Homeowners up and down the East Coast have bought a lot of hybrid converters, devices that turn their Toyota Prius into an emergency generator. In fact, ConVerdant Vehicles, LLC, which offers so-called Plug-Out Kits, sold out after Hurricane Sandy caused blackouts in upper Northeast, said owner Randy Bryan.
Given semi-regular power outages, there had been some interest in the kits before the Superstorm, Bryan said, but once the storm hit and local residents were plagued by blackouts for days after the downpour, the demand for Plug-Out Kits took off. "They're using it for a lot more than just a 12-volt battery," he said.
Bryan has used a Prius generator for non-emergency power tasks – from powering speakers and a microphone at a nearby sustainability fair to charging a Tesla (the mind whirls). Once the kit is installed, using it is a simple process – connect an extension cord from the car to the house or worksite and enjoy the power.
ConVerdant (the name means "with green") claims the Prius generator is much more efficient than typical backup generators, which need maintenance to keep them working and produce their fair share of noise and exhaust. Since the Prius has built-in stop-start technology, it only runs the generator motor when the battery gets too low. Of course, all the energy is still coming from gasoline, but stop-start allows the Prius to use only a fraction of the fuel required by typical generators, the company says.
Most of ConVerdant's customers are using their Plug-Out Kit on a second- or third-generation Prius or on a Prius V. The Prius C doesn't use the same battery, and neither does the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, so those vehicles are not compatible. ConVerdant Vehicles is testing out the larger li-ion battery packs and their potential for backup generators, but for now, the regular Prius hybrid powertrain is the natural fit. In Japan, Toyota is testing vehicle-to-home connections using Prius Plug Ins.
The Concord, NH, company also sells Plug-In Advanced Kits, converting hybrids like the Prius into super high-mileage plug-in hybrids.