Can a Toyota Prius power a house?

Toyota Prius V2H diagramFuture cars will be getting most of their energy from wall sockets, which means that more electricity will be drawn from the grid. However, that does not mean that tomorrow’s car will be just another energy-sucking appliance. Toyota is testing a system that will allow its Prius plug-in hybrid to power a house.

The Prius plug-in can recharge its batteries through an outlet, like a fully electric car, but it still has a gasoline engine for backup power. Toyota reckons that this engine can also generate electricity for a Prius owner’s house during power outages or periods of peak load.

An inverter converts the DC used by the Prius’ electric motor into AC for household use. Software allows the car, house, and charging stand to monitor the flow of current back and forth. The company estimates that a Prius with a fully charged battery and a full tank of gas can power the average Japanese house for four days.

Toyota says this new system will produce greener electricity by drawing it from the grid (or gas tank) at the best times. “With this new method, low-carbon electricity generated from regional or home solar generators, or low-cost late-night electricity, can be stored in a vehicle’s drive battery and then used to supply power to the household during peak consumption times,” the company said in a statement.

Toyota also said that V2H (vehicle-to-home) systems like the one being developed for the Prius could power emergency shelters during a disaster.

The company will begin testing the Prius V2H system in 10 Japanese homes by the end of 2012. If the test is successful, Toyota could move on to developing apps that would allow homeowners to control the flow of power between their cars and houses with smart phones.