The Toyota Prius' battery pack just got something like a five-star rating from a truly seasoned professional – a 50-year aircraft technician. Bob Osemlak, who'd served more than three of those five decades with the Canadian Air Force, brought electricity back to his home in December during a heavy ice storm thanks to his gas-electric car.

His ingenuity allowed him to turn on lights, furnace, refrigerator and the TV.

The Thornhill, Ontario resident lost power for nearly a day on December 21 – not nearly as much as millions of other people hit by the recent storm - and so he still set about using his Prius for backup power, according to EV World. His ingenuity allowed him to turn on lights, furnace, refrigerator and the TV.

Being an aircraft technician for so long brought Osemlak the ability to home-brew his V2H set-up that he urges other people to avoid, for safety reasons. He had planned for a potential power outage by installing an outlet on his furnace and, when the storm struck, he ran a cord through the basement window to the car. During the nine hours Osemlak used his Prius for backup power, the car's fuel gauge only reduced less than one bar, or roughly the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

It wasn't the first time Osemlak had played with his vehicle. In the 1960s, while stationed in Winnepeg, Manitoba, he created a car starter. Every hour, the car would start up and run for 10 minutes to avoid being frozen solid in frigid winter temperatures.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 43 Comments
      David Murray
      • 1 Year Ago
      Call me skeptical. I've seen dozens of such solutions mentioned online and every one of them involves just using a standard 12V DC to 120V AC inverter. Which always leaves me scratching my head saying "how is this different from any other car?" Obviously if you could tap into the high voltage battery pack and draw from there, you'd have some serious power at your disposal. There are only two problems. You'd need to convert this power down to 120V or at least 240V and you'd need to convert it to alternating current. Not that this is impossible, but I find it hard to believe somebody could achieve all of this at the spur of the moment on an ice day and get it done in time to use the device before the power came back on 24 hours later.
      TPGIII
      • 1 Year Ago
      Much of the benefit mentioned can be had with little if any skill. I picked up a 750w power inverted from Harbor Freight for about $35US (w/coupon). It will handle 1500 whats peak and 750 watts continuous. It has alligator clips and can be connect to the 12V battery in the trunk no different than connecting jumper cables. Most modern refrigerators use very little power, maybe only 350 watts. I've run an extension cord to my fridge and verified that it works fine. There are two outlets on the inverter, and although I've not tried it, I could run a second extension cord to the my gas furnace, which just plugs into a wall outlet. I'm not certain of the combined load, but I could get a second inverter if needed or run one item at a time. My lights are all LED for CFL, so they add little load. If you leave the Prius on, the main battery will keep the 12v battery fully charged. Once the main battery runs low, the engine will automatically start and run long enough to keep an adequate charge in the main battery. The car engine will cycle on an off, but it far quieter, more efficient, and for more cost effective and having and maintaining a generator. Larger inverts are available, but any bigger and they must be hard wired to the battery. Not a difficult task, but the wires alone cost almost as much as a cheap inverter.
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      We had a similar issue here (although the weather wasn't nearly so severe and potentially dangerous. People who rely on electric heat (eg. heat pumps, a great idea for cooling in the summer) had some serious concerns. Those of us with natural gas heat were more than happy to welcome our friends over for an evening or so. I have no doubt that future BEVs will be capable of powering a home through their charging cords. OTOH, it's nice to have an alternative fuel source, and for many people natural gas is an easy choice to supplement the electric grid. Especially when that gas connection can potentially provide cleaner and more efficient power than what's available from the grid. Heck, I could even sell back my surplus electricity to pay for the gas! http://panasonic.co.jp/corp/news/official.data/data.dir/2013/10/en131021-5/en131021-5.html
        Val
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Do write back when you sell your first kWh back to the grid. Or when you manage to produce electricity at home from natural gas cheaper than electricity made in a gas turbine with co-generation.
          methos1999
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Val
          @ 2 wheeled menace - that's exactly what the Bloom Boxes are all about, they're planar solid oxide fuel cells. What's interesting is that Bloom is not selling them as co-generation (heat & electricity) units, but as electricity only. I suspect they may have done the cost analysis that for most companies it is cheaper to connect an additional electricity supply than plumb in an additional HVAC source.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Val
          If you had one of those magic 70% efficient natural gas fuel cells, you could actually make some money once you pay the damn thing off.. $$$$$$$$$$$ I am not sure, but i suspect that this is what the bloom boxes are all about.. big companies buy them to save money on their monster sized power bills.
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Val
          You can't make money off a Bloom Box, the energy isn't worth enough. The law only requires utilities to pay high prices for green power (carbon neutral) and burning natural gas isn't carbon neutral. You'd have to run it off landfill gas. There is no evidence companies are saving any money running Bloom Boxes. More efficient than ICE generators? Quite possible. Efficient enough to save money instead of buying the grid? No one has shown this yet. Bloom Box claims savings if you run off of landfill gas you would otherwise waste and you disregard all costs of installing and maintaining the thing. That may not really be a good measure of savings though, seems like cherry picking.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Val
          Val, if you read the link, you'd have a better understanding of how these residential fuel cells can save money. For a start, a fuel cell is already more efficient and cleaner than a gas turbine. Secondly, there's a reduction in transmission losses, further improving efficiency. Granted, there's capital costs to be taken into account - but they're not that far off the price of a solar PV installation, and they operate 24/7/365 with no seasonal variations like solar. "Capable of generating between 250 and 700 W, Panasonic and Tokyo Gas claim the new Ene-Farm fuel cell for condominiums can reduce primary energy consumption by 37 percent and cut CO2 emissions by 49 percent compared to sourcing electricity from thermal power plants and heating water using city gas. The companies estimate that = this could add up to savings of 30,000 to 40,000 yen (US$305 to $420) on an annual utility bill and reduce annual CO2 emissions by around one ton." http://www.gizmag.com/panasonic-ene-farm-home-fuel-cell-condominium/29487/ I know there's a knee-jerk reaction for ABG readers to be anti-fuel cell, but stationary fuel cells are a vast improvement over current thermal generation (read: coal, gas turbine) plants. As 2WM points out, that's exactly the reason why large corporations like Apple and Sprint are installing them. Here's a case study regarding Verizon using a 1.4 MW PAFC (definitely not meant for home use!) for CHP. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/pdfs/fccs_verizon10.pdf (not to mention an excellent example of how DoE fuel cell funding isn't just about automotive uses)
          Letstakeawalk
          • 7 Months Ago
          @Val
          "More efficient than ICE generators? Quite possible." -- Absolutely more efficient than ICE generators. "Efficient enough to save money instead of buying the grid? No one has shown this yet." -- Residential fuel cells have been demonstrating cost savings for several years now. "Fuel cells can generate power at a cost that can be competitive with grid electricity rates in some states. Bloom Energy’s fuel cell systems can generate electricity at 8-10 cents/kWh. ClearEdge Power’s fuel cell, used in a 20-year light commercial application, can generate power at 9.1 cents/kWh, which includes the cost of the unit plus natural gas, maintenance, replacement parts, taxes and installation. The levelized cost of energy for FuelCell Energy’s systems is 14-15 cents/kWh without subsidies (depending on the cost of natural gas), and with incentives (such as federal and California incentives) their fuel cell systems can generate power at 9-11 cents/kWh. At these prices, large stationary fuel cell power can be cost competitive in states with high electricity prices for commercial or industrial applications, such as Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Vermont, among other states." -- I hadn't mentioned it before, but there are also substantial water savings benefits in using fuel cells versus traditional power plants. Fuel cell customers also report water savings:  Fujitsu, which has operated a 200-kW fuel cell at their Sunnyvale, California, campus for more than five years now, claims to save 800,000 gallons of water per year.11  Honda installed a 1-MW fuel cell system at its U.S. headquarters in Torrance, California, and estimates that the fuel cell will save more than 3.25 million gallons of equivalent water used per year, compared to the average water demands of California power plants.  A Price Chopper supermarket in Albany, New York, saves 4 million gallons of water each year with a 400-kW fuel cell that was installed in 2010.  A Verizon call center in Garden City, New York, installed a 1.4-MW fuel cell system in 2005 that saves 5.5 million gallons of water annually. p12. http://www.fuelcells.org/pdfs/2013BusinessCaseforFuelCells.pdf "You can't make money off a Bloom Box, the energy isn't worth enough." Making a profit? Maybe not - although the utilities themselves are installing stationary fuel cells to provide power to the grid - but the utilities will happily buy excess power from your stationary fuel cell as part of a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that often can allow a business to install a stationary fuel cell with no initial capital cost, as well as covering operating and maintenance costs.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Um yeah... the electric power went out here in Utah last winter in the middle of the night and it was -19 degrees outside. Freaked me out because i could feel the temperature dropping at a notable rate in my house after about 5 minutes after i was rushing around, insulating the windows with every single blanket and piece of clothing on hand!! Luckily, it was only out for 15 minutes.. There i was, thinking that if this went on much longer, our house would look like the front door of the antarctic research station... lol I bought a small indoor propane heater this year ( much spendier than an outdoor one, but close to the cost of a hotel night which would probably be PACKED to the brim ) thinking that we may end up in the same position this year.. thankfully not! I now have enough understanding what the end-of-the-world preppers go on about to be prepared. Can't hurt to have a backup..
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Letstakeawalk
        Nuclear power plants ran at almost full output throughout the cold snap. How grid independent were those with solar arrays? When it is cold, snowy and the nights are short they don't help a lot.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 7 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Can a grid-tied solar array be disconnected, so that when the grid goes down the owner *can* benefit from their array? I understand why the utility wouldn't want power being fed into a downed line (workers need to be kept safe, no doubt).
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Most with solar arrays are not grid independent at all. Most customers are grid-tie because of the subsidies given to grid-tie. And grid-tie systems are required to go off when the grid goes down (anti-islanding). Most solar customers have no "zombie apocalypse" capability (yes, that's a term often used in the industry, even if unofficially).
      Exooc news
      • 1 Year Ago
      imagine to do that with VIA electrified pickup truck which has build in 3phase power outlet (next to inlet for car's batter charging) with VIA's 150-kW electric generator (motor) :p with that car you can power all neighborhood
      Randy Bryan
      • 1 Year Ago
      My compliments to Mr Osemiak for his easy solution to a limited power need [gas boiler] in the recent Ontario blackout. There have been similar tinkering solutions reported in the US for several years. There is also a commercial product line for larger loads. Just google "prius as generator".
      Letstakeawalk
      • 1 Year Ago
      A fridge, not so much. A stove, microwave, toaster oven - something - to cook with, yes. One friend lost water (frozen pipes). She suffered for a few days, in silence, because we all just assumed she knew that she could melt snow for use in flushing the toilets and washing.
      danfred311
      • 1 Year Ago
      The article is very short on details how it was done.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @danfred311
        It is short on detail.. So Idiots won't try to do the same and "Blow up their Car". I know some of you! Always trying to be creative...!lol It can be done easily on a Good High Wattage Inverter! I have done the same with an Inverter in my Car.. Gave me lights and enough power to ignite my Stove to cook on.. When I lost Power about three years ago in Fort Wayne Indiana.
      Ahmet
      • 1 Year Ago
      what fridge? put the food in the garage...
      CoolWaters
      • 1 Year Ago
      Sadly, we need this more and more in the northeast.
        CoolWaters
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CoolWaters
        You just need fridge, heater, one light and one radio.
          CoolWaters
          • 1 Year Ago
          @CoolWaters
          Or better, leave the food in the fridge, and plug it in.
          Letstakeawalk
          • 1 Year Ago
          @CoolWaters
          The fridge will generally keep food cool, even without being plugged in, for a few days. More, if you're smart and keep making ice (freezing outside, remember!) to put into it. Just a giant cooler, really. So again, no real need to use precious limited electrical power on that appliance.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Why bother turning the refrigerator on in the winter?!
      Actionable Mango
      • 1 Year Ago
      A large wattage inverter connected to the main battery pack should be standard, or at least an option, on EVs , EREVs, and PHEVs. The amount of utility it can provide is well worth the cost.
      Rotation
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Prius battery pack doesn't contain the equivalent of a gallon's worth of gasoline. He didn't get this energy from the battery pack, but from the gas tank. The car surely cycled the engine on and off to produce the power he needed.
        Jesse Gurr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        The article didn't say that the prius has a battery pack with the energy equivalent of gasoline. All it said was that the Prius used about a gallon of gas over 9 hours because the fuel gauge went down that much, not the battery gauge..
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rotation
        Yeah, but it is the Prius using an electric motor and the stuff needed for it that enables its use in this way. You can't do it with a normal non-hybrid car.
          Rotation
          • 7 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          I could. I'd have to cycle the engine on and off myself though.You can draw over 500W continuous from your car battery as long as you are replenishing it too. At 500W, you'd probably have to turn on the car every couple minutes. You might just resort to idling it, which would be wasteful.
          paulwesterberg
          • 7 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          You could, but you would burn a lot of gas.
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