Using a Prius as a generator

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  • testdeetestdee Registered Users Posts: 1
    I am not an electrician, so I am wondering what I need to do to produce 110V power to run appliances from the back of my prius? Thinking of a single sewing machine, or maybe a electric kettle. Can I hook up a smaller pure sine inverter directly? (e.g., http://www.amazon.com/Wagan-EL2601-Elite-400W-Inverter/dp/B007Y4BL1C ) If not, why not, and what should I use instead?
  • MarkCMarkC Solar Expert Posts: 156 ✭✭✭
    testdee wrote: »
    I am not an electrician, so I am wondering what I need to do to produce 110V power to run appliances from the back of my prius? Thinking of a single sewing machine, or maybe a electric kettle. Can I hook up a smaller pure sine inverter directly? (e.g., http://www.amazon.com/Wagan-EL2601-E.../dp/B007Y4BL1C ) If not, why not, and what should I use instead?

    You could look into this APC UPS - SURTD5000RMXLP3U as it provides 120 volt single phase and 240 volt split phase outputs. I'm not sure about how it handles unbalanced 120 volt loads - I'd like some feed back on that.

    Appears your interest is using the 12 volt battery, not the "traction" high voltage battery. That is available on any standard automobile.
    3850 watts - 14 - 275SW SolarWorld Panels, 4000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy Grid tied inverter.  2760 Watts - 8 - 345XL Solar World Panels, 3000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy GT inverter.   3000 watts SMA/SPS power.  PV "switchable" to MidNite Classic 250ks based charging of Golf cart + spare battery array of 8 - 155 AH 12V Trojans with an  APC SMT3000 - 48 volt DC=>120 Volt AC inverter for emergency off-grid.   Also, "PriUPS" backup generator with APC SURT6000/SURT003  => 192 volt DC/240 volt split phase AC inverter.  
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Yes, as I understand, you can connect to the 12 volt battery in your Prius and use a limited amount of power (was it something like a 1,000 watts?? --Don't remember, need to do some reading/research) and the motor+traction battery will keep the 12 volt battery charged.

    However--for cooking/boiling water, using a gasoline fueled camping stove would usually be more efficient and less stress on the Prius system. Other fuels (propane, alcohol, propane, Coleman fuel, etc.) have other advantages (can be safer, longer storage life, etc. depending on fuel). Really depends on your needs (rare emergency use at home, dry camping, etc.).

    http://thenextchallenge.org/liquid-multi-fuel-stoves/

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • RobmooRobmoo Registered Users Posts: 3
    Would one of these get the job done?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16842111250&cm_re=ups-_-42-111-250-_-Product

    I'd like the option of using my Prius to power my home during and outage or to use as a generator while camping, but I don't want to put thousands of dollars into a Converdant kit.  It looks like it is possible to buy one of these converters for under $200 used on eBay.

    I've reviewed quite a few articles on using the Prius traction system to power a house and so far I haven't been able to find one of the UPS's that are used in the articles at a decent price.  I'm open to suggestions.  Thanks!

    When we lose power it is not usual for my side of the street to lose it for days.  I'd like to be able to run the 2 refrigerators, freezer, some light and perhaps a computer or TV. 
  • mrbighrcmrbighrc Registered Users Posts: 1

    The  Tripp Lite SU5000XFMRT2U equipment will require further internal modification in order to operate external equipment as it can handle

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Have you found any technical details about this unit? For example, I cannot find any information if it has internal batteries (what voltage, AH capacity) or how it would connect to an external bank.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • RobmooRobmoo Registered Users Posts: 3
    It has no batteries of its own.  It says it can connect to a generator and handle 208v.  It doesn't specify 208VDC.  The manual doesn't give much information.  It looks like Tripp Lite assumes that if you are looking at this product then you know exactly what it is for and how it operates.
  • MarkCMarkC Solar Expert Posts: 156 ✭✭✭
    Robmoo said:
    Would one of these get the job done?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16842111250&cm_re=ups-_-42-111-250-_-Product

    I'd like the option of using my Prius to power my home during and outage or to use as a generator while camping, but I don't want to put thousands of dollars into a Converdant kit.  It looks like it is possible to buy one of these converters for under $200 used on eBay.

    I've reviewed quite a few articles on using the Prius traction system to power a house and so far I haven't been able to find one of the UPS's that are used in the articles at a decent price.  I'm open to suggestions.  Thanks!

    When we lose power it is not usual for my side of the street to lose it for days.  I'd like to be able to run the 2 refrigerators, freezer, some light and perhaps a computer or TV. 
    This Tripp Lite  product is a step down transformer that requires a 208 volt AC single phase source of power.  It will only provide 120 volt AC.  The use the Prius traction battery, you will need a high voltage (DC) UPS that works with nominal 192 volts DC.  Tripp Lite may make such a UPS.  APC makes several models including the SURT5000 and SURT6000.  If you want common split phase 240 volt AC power (household U.S.), you will need a step down transformer similar to the Tripp Lite, but with a center tapped neutral such as the SURT003.  It will work - fully tested by several "PRIUPS" DIY'ers

    Several other types of UPS that work are listed elsewhere in this topic by techntrek.
    3850 watts - 14 - 275SW SolarWorld Panels, 4000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy Grid tied inverter.  2760 Watts - 8 - 345XL Solar World Panels, 3000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy GT inverter.   3000 watts SMA/SPS power.  PV "switchable" to MidNite Classic 250ks based charging of Golf cart + spare battery array of 8 - 155 AH 12V Trojans with an  APC SMT3000 - 48 volt DC=>120 Volt AC inverter for emergency off-grid.   Also, "PriUPS" backup generator with APC SURT6000/SURT003  => 192 volt DC/240 volt split phase AC inverter.  
  • JohannJohann Solar Expert Posts: 239 ✭✭✭
    techntrek said:
    Re: Using a Prius as a generator

    A good run last night, 14 hours and I put 2.8 gallons back in the tank........

    Last time my power went out, my 25 year old escort station wagon used 2 gallons of fuel in 12 hours continuous running and   powering a 2000/4000 watt inverter and a guesstimated load of about 1,000 watts.

  • RobmooRobmoo Registered Users Posts: 3
    Found a SURT5000XLT that might be available for $300.  Does the suffix matter?  Looks like the other SURT5000 model is a rack mounted model.
  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,366 ✭✭✭
    edited May 2016 #132
    Johann said:  Last time my power went out, my 25 year old escort station wagon used 2 gallons of fuel in 12 hours continuous running and   powering a 2000/4000 watt inverter and a guesstimated load of about 1,000 watts. 

    Not outputting 1000 watts continuous, and no way you only burned 2 gallons in 12 hours.  That is 83 amps @ 12 volts, which no car alternator can handle for more than a short period of time, and only with the engine revved up which burns gallons of gas an hour (same as going down the road).  I slept in my Sienna a few times running the engine for A/C, and it burned about 6 gallons in 8 hours, at an idle.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,366 ✭✭✭

    Robmoo said:
    Found a SURT5000XLT that might be available for $300.  Does the suffix matter?  Looks like the other SURT5000 model is a rack mounted model.
    Suffix doesn't matter.  That is a decent price.  But you will also need the SURT003 transformer to convert the 208 or 240 volt output from the UPS to 120/240 volts.

    You can get 1000 watts from the 12 volt battery if you want to go an easier route and only need that output.  12 volt models are plentiful and fairly cheap.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • MarkCMarkC Solar Expert Posts: 156 ✭✭✭
    techntrek said:


    Been able to use your Priups system lately?  I have everything sitting ready to go and tested, but not had any sustained power outages for the last year.  I'm hoping that will continue!  
    3850 watts - 14 - 275SW SolarWorld Panels, 4000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy Grid tied inverter.  2760 Watts - 8 - 345XL Solar World Panels, 3000 TL-US SMA Sunny Boy GT inverter.   3000 watts SMA/SPS power.  PV "switchable" to MidNite Classic 250ks based charging of Golf cart + spare battery array of 8 - 155 AH 12V Trojans with an  APC SMT3000 - 48 volt DC=>120 Volt AC inverter for emergency off-grid.   Also, "PriUPS" backup generator with APC SURT6000/SURT003  => 192 volt DC/240 volt split phase AC inverter.  
  • BearWolanBearWolan Registered Users Posts: 4
    I know discussion has been about converting the Prius to be a gen/batt set for an inverter... BUT has anyone thought of going a step beyond and taking one that's a totalled write-off and turning the 4 regerative brakes into 4 small wind turbines, paralleling Prius batteries for more capacity, adding your own solar panels externally and housing the whole engine/electronics setup in a small cargo container out back with the appropriate venting and cooling for the engine?

    Would the Prius battery end up being a lower cost battery bank and one that could scale and be serviced a cell at a time like they do now on rebuilds. A Prius third party battery now runs about $1000 exch.

    Seems that it could be workable if there aren't any Prius booby traps in the control eletronics that would disable the engine or charger if it were repurposed in this manner from an error code fault.

    Pretty much you would be making use of almost all the original system as much as possible for charge control. Sure you can add conventional turbines for the dark hours, but it seems you have the workings of 4 already wired in place with charge control.

    Insane?
  • BearWolanBearWolan Registered Users Posts: 4
    Oh, plus in runaway high winds you also have conventional braking to keep the turbines from self-distructing...
  • mvasmvas Registered Users Posts: 298 ✭✭✭
    BearWolan said:
    I know discussion has been about converting the Prius to be a gen/batt set for an inverter... BUT has anyone thought of going a step beyond and taking one that's a totalled write-off and turning the 4 regerative brakes into 4 small wind turbines, paralleling Prius batteries for more capacity, adding your own solar panels externally and housing the whole engine/electronics setup in a small cargo container out back with the appropriate venting and cooling for the engine?

    Would the Prius battery end up being a lower cost battery bank and one that could scale and be serviced a cell at a time like they do now on rebuilds. A Prius third party battery now runs about $1000 exch.

    Seems that it could be workable if there aren't any Prius booby traps in the control eletronics that would disable the engine or charger if it were repurposed in this manner from an error code fault.

    Pretty much you would be making use of almost all the original system as much as possible for charge control. Sure you can add conventional turbines for the dark hours, but it seems you have the workings of 4 already wired in place with charge control.

    Insane?
    Some issues to think about ...
    1) How much cogging in the Prius Motor / Generator? Typically, the generator in a small Wind Turbine has very low cogging. High cogging will prevent the blades from rotating until a higher than normal wind speed occurs.
    2) Max Power Point. What is going to regulate the RPM's of the generator shaft to provide Maximum Power output?
    3) How much does the Prius Motor / Generator weigh?
    4) How many RPM's are required obtain the rated watts and does that match the speed of a wind turbine shaft?
  • bill von novakbill von novak Solar Expert Posts: 711 ✭✭✭✭
    BearWolan said:
    I know discussion has been about converting the Prius to be a gen/batt set for an inverter... BUT has anyone thought of going a step beyond and taking one that's a totalled write-off and turning the 4 regerative brakes into 4 small wind turbines
    Yikes, where to start here . . .

    There aren't 4 regenerative brakes in a Prius.  There is one MG used for both acceleration and regen braking.  It would be very hard to adapt it to a wind turbine. The 4 brakes you see in the wheels are regular friction brakes.  And "small wind turbines" don't really work anyway - power is proportional to swept area, and has to be about 50 feet above any nearby obstacles, which means you need a large rotor up high to make any meaningful power.

    paralleling Prius batteries for more capacity
    You could do that - but Prius batteries are generally nickel metal hydride, and there are much better batteries available now.

    adding your own solar panels externally and housing the whole engine/electronics setup in a small cargo container out back with the appropriate venting and cooling for the engine?
    And then how do you get it gas?  And keep the gasoline from going bad when you don't use it?

    The big benefit of a Prius UPS is that you can have something that is both a car and emergency power source.  It's a pretty good car if it fits your needs, and it's an OK generator if it provides the power you need (2-4kW.)  But if it's just a generator you want there are much better solutions out there.

  • BearWolanBearWolan Registered Users Posts: 4
    Well just running through the options...moving outside the city to a rural area and will install solar and a windbturbine. Storage and emergency use is an issue and then pops up the Prius.

    Not happy with all the battery options I have found so far from wet cells, to gma or the other sealed units. Salt cells were eco friendly as an option.

    The Prius sounds like it makes a lot of sense to supplement in dark and windless times. Problem is I think I'd need two not just one for a total dark situation.

    Geothermal storage means a lot of custom site specific engineering and trial and error. It's still solar, but physical focused heat use. Something we will likely do for our hot water needs and possibly the cooling heat/exhange. Nice if we could use both in a combined setup on the hot and cold sides.

    There just is not much data on anything small scale that parallels the massive commercial projects for the DIYer (or I havn't found all the sources yet!)
  • bill von novakbill von novak Solar Expert Posts: 711 ✭✭✭✭
    BearWolan said:
    Well just running through the options...moving outside the city to a rural area and will install solar and a windbturbine. Storage and emergency use is an issue and then pops up the Prius.

    OK.  Make sure you know what you are getting into - 120 foot towers are not cheap, nor easy to install.  The Prius has only a few kwhr of storage; you would be better off with T105 batteries from Costco.  You cannot easily "parallel" Priuses.

    There just is not much data on anything small scale that parallels the massive commercial projects for the DIYer (or I havn't found all the sources yet!)

    Try Home Power; it's a magazine with decades of archives dedicated to small systems.

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 7,308 ✭✭✭✭
    MarkC said:
    I've changed out motors in my cars in the past, should be able to change a battery without killing myself!
    Change the motor out while it's spinning at 4,300 RPM.   That's lower power than what's sitting in the silent battery pack.

    Different tools, different skill set.  Tape up all the exposed metal on wrenches and screwdrivers, unless you like arc welding with them.

    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • techntrektechntrek Solar Expert Posts: 1,366 ✭✭✭
    I discussed using a dedicated (wrecked) Prius in a previous post, but the chance of triggering an error code is too great to try to mess with anything other than a stock setup.  It monitors current in and out, multiple ground fault conditions, etc.  Way too easy for it to think something is wrong.  Even my Prius-UPS setup can trigger an error if it pulls too much current when it is first hooked up.  I've had to pull the 12 volt ground connection many times to reset it.

    As mentioned, regen is done with the electric motors (there are two of them).

    Swapping out the traction battery is easy and safe if you do it right.  The key is the orange disconnect at the rear-left of the battery.  Firefighters can get to it in 15 seconds without tools (pull the rear deck out, pull the storage tub out, pull the disconnect).  I literally swapped out a battery two weekends ago - I bought a dead Prius for my teenage daughter to use which I know just needed a new traction battery.  Putting the disconnect back in is a little tricky, but if you get an error code it is easy to fix.

    If you are investigating alternative chemistries, look at flooded Nickel-Cadmium (not old-style NiCad). Many advantages, including the ability to be completely discharged, very low water loss, no problem with extreme cold or heat. Downside, not many suppliers and not cheap.  But seems to last for decades.
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 7,308 ✭✭✭✭
    techntrek said:
    .........If you are investigating alternative chemistries, look at flooded Nickel-Cadmium (not old-style NiCad). Many advantages, including the ability to be completely discharged, very low water loss, no problem with extreme cold or heat. Downside, not many suppliers and not cheap.  But seems to last for decades.
    No No - not NiCAD   The Cadmium is a highly toxic environmental poison and can turn your battery shelter into a Love Canal waste site.
    NiFe (Nickel Iron) batteries are nearly the same chemistry as NiCad, but without the toxic cadmium.  But the Nickel is quite expensive.

    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators Posts: 26,872 admin
    Also, make sure that you don't ingest nickle either--It is toxic to a degree too (if ingested).

    http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/metal-toxicity-health-dangers-nickel/

    But many/most metals should not be ingested/inhaled....

    -Bill

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • YottaWattYottaWatt Registered Users Posts: 2
    What about 3-ph power from a Prius or other electric car's own normal inverter for the traction motor? It's essentially a large VFD, right? (variable frequency drive). Can it be tapped for 3-phase? What is the frequency range (Hz) and how can that be regulated? I'd think it best, normally, to stick with a standard 50 Hz or 60 Hz, but there are uses for other Hz as well. Transformers, if needed, can become a bit complicated for non-standard frequencies, but may still be worth the bother. Application for all this is occasionally running a machine shop, in the boonies, where having 3-ph power installed is very expensive... tens of thousands of US dollars. The ability to do soft starts for multi-horsepower motors would be a big plus. How do the cars accomplish that, PWM (pulse width modulation) with simultaneous Frequency Modulation? 
  • YottaWattYottaWatt Registered Users Posts: 2
    The new alternative to Toyota's Atkinson cycle engines offers another interesting possibility... running on propane, natural gas, wood gas and/or biogas (gobah) from a landfill or other digester. That is made feasible by the new practice of late opening the intake valve rather than late closing it, which makes backwards airflow in Atkinson cycle engines. It's bad to push fuel back out of the cylinder. The new cycle prevents that possibility and even allows the use of a dumb old carburetor. Same consideration applies for any fuel not easily injected in a precisely timed manner, such as powdered charcoal. Some diesel-type engines have been run for decades on 90% to 95% inhaled non-liquid fuel, usually coal, charcoal or landfill gas, with the remaining small fraction supplied as diesel/biodiesel via the regular direct injection. That little serves mainly to ignite the alternative fuel. There are even some diesels which run on injected coal slurry. You may think 'powdered fuel in liquid fuel'... a reasonable assumption and certainly workable, but the truth is stranger: the slurry is of finely powdered coal in water! That requires modified injectors and low-ash coal, but it works. Charcoal would also work, but has high ash content. Use of water in the slurry helps, because it can wash away some of the ash. For best de-ashing, they simmer the powdered fuel in an acid bath, then wash it several times with water. Not having to dry it completely is a major benefit. With careful management of a multi-stage wash, the ash fraction can end up useful as plant food, a mineral fertilizer like potassium sulfate. Even a biological acid like vinegar might be useful, and would give potassium acetate in this example, which would supply metabolic energy to plants from the acetate ions... similar to the organic acids in compost.
  • bill von novakbill von novak Solar Expert Posts: 711 ✭✭✭✭
    YottaWatt said:
    What about 3-ph power from a Prius or other electric car's own normal inverter for the traction motor? It's essentially a large VFD, right? (variable frequency drive). Can it be tapped for 3-phase?
    No, for a great many reasons.

    One is that current sensors are used to determine where the rotor is and where the field in the rotor is currently pointing.  Start drawing additional loads from those lines and you will hopelessly confuse the inverter.

    Another is that there's no fixed frequency, and no way to get the speed to stay put.  The Prius has two motors and an engine, all of which are coupled through a planetary gear system.  Speeds are relative to each other and the system sets them depending on what mechanical power flow is needed where.

    Yet another is that while it regulates current (to set torque) it does not regulate voltage, which will vary greatly depending on RPM.

    There are several commercial 3 phase inverters out there, and a few that will work from the ~200 volts that the Prius battery supplies.
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