Electric cars vs. power outages

The recent severe power outages in Texas got me wondering if electric cars would be a liability in such a situation. Gasoline is storable and there, barring the inability of stations to run their pumps (emergency backup?) or to get deliveries due to supply disruption. But adding one more indispensable thing- transportation- to the list of things a power outage would disrupt seems problematic to me.

If the car had a range of 200 miles or more that would get you beyond the disaster area in most cases.
A second big benefit is that the car battery actually is a storage device for the home. Allowing things like fridges and geothermal pumps to be used for some hours into the disaster. It is rare for the power to be out more than a few hours. Solar panel uses use them for storage.

Actually people with hybrid trucks faired better than those without electric/hybrid vehicles. Also, you aren’t going to be using your car for much when the roads are impassable nor would there be much of any place to go.

Lastly, the cold isn’t a threat to power. Poor planning and preparedness brought about through shortsighed deregulation is a threat to power distribution, as seen in Texas. If the gas trucks ran just as poorly prepared as the power grid did, they’d be just as much of a liability! Oh, and I’m not sure gas can be pumped in a power outage, or the water therein kept from freezing (the gas itself wont freeze at reasonable outdoor temperatures, but some water might separate and freeze in the reservoir or otherwise gum up the system if there’s no electricity to keep it from doing so).

Conflating hybrid with electric here is not reasonable. Hybrid cars can run on gasoline and/or electricity, and are fully functional when the power is out. Electric cars can’t be (easily) charged or used beyond a single battery charge when the power is out.

Can you actually pull AC out of an electric car and power your house? Hypothetically, you could, but can you now? You’d also likely need to wire some kind of transfer switch into your house, which people generally don’t have.

This is relevant for a future fully electrified vehicle fleet with other infrastructure improvements, but not really for the current state.

This isn’t as widespread as you might think. For instance, while there’s a law in Florida that mandates that gas stations have the ability to enable a generator to power the pumps, it:

  • only applies to new construction (post 2006)
  • only applies to stations along major interstates that exceed a certain amount of pumps per station
  • doesn’t mandate that an actual generator is installed on the premises, just that the station has the wiring/switch to connect to one.

Not sure if done much but I have seen info on doing it. I suspect it is mostly done by hardcore solar users. It would require switching which would be very expensive. Tying your electric car into your own generating system is a major selling point for them. They are of little use economically or environmentally if they are using power company generated electricity.

I’m guessing that’s a kneejerk without bothering to read, because the relevant information was using the truck as an electrical generator. Hybrid cars can do that now, and the “next generation” of electrical vehicles are even using that as a primary selling point. You’d be hard pressed to do the same with an internal combustion engine without killing yourself

They can if they’re using solar. But no vehicle can operate if you remove its support infrastructure and fuel source. So, sure, if all electricity is out of the picture you’re in trouble. If, however, there were, say, a disruption in oil supplies, you’d be just as screwed with an internal combustion car.

I’ll grant you that short lived, local power outages are more frequent than oil shocks, but long lived, wide-area power outages like this one are actually just as rare.

Ah, yes. You could do the same with an ICE car, you’d just have to keep it running.

Heat pumps are likely direct wired, though, so you couldn’t (easily) run them off an extension cord like this.

During the great Northeast power blackout of 2003, many people were immobilized by lack of gasoline, as virtually no gas stations were operational. When power came back on, there were huge lineups everywhere. In one of those rare strokes of good luck, I had filled up only moments before the power went out. An electric car would not have been any better or worse. In fact for most people it probably would have been better, because if it’s always plugged in when not in use it would be fully charged most of the time.

From what I’ve heard it went both ways. EV’s lend themselves to be plugged in, thus ‘full’ when the lights went out, gas can go longer if the people are prepared and can fill up.