Toyota is hoping that in the event of blackouts, Prius owners would be able to use their vehicle as a home power generator at least for the next few days. Toyota is currently doing experiments on the Prius to expand its capabilities. Similar to what other automakers have done with their EVs, the Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid can transfer power from home to car as well as vice-versa.
In most homes, the Prius can offer a total of four days of power. This is much higher than the 24 hours that Nissan estimates its Leaf to offer as soon as it develops the technology to move power from the car into the smart grid. In a press release, Toyota said that stored power is converted by an AC 100V inverter on the Prius into AC appropriate for home use.
Meanwhile, the power flow is controlled according to the link-up between vehicle, charging stand and home. Toyota said that under this new method, low-carbon electricity is generated from regional or home solar generators, or low-cost late-night electricity.
After being stored in the battery, the power can be used in the household during peak consumption periods. By the end of the year, Toyota will start to conduct tests on this technology in 10 Japanese homes.
By officially launching the new Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota is showing the world that there is yet another application of the brand’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. This is important given that this will serve to be the core technology platform that Toyota envisions for future models. What makes the Hybrid Synergy Drive unique is that it has a modular design, meaning it can be used on different energy sources.
Thus it can be utilized for Electric Vehicles (EV), Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV), and even Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV). Under an EV for example, it makes use of a simple configuration wherein no petrol engine is included.
In order to make up for this, an electric motor is instead used with the power in the battery made adequate enough to allow the car to be driven for a number of hours before it is externally recharged. For the PHEV, it will mean that the platform will follow the full hybrid system.
The long range capability is still there and with a more powerful battery, ensures that the all-electric range is extended further. Since these hydrogen fuel cells can produce the necessary energy for the battery pack, then there is no need to do any external charging.
What is left then is it refuels the vehicle with liquid hydrogen in the same manner as one would do with petrol. Though the EVs and PHEVs of Toyota will indeed play a significant part to achieve a low-carbon society, there are some problems that go with it.
For one, if a lot of vehicle owners decide to recharge the batteries at the same during a specific time of the day, then it means that power demand will increase. It is important then to remember that to avoid this, the charging time would have to be controlled optimally.