator / freezer.

· Kim Surina (not verified) · 5 years ago

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· patb (not verified) · 5 years ago

Pity in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, that people can't use the Volt to power their homes.

· saxman (not verified) · 5 years ago

I'm about to hook up an inverter to my Volt, directly to the 12v battery, and it's been done by many in the Volt forum. To keep from draining the battery, the Volt ignition must be left on. Turn all accessories off, and dim the display panel. The Volt will start the engine and charge the 12v battery at, from what I remember reading, approximately every 15 minutes, and run for a short time. I don't know the max you can pull out of that little battery, but I'm going with 1500w, and will try to keep the load to a minimum. Some have actually removed the battery panel lid, and mounted the inverter permanently under that lid. There is a small amount of space for the installation. Remember to add a circuit breaker or fuse on the 12v battery cable for safety.

· Ray (not verified) · 5 years ago

Hi all. Yes the volt can be used as a back up generator. I run an automotive repair shop and own a 2013 volt. The 12 volt system on the volt gets its power from the apm (accessory power module). The apm is a dc-dc converter that takes 360 volts from the high voltage battery and drops it down to 12.8-15 volts for the 12 volt accessories and charging the 12 volt battery. Both the 12v battery & apm are located in the back of the car. Tonight I did some testing to see if the Volt could be used as a backup generator. First I bought a Xantrex Prosine 1800 watt inverter. I chose this inverter because it is "true sine wave" which means the 120 volt output is as good and in some cases better then the utility power at your house. Better meaning cleaner.

Now to use the volt as a backup generator you need to connect the inverter to the 12 system. I connected the inverter to the positive post of the 12 volt battery and the negative cable to the grounding post at the apm. Before going further I should say this only should by someone who knows exactly what they are doing. Do NOT cut or play around with the orange wires. This can be fatal. My goal here is to see if the apm can supply enough current to make the inverter useable. Short answer is yes. For measuring the apm output current I'm using the Snap On Verus and a high current probe. For voltage the display of the xantrex inverter. The Volt must be "on" and turn all the accessories off. Lights, radio, & climate control. So running a standard refrigerator/ freezer the inverter draws 15 amps. Which seems to be 200 watts on the inverter display. A drill is 100-1000 watts. Max current draw about 80 amps on the 12 volt side. So to max out the inverter & apm I used a huge 5 foot fan. The inverter 5 second surge is rated at 2900 watts. When the fan is turned on the apm maxed out at 190 amps. The inverter draw on the 12 system was 390 amps. This " surge " was only for about 1.5 seconds. Next we left the fan on high and connected a 200 watt stereo cranked it up for about an hour. The continuous draw on the 12 volt system was 60-70 amps +\-. Under load the apm maintains a steady 12.8 volts. After about an hour the display on the Volts center stack indicated we used about 0.5kw.

So yes the volt can be used as a back us generator. My next test is going to be how many watts on the 120v side does it take to max out the apm. And can the apm maintain that wattage for a period of time without overheating. My opinion is this 1800 watt inverter is probably a good match for the Volt as a back up power source. I calculate at 1800 watts you should get about 5 hours. Another test I would like to try is what happens when the high voltage battery is dead? Does the ICE start? And will it supply enough power?

· Dirk (not verified) · 5 years ago

Great experiment, Ray. My ideal would be to have a 5 kW solar system with some Trojan deep cycle batteries and a GM Volt to recharge in case of no sun for a few days. Running a generator during outages is loud, stinky, and wasteful. My question to you: is this possible? And how many batteries do you think I would need for my house (about 20 kWh consumption daily, slightly less in spring and fall)?

· Ray (not verified) · 5 years ago

Hi Dirk. So you use 20 kWh per day. And if you have a 5 kw solar system this means you are going to use 15 kwh per day from the grid? My opinion is the ideal would be to have a solar system & vertical axis windmill. The output of both need to be around what your daily consumption is. As far as batteries go I think at least 2 days of battery power should be enough. In your case 40 kw worth. I would build for 80 kw though. You never want to run the batteries all the way down. As far as the Volt goes. On pure battery power you have about 10 kw of useable power. But there is probably 10% conversion loses. The Volt could give you about half a day of power.

Now think about are using about 600 kwh per month. 20 kw x 30 days. At my rates 600 x $0.14 per kw= $84/month x 12 = $1008 per yr. So you one where to install a solar and/or windmill to go off the grid the break even point is probably 20 yrs plus. More then likely even more considering battery life & maintenance costs. In most cases this doesn't make sense. On the other side of the coin it makes all the sense in the world. It's fun! You can say look what I did. It's no different then someone building a $50k hot rod to see how fast he can go down the qtr mile.

· · 5 years ago

I'm afraid I have to question your math. If you have a 5 kw solar system, you'll generate 5 kWh (that's kilowatt hours) if you get an hour of direct sunlight. On most days, the sun shines for longer than that. In Southern California, I get between 4 and 6 kWhr per kw of solar per day depending on the time of year. This means that Dirk would get between 20 and 30 kWhr per day. This, of course, will vary depending on the slope of his roof, the direction it faces, and how cloudy his area is.

· Ray (not verified) · 5 years ago

Yep you're right. I was thinking 5kw/day for some reason.

· JasonT (not verified) · 5 years ago

Questions for Ray:

Thanks for the good information. Is the grounding post for the APM in the left rear side compartment with the fuses? Did you ground the Xantrex inverter to the vehicle? If so, where?

· JasonT (not verified) · 5 years ago


I removed the back panel and found the APM. One contact leads to the positive contact of the 12v battery and the other appears to be connected to a vehicle chassis ground. Does it matter which negative APM ground lug I use? Thanks

· JasonT (not verified) · 5 years ago

Never mind. I removed the rear cover and found the APM ground

· JasonT (not verified) · 5 years ago

Never mind. I removed the rear cover and found the APM ground

· · 3 years ago

Ray, we might be a little closer to your ideal. We have a 5 Kw solar array on the roof that actually generates about 30 Kwh/day on sunny days. The house uses only about 12 Kwh of that. Prior to our purchase of the 2013 Chevy Volt, the balance went back into the grid at about $.09/Kwh. We have been feeding the grid during the day and srawing from at night for lights and to charge the Volt. We have a fridge and large (20 cu ft) freezer that are our biggest loads. I have considered building a smaller off-grid array/battery system for just the freezer and fridge and a few lights for emergency use but to use it full time for the fridge/freezer. I think with that kind of minimal use system using the Volt as the battery might make sense. Needs lots of study.

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