PLUG OK license plate
My blog posting "Preparedness After Katrina"
Sep 6, 2005 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars and plug-in hybrid news. View the original posting here.
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Below is a piece of it. Missing are the links, inverter info, comments of others. For all that, read the original at­blogs/­power/­preparedness-after-katrina (Of course, I encourage you to link from other blogs and web pages to that URL)

Sept. 06, 2005: Preparedness After Katrina
Someday, millions of parked plug-in hybrids can serve as a reserve and load leveller for the entire nation's power system.

Meanwhile, here's one smaller idea -- something we could do now to prepare for the next time we face a regional natural disaster that leaves streets navigable and most buildings intact but without power.

With a little preparation, we could make tens of thousands of efficient, low-emission mobile generators available for immediate delivery to refugee centers and other key locations. That's what conventional hybrids, slightly modified, could become -- and we don't even have to wait until car makers build plug-in hybrids. We could equip each hybrid with an external under-$200 inverter that plugs into the accessory battery. (Or we could wire up a higher-power inverter to the car's high-voltage system. With more advanced engineering, multiple hybrids could together provide even more power.)

Here's how it would work for each 11.9-gallon-tank Prius, where, say, 8 gallons of gas is available, producing 12 kiloWatt-hours per gallon. One such car (parked, of course, outside to avoid carbon-monoxide buildup) could provide 1 kiloWatt of 120-volt power -- enough to keep critical services operating. Every four days, the car would have to drive, say, 50 miles to the nearest working gas station, re-fuel and then return. (Or, better yet, assign some hybrids to gas stations, being careful about sparks, to power the station pumps so they can re-fuel essential vehicles.)

Current hybrid owners would benefit by having their own 1 kWhr home backup for their refrigerator and lights for local blackouts. (That's also enough power for TVs and home computers, though they may require more expensive $500 sine wave inverters. I'll list a few typical inverters in an early response, but I hope technical discussions for engineers and electricians will happen elsewhere.)

Someone would need to organize inverter discounts, and arrange a special deal for electricians to hook up a single-point emergency power input to homes and larger buildings. Who might create this program? Probably not the Department of Homeland Security. The Red Cross? Electric utilities? Insurance companies? Car companies? Component makers? Car dealers? Hybrid owners online?

How about all of the above? (If it seems like a good idea but no institution comes forward, CalCars could help get it started. In order for it not to distract us from our main objective -- incentivizing car companies to build PHEVs -- that would take someone stepping up with funding, after which we could find a few serious volunteers.)

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