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Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: June 13, 2020 12:11PM
I'm thinking about it because hurricane season started June 1, and with Ms. Corona still going around, it makes the possibility of us facing a serious weather event even more concerning. TS Cristobal didn't hit us too hard, but with nothing more than a serious storm afterwards, good portions of my city flooded.

I don't know much of anything about the specifics of how to do this, other than that you need a power inverter ($100-200?) and probably some cabling, so hopefully one of you who've done it can edumacate me. (I've quickly looked at some webpages/YouTube videos, but there's a lot of conflicting info there.)

TiA




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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Bill in NC
Date: June 13, 2020 01:06PM
[www.priups.com]
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: btfc
Date: June 13, 2020 01:18PM
I use inverters all the time and have been off the grid on and off for about thirty years. I haven’t thought about using a Prius for generating power, but have thought about using an electric vehicle for extra battery storage.
Regarding inverters, total up the draw of the devices that you plan to use to determine the inverter size. For electronics you probably want a sine wave inverter. Note that the more watts you draw, the gauge of the cable will need to be fatter, and the length should be shorter. Use DC devices when possible.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 02:12PM by btfc.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: ztirffritz
Date: June 13, 2020 01:24PM
I have one of my Volts rigged for use as a generator using a kit from EV-Extend. They have kits for other EVs and PHEVs.

[www.evextend.com]



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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 01:25PM by ztirffritz.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: GGD
Date: June 13, 2020 01:29PM
I've been looking into this for several years and have been slowly getting the various components for what I intend to build, but haven't completed it yet, and have no experience yet with a long outage powered by our Prius.

What year Prius do you have? I'm using a 2007 with the 12V battery in the back so most of the info I've been looking at is for the 2004-2008 model years.

There are two ways that people have been doing this, connecting to the 12V battery with limited wattage, or directly to the 200V Traction battery for much higher wattage. I've only explored the 12V solutions.

A lot of my interest was driven by this writeup that's no longer available on the original website but the wayback machine still has it.

[web.archive.org]

The first thing to think about is the house AC side of things, and what you plan to power with it, and how you plan to connect all of that to a single power outlet. Or do you plan to build a "suicide cord" and feed power into the house through an outlet (and disconnect the main breakers so that you don't electrocute a lineman). My house was built with a generator input and a manual transfer switch, so there are several circuits that I can legally feed from a single power input source.

You can do a lot of that with just a power strip and a Kill-a-watt to see what your critical needs require.

Other things to think of is where the Prius would be parked to be close enough to run power to the house and also safe enough that nobody will steal it, since it will need to be kept running the entire time (but the ICE will only startup occasionally to charge the traction battery). And ventilated enough so that the exhaust doesn't kill you.

I've only considered Pure Sine inverters, and settled on a 1200 W that's a bit unconventional since it doesn't have an AC outlet, but has hookups for AC input and output and has an automatic transfer switch. It's also above the 1000W max that most people recommend so I may need to experiment with fuse sizes to keep it from harming the Prius. I plan to just wire an AC outlet to the output, but it also gives me the ability to directly wire in power monitoring meters before the outlet. It's $250 from Home Depot with free shipping, they don't stock it in the stores.

[www.aimscorp.net]
[www.homedepot.com]

I have run short tests of my setup using jumper cables connected to another car with the engine running, powering the inverter and feeding my generator input panel, but I didn't exceed about 400W in testing since there is no fusing on the DC side and the jumper cables are not an ideal solid connection to the DC power source with proper gauge wire for higher wattage.

I eventually want the Prius side to have an Anderson connector like in the PDF I linked, but since getting to the 12V battery is a bit of work I've been thinking of replacing the 12V battery at the same time, it was last changed 6 1/2 years ago with an Optima YellowTop DS46B24R, so I might get another and use the old one as an external battery in parallel for the inverter setup to handle higher surge power demands and allow disconnects from the Prius for short periods without power interruption.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Ombligo
Date: June 13, 2020 01:34PM
Do you really want to run down the battery when you don't know when the power will come back to recharge it?



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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: June 13, 2020 01:59PM
OK guys ... some good info here. To answer a few of the questions that have been asked:

1) Primary use for it if the power goes out would be to power a window AC. Without power, the heat down here becomes unbearable, both for myself and my pets. It's possible I might want to also power a fridge/freezer combo and to be able to charge devices (phone, laptop, etc.), but that's less critical. (I can do without lights, kitchen equipment, and other stuff...)

2) I have a 2014 Prius Gen III.

3) My understanding is that leaving the Prius running, you are continuously charging both the main/hybrid battery and the 12V. Some of the inverters are apparently designed to go off the 12V, whereas others can go off the main battery... as GGD states.

4) Also as GGD states, one of the major problems is that the Prius would have to be left running and be relatively close by. Unfortunately, I don't have a garage-- just street parking-- but if the weather gets bad enough, most likely I would park on my lawn ...

The alternative would be to not bother with the Prius at all, and get a regular gas-fueled generator and put it in the backyard, but those are substantially more expensive.




Freya says, 'Hello from NOLA, baby!' (Laissez bon temps rouler!)
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: GGD
Date: June 13, 2020 02:56PM
Quote
Ombligo
Do you really want to run down the battery when you don't know when the power will come back to recharge it?

I assume you're referring the the all electric vehicles, the Prius/Volt/Hybrids will be recharging the battery using the gas engine.

Quote
PeterB
1) Primary use for it if the power goes out would be to power a window AC. Without power, the heat down here becomes unbearable, both for myself and my pets. It's possible I might want to also power a fridge/freezer combo and to be able to charge devices (phone, laptop, etc.), but that's less critical. (I can do without lights, kitchen equipment, and other stuff...)

Compressor startup surge on both of those would be the big concerns and if the UPS can handle that. The "less critical" devices (phone, laptop, lighting) are the ones that are easiest to power, especially with LED lighting.

Quote
PeterB
2) I have a 2014 Prius Gen III.

3) My understanding is that leaving the Prius running, you are continuously charging both the main/hybrid battery and the 12V. Some of the inverters are apparently designed to go off the 12V, whereas others can go off the main battery... as GGD states.

4) Also as GGD states, one of the major problems is that the Prius would have to be left running and be relatively close by. Unfortunately, I don't have a garage-- just street parking-- but if the weather gets bad enough, most likely I would park on my lawn ...

The way this all works, and why it's so efficient is that although the Prius is in "Run" mode, the gas engine is not running continuously. It just starts when the traction battery gets low, fully charges it and then shuts off. There is a 200V DC to 12V DC inverter that continuously powers the Prius 12V system and keeps the 12V battery charged, and that's what the 12V to 120VAC inverter will draw off of and slowly discharge the large traction battery in the process.

Gasoline usage is pretty efficient, by storing all power generated in the traction battery and then waiting for that power to be consumed. Unlike running it off of a typical generator where the gas engine runs continuously no matter what rate you're consuming power.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: JoeH
Date: June 13, 2020 03:33PM
The AC being powered is likely the biggest hurdle, how large of a window unit are you talking about? About the smallest window unit is 5000 BTU, looking up one model from LG has that using 440 W. You might be able to power that off a 1000-1200 W inverter once surge is taken into consideration which is about the largest inverter you can run by connecting to the 12 V battery. Anything larger will need to draw from the traction battery.

The refrigerator will be less of an issue except if you have an unusually large one.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 03:34PM by JoeH.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: June 13, 2020 03:34PM
GGD, but wouldn't most people want to use this kind of a setup for things like an AC, refrigerator, etc.?

Related but separate point -- is it normal for a Prius to not start up if left sitting (not driven) for an extended period, like 4-6 weeks? I had to jump mine, the last time I used it.




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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Acer
Date: June 13, 2020 03:53PM
Quote
PeterB
GGD, but wouldn't most people want to use this kind of a setup for things like an AC, refrigerator, etc.?

Related but separate point -- is it normal for a Prius to not start up if left sitting (not driven) for an extended period, like 4-6 weeks? I had to jump mine, the last time I used it.

Your 6.5 year old 12V is showing its age.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 03:54PM by Acer.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: btfc
Date: June 13, 2020 04:00PM
Heating, cooling, and startup surges are the toughest to plan for, as mentioned. I’ve used propane fridges and a smaller chest freezer paired with a Yeti type cooler for cold storage (and also a root cellar type setup). Propane for heating, cooking, and main lighting, with some DC lighting. Lots of smaller rechargeable batteries as well, and a setup to use rechargeable tool batteries as a battery bank. Of course, your needs are different than mine.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 04:04PM by btfc.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: June 13, 2020 04:02PM
Quote
Acer
Quote
PeterB
GGD, but wouldn't most people want to use this kind of a setup for things like an AC, refrigerator, etc.?

Related but separate point -- is it normal for a Prius to not start up if left sitting (not driven) for an extended period, like 4-6 weeks? I had to jump mine, the last time I used it.

Your 6.5 year old 12V is showing its age.

Maybe, or perhaps it's stuff plugged into the 12V that is drawing current even when the car is off? (I'd thought about that, but not sure how likely it is...)




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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: RAMd®d
Date: June 13, 2020 04:29PM
Maybe, or perhaps it's stuff plugged into the 12V that is drawing current even when the car is off?


I'm not familiar with the Prius electrics, but if the car starts off the the 12V battery and only the 12V battery (no voltage reduction or charging from the Traction battery, light loads could certainly deplete a battery over several weeks.

6+ years is a good life for most general car 12V batteries, though some people have got more out of them.

Since you park on the street, a battery tender isn't really an option, though a hookup to the terminals and a 5A or better charger can get you going more conveniently than jumping from another car.

And you should check your cables to make sure they're clean and tight. I'd remove and clean them even if they look good, just for drill, if you haven't already done so.

A load test of your battery at the earliest convenience would be in order.

Lastly, you can buy various compact jump start kits (if you don't already have one) that are probably the most convenient way to go.

I got one that has a very decent LED flashlight, two Type A USB outputs, and is supposed to jump start a car with twice the CID of my car.

Being stuck with a dead battery is very easy to avoid these days, without depending on AAA.




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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Speedy
Date: June 13, 2020 04:32PM
I just had a startup capacitor replaced on my (whole house) a/c. When the a/c kicks in it is not noticeable by any light dimming, etc.; your inverter May handle a similar, small unit.



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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 04:33PM by Speedy.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Paul F.
Date: June 13, 2020 10:04PM
Sounds like it's time for a new 12v battery...
Sadly, at least in my 2007 Prius, whoever designed where the 12v goes (under the center console, which has to be disassembled to get to it!) was an imbecile.
I had mine replaced several years ago... and it cost more than $300 to get it replaced! PLUS the cost of the battery!
If I'd known that going in, I'd have torn into it myself.
I STILL don't quite get why they didn't design it to start off the "Main" battery.



Paul F.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: AllGold
Date: June 13, 2020 10:22PM
I don't think running an air conditioner is going to end well. It just takes too much juice. They say you shouldn't exceed 1000 watts with an inverter hooked to the 12v battery because it will overload the system and could end up being an expensive mistake.

I no longer have a Prius, and this is a previous generation Prius to what you have, but in the wayback I did this:
[forums.macresource.com]

My sump pump pulls nearly 1000 watts but it only runs for 10 seconds at a time and then draws nothing at all for a few minutes.

Other than doing the inverter-hooked-to-the-12v-battery routine, there is a way to wire an inverter directly to the big traction battery to get more power. It might not be a DIY project, at least it wasn't for me.

As far as needing a jump after a month or two, as others have said, your 12v probably needs to be replaced. Even so, it's a good idea to start the car every week or two and check the charge level of the main battery.

P.S.: Paul, the OEM battery is more expensive than a regular 12v battery because it is a sealed lead-acid gel battery not a regular SLA. But they still robbed you on the replacement cost. (BTW, the battery is actually in the trunk on the passenger side.)







Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/13/2020 10:24PM by AllGold.
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: GGD
Date: June 13, 2020 10:44PM
Quote
Paul F.
Sounds like it's time for a new 12v battery...
Sadly, at least in my 2007 Prius, whoever designed where the 12v goes (under the center console, which has to be disassembled to get to it!) was an imbecile.
I had mine replaced several years ago... and it cost more than $300 to get it replaced! PLUS the cost of the battery!
If I'd known that going in, I'd have torn into it myself.
I STILL don't quite get why they didn't design it to start off the "Main" battery.

I'm not quite sure what you're describing with the center console, I have a 2007 Prius and the battery is in the rear corner on the passenger side of the spare tire well, and while it does take some disassembly of the panels in the rear deck area, it shouldn't take $300 in labor.

Think of the Prius 12V battery as more of a PRAM battery, it's used to power the "Power Manager" to turn on the rest of the electronics.

I think some newer hybrids have eliminated the separate 12V battery and integrated it into the main traction battery.

My factory battery lasted a little over 6 years, and the car did require jump starting several times prompting me to replace it.

There's a hidden way to get it into a maintenance mode where it can display the battery voltage on the 2004-2009 models, not sure if there's a similar way for the 2013 model.

[priuschat.com]
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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: PeterB
Date: June 13, 2020 10:54PM
1) I'm actually pretty sure now that my 12V battery is fine. I had forgotten that I was using a Zus device that also lets you know voltage / battery health, and prior to corona, it had been giving me consistently good readings.

2) Checking on window AC's ... 8000 BTU will apparently typically consume about 650 watts when running. So depending on inverter capacity and what the Prius can handle, I would think it should be OK.




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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: June 14, 2020 12:30AM
Air conditioners can have a pretty significant power spike (1.5x to 2x steady state draw) when they start up, especially if they are started before the evaporator section completely depressures.



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Re: Anyone with a Prius using it as a generator?
Posted by: Racer X
Date: June 14, 2020 07:37PM
The 12 volt battery supplies the power to close the contactor (big ass relay) so the 200+ volt traction battery comes online. I have a '13 Plug-In Prius (pretty rare model back then)



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