By Mary Linn and Nicholas Durán
As Floridians, we’re all familiar with losing power during a hurricane. Sadly, it’s something many endured for weeks following Hurricane Ian’s devastation. While extended power loss is certainly uncomfortable, it can also be dangerous, leaving people without refrigerated food or the ability to charge essential devices – including life-sustaining medical equipment. Thankfully, electric vehicles (EVs) can serve as a solution through their 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 supporting transportation electrification, this added security can join the many other benefits of EVs for Floridians.
Vehicle-to-grid, or V2G, technology allows car batteries to send electricity back to the power grid. The 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 the demand for electricity.
By using vehicle-to-home (V2H) integration with the V2G technology, EVs can power houses, buildings, and, ultimately, anything connected to the power grid. For instance, the Ford F-150 Lightning and Hyundai Ioniq 5 are among EVs that offer the capability 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 can truly power your fridge with your electric car.
The innovation of this technology grows by the day. Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and General Motors (GM) have announced that they will pilot the use of EVs as on-demand power sources for homes in PG&E’s service area. The Ford F-150 Lightning can send as much as 9.6 kilowatts into your home, enough to power everything you’ll need during a power failure except your energy-gobbling air conditioning system.
Larger vehicles, such as electric school buses, could provide excellent opportunities to support communities through V2G. New federal legislation, the BIDIRECTIONAL Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine, would create a program dedicated to “deploying electric school buses with bidirectional V2G flow capability” and build on the policies established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Due to their large batteries, electric school buses could be used to power emergency shelters and other essential infrastructure during an outage. For example, an Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report determined that one 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 pursue Environmental Protection Agency funds available through the Clean School Bus program to ensure more of these rolling generators are in the mix for our hurricane recovery and response.
While it’s certainly not a silver bullet, V2G technology can help give communities a boost of much-needed resilience, especially if coupled with rooftop solar and other technologies that help move us toward a more decentralized grid.
With the right investments and incentives supporting the transition toward electrified transportation, Florida can be better poised the next time a hurricane makes landfall.
Mary Linn is a campaign organizer for the Electrification Coalition in Florida and Georgia. Nicholas Durán works for Transit Alliance Miami on carbon-free mobility initiatives.