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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I apologize for the (needlessly) provocative title, and for my lack of EE understanding. I'm a life scientist by training.

In SoCal last night we had very strong winds and therefore a PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff) in my neighborhood for almost 20h. Last night while I struggled to get my old Harbor Freight 2-cycle generator to run I kept thinking that I had a very efficient gasoline engine with a 17 kVa battery sitting in my driveway. There must be a way to use my car to run my refrigerator during power loss, right? Well I found some threads on other EV forums but not here.

Is there a smart and safe (for me, and the car) way for us to use our 2020 Clarity PHEV cars to serve as a backup electricity source for a household fridge? The alternatives that I see people talk about (powerwalls, generacs) are all in the multi-thousands of dollars. Any system that would be in the hundreds of dollars would be useful to many Californians driving a Clarity.

I bought my Clarity on Sep 12, 2020 and so far it's been great. I've bought gas twice...three gallons each time. L1 charging in my driveway. No complaints about the car at all.
 

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There are no 110 outlets on the car, such as my previous Ford C-Max had, and if there were I'm thinking the current draw from your fridge would be a bit too much to handle anyway. The car is designed to accept external charging from several sources and the ICE (internal combustion engine) will charge the battery but I know of no way to connect to a fridge and not void the warranty. A small generator might do the trick though.
 

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Suggest a 1000W "pure sine wave" 12VDC-120VAC inverter. Connect the inverter to the Clarity's 12V battery with appropriately sized cables and fuse or breaker, power up the car (ready to drive mode), and then plug in the fridge. The car's DC-DC converter will keep the 12V battery charged from the main drive battery. When the drive battery is depleted, the gas engine will start and run periodically to keep it charged.

A few cautions:
* There is a lot of stored energy in the battery. Be mindful when making connections not to short or reverse polarity. Doing so could cause damage or injury. Always use a fuse or breaker as close as possible to the battery positive terminal.
* The car cannot be locked from the outside when it's powered up, so somebody could get in and drive off.
* Make sure if and when the engine starts, the exhaust will not be safety hazard, such as in an enclosed garage. Hundreds of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If current draw is the limiting piece of the puzzle, perhaps adding a UPS system between the fridge and the car would be part of a solution? Do modern UPS backup battery systems have programmable control of how much current they will draw? I wish I had studied EE.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you for the suggestion for the "pure wine wave" converter, and the three caution points. Cautions 2 and 3 are very manageable at my home, and on a different forum someone suggested quick-connects to avoid the polarity reversal danger. But those don't seem to have fuses built-in.
 

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If current draw is the limiting piece of the puzzle, perhaps adding a UPS system between the fridge and the car would be part of a solution? Do modern UPS backup battery systems have programmable control of how much current they will draw? I wish I had studied EE.

I would suggest a portable "battery generator" (it doesn't actually generate electricity, it just stores it, unless you connect up a solar panel) like the Polaroid PS600.


It's designed to handle 300W output continuous, or 500W peak. I assume you can exceed 500W for very brief windows (a few seconds at most) but the breaker will trip if you draw too much power.


You should look up the specs of your fridge and determine what its maximum power draw is (multiply volts and amps to get to watts so you can compare to the 500W peak draw of the PS600). If it's close to 500W, I'd say go ahead -- if it draws 1000W or 1500W peak, you should probably find a different product.


I wouldn't recommend an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) based on lead-acid chemistry due to terrible capacity-to-weight ratio and slow recharge times. Lithium ion based UPSes exist, but they tend to cost multiple thousand dollars, and by then you should just buy a Tesla Powerwall.
 

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In SoCal last night we had very strong winds and therefore a PSPS (Public Safety Power Shutoff) in my neighborhood for almost 20h.
Not directly related to the car, but I am so glad I live where the power doesn't get turned off because of winds. I have a 120MPH roof on my house because of the wind and we never have wind related power outages.

My recommendation is you pop over to tesla.com and have a couple of power walls installed. If possible, have solar installed as well to charge them.
 

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Suggest a 1000W "pure sine wave" 12VDC-120VAC inverter. Connect the inverter to the Clarity's 12V battery with appropriately sized cables and fuse or breaker, power up the car (ready to drive mode), and then plug in the fridge. The car's DC-DC converter will keep the 12V battery charged from the main drive battery. When the drive battery is depleted, the gas engine will start and run periodically to keep it charged.

A few cautions:
* There is a lot of stored energy in the battery. Be mindful when making connections not to short or reverse polarity. Doing so could cause damage or injury. Always use a fuse or breaker as close as possible to the battery positive terminal.
* The car cannot be locked from the outside when it's powered up, so somebody could get in and drive off.
* Make sure if and when the engine starts, the exhaust will not be safety hazard, such as in an enclosed garage. Hundreds of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Similar to the OP I have seen previous threads about this, but they typically seem to steer towards a general discussion about the various types of traditional and/or more robust power backup options available. However as noted by the OP most of those options are costly. And the common and relatively inexpensive option of a gasoline powered generator can be inconvenient depending on how much space you have available to store it. And most of these options require at least some level of ongoing maintenance to make sure that they will work when called upon. Nevertheless these options make sense for someone who lives in an area with frequent power outages. But where I live power outages that last more than an hour or so are rare. However I have personally known people in surrounding areas that were out of power for two to three days during severe weather events. But I am hesitant to implement a costly or inconvenient solution to prepare for a situation that so far has not happened to me in over twenty years at this location. But it could still happen. If buying a small $300 or similarly priced inverter and keeping it conveniently stored out of the way on a shelf, which can easily be moved into place when needed and provide at least a minimum amount of protection in those situations, that seems like a very interesting option. But it is hard to come across real world testimonials about how well using the Clarity as a backup power supply works, as well as knowledgeable information about how to do it safely especially in regards to protecting the car. So thank you for the information that you posted.
 

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While it is nice to have a whole home Generac to completely power a home, they are costly. My 22Kw unit cost $9K with installation. But in tornado alley, we see frequent power outages than can last days. I've only had mine about 9 months, and it already has 100 hours of use on the unit.

You could buy a portable 2000w generator. One of these has more than enough power to run a fridge and a few lights. Here's one for $380 on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/iPower-SUA20...eywords=2000w+generator&qid=1611972278&sr=8-4

They sell these at Aldi as well. I picked up one for $200 on sale a few years ago.
 

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Not directly related to the car, but I am so glad I live where the power doesn't get turned off because of winds. I have a 120MPH roof on my house because of the wind and we never have wind related power outages.

My recommendation is you pop over to tesla.com and have a couple of power walls installed. If possible, have solar installed as well to charge them.
That’s a nice 50K solution. 🙄
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Since I started this discussion I'll provide feedback to where I landed. I bought an INVERTER generator (I originally bought a regular generator but my UPS systems didn't accept the dirty power) for $700 from Amazon (Champion) that runs on gasoline and powers my refrigerators and the UPS systems that power my computers and internet/wifi router. And it will charge phones etc. It still irks me that I had to buy a small gasoline engine when I have one in the driveway. Perhaps future hybrids will have carbon monoxide shutoff systems to prevent garage asphyxiation and thus pave the way for a "refrigerator plugin" on PHEVs.
 

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Since I started this discussion I'll provide feedback to where I landed. I bought an INVERTER generator (I originally bought a regular generator but my UPS systems didn't accept the dirty power) for $700 from Amazon (Champion) that runs on gasoline and powers my refrigerators and the UPS systems that power my computers and internet/wifi router. And it will charge phones etc. It still irks me that I had to buy a small gasoline engine when I have one in the driveway. Perhaps future hybrids will have carbon monoxide shutoff systems to prevent garage asphyxiation and thus pave the way for a "refrigerator plugin" on PHEVs.
What was the main drawback for using the Clarity, the carbon monoxide? In my case I can leave my garage door open or partially open. I would probably back the Clarity a couple of feet into the driveway to help keep the exhaust from blowing back into the garage. And then rely on the CO detectors in the house in the unlikely event that some seeps into the house. The engine wouldn't be running all the time anyway, maybe two minutes out of ten or something like that depending on the load being put on it.

My main concern is with the connection, I would have hoped that during a power failure you can just quickly connect the inverter onto the battery with clamps, but from I have read to do it safely it's a little more complicated than that, which starts to undermine the goal of convenience. I still need to do more research on the connection part, easy to get opinions on that but I would like to get some more factual information about it, which is not that easy to come by.
 

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I've been known to transfer the contents of my house refrigerator to the propane refrigerator in the RV I once owned. You don't need to buy a vehicle to go with it: Best Buys sells a 4.5cf propane fridge for $260 USD. I've never run low on propane while using it (it sips propane like a Clarity sips gasoline), and a simple 12-volt deep cycle battery will power the control board just fine for days, if not weeks. A standard barbecue propane tank will run it. Just toss in the ice cream and the highly perishables, and scarf whatever is in the now unpowered fridge.

As long as the grid is still up, I'd just as soon keep a full charge on my car's battery to enable a quick evacuation since most gas station pumps won't be operating much, either.
Just an idea; I'm trying to think outside the icebox...
 
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