As Floridians, we are all familiar with the power outage during a hurricane. Unfortunately, this is something that many endured for weeks following the devastation of Hurricane Ian. While a prolonged power outage is certainly uncomfortable, it can also be dangerous as people don’t have refrigerated groceries or the ability to charge essential equipment – including life-support medical equipment. Luckily, electric vehicles (EVs) can serve as a solution as they have the potential to act like a generator and power your home.
This technology can significantly help families and communities improve their energy security and resilience during a storm. With the right legislation and initiatives to support transportation electrification, this added safety can add to the many other benefits of electric vehicles for Floridians.
Vehicle-to-Grid or V2G technology allows car batteries to send power back to the grid. Technology treats these high-capacity batteries as tools to power your car and as backup storage cells for the electrical grid. These directional charging stations push and pull energy to and from connected vehicles based on power needs.
By using Vehicle-to-Home (V2H) integration with V2G technology, electric vehicles can power homes, buildings and ultimately anything connected to the grid. For example, the Ford F150 Lightning and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 are among the electric vehicles that offer the opportunity to power your home. You can skip buying a generator before the next storm and instead use an inverter to send power from your vehicle to your home – you really can power your fridge with your electric car.
The innovation of this technology is growing day by day. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and General Motors (GM) have announced that they will pilot electric vehicles as on-demand power sources for homes in PG&E’s service area. The Ford F150 Lightning can send up to 9.6 kilowatts into your home, enough to power everything you need during a power outage except your energy-guzzling air conditioner.
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Larger vehicles such as electric school buses could offer excellent opportunities to support communities through V2G. New federal legislation, the BIDIRECTIONAL Act, introduced by US Senator Angus King of Maine, would create a program dedicated to “deploying electric school buses with bi-directional V2G flow capability” and would build on the guidelines of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
Because of their large batteries, electric school buses could be used to power emergency shelters and other essential infrastructure during an outage. For example, a report by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center found that an electric school bus has enough energy capacity to power the equivalent of five operating rooms for more than eight hours, or a single operating room for 43 hours.
Florida leaders and local school districts should aggressively use Environmental Protection Agency funds available through the Clean School Bus program to ensure more of these rolling generators are eligible for our hurricane recovery and response.
While certainly not a silver bullet, V2G technology can help give communities a boost of much-needed resilience, especially when coupled with rooftop solar and other technologies that are moving us toward a more decentralized grid.
With the right investments and incentives to support the transition to electrified transportation, Florida can be better prepared when a hurricane next makes landfall.
Mary Linn is a campaign organizer for the Electrification Coalition in Florida and Georgia. Nicholas Durán works on zero-carbon mobility initiatives for the Transit Alliance Miami.
This article is part of The Invading Sea opinion series from the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaboration of statewide news organizations focused on the threats posed by the warming climate.