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'An absolute game changer' | Electric vehicles offer backup power for your home

Experts say bidirectional charging will become standard equipment on most EVs.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The new Ford F-150 Lightning and other electric vehicles hitting the market could be a game changer for homeowners, experts say, especially if they have solar.

Newer electric vehicles have enough battery power to keep the lights on in your home for days during a power outage. They could also help run your home off the grid.

When the power went out last year in Texas, Randy Jones, 66, used his F-150 Hybrid pickup to power his home, by plugging in extension cords to the tailgate power outlets and running them to his appliances inside his home.

Credit: Randy Jones

Experts say it won't be long until no extension cords are needed, thanks to bidirectional charging on electric vehicles (EVs).

“What that bidirectionality allows is you can flow the power out of the vehicle into the house, or from the house into the vehicle,” said Bill Powers, an expert in renewable home power.

Powers said the newer electric vehicles have five or six times more battery power than a typical Tesla Powerwall battery.

“It is an absolute game changer and these are just standard features of new EVs going forward,” said Powers.

The F-150 Lightning, for example, can sense when there is a power outage and automatically feed power back into the home through the vehicle's charging port.

The question becomes, could owning an electric vehicle allow homeowners with rooftop solar to go off the grid entirely?

“The electric vehicle with bidirectional charging capability by itself is a great emergency power source. But you wouldn't run a home off grid with that as your sole source of battery capability,” said Powers.

Presumably, EV owners would be driving their vehicle to and from work, so they would still want to have battery backup on the house, Powers said.

Even if the power went out for several days and all your battery storage was exhausted, you could still drive to a public charging station and re-juice the EV.

“Just cruise down to the supercharger, get yourself a latte, sit in the car for 15 minutes, put 150 miles on the car and then go home. You're good to go,” said Powers.

Currently, California’s big utilities are running pilot programs where smart EVs communicate with the grid. 

However, Powers said he doubts EV owners would agree to sell battery power back to the grid, unless the utilities offered a big incentive.

“The idea that an EV owner would be comfortable with the utility getting in there and discharging a third of their capacity and paying them some premium for it,  unless that premium were pretty spectacular, I don't see that happening,” said Powers.

WATCH: F-150 Lightning: Intelligent Backup Power

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