Your Car Battery Could One Day Be Your Home Backup Power

Perhaps you, like me, have considered investing in a home battery system — not to go “off grid” so much as to survive blackouts. Simply having solar does not give you such protection, because when the grid goes down, your solar panels do not generate electricity. That’s required by power companies, because they don’t want you pumping electricity into downed power lines as their technicians work to repair them.

Personally, I’m holding out for a future in which the energy stored in my EV batteries can be tapped to power my home during a blackout.  There’s a term for this called vehicle-to-grid, but a more accurate term would be vehicle-to-home, since it would be done in isolation from the grid.

Because I have two EVs with combined battery capacity of 170 kilowatt-hours, I have a lot of stored power available to me at any time, even if those cars are not fully charged.  For example, 100 kilowatt-hours can provide 5,000 watts of household electricity for 20 hours.

There are commercially available inverters for creating a 120-volt outlet in any car, either gas or electric, but inevitably some automaker — probably Tesla — will create an interface that allows for the electricity stored in one’s EV battery to be tapped for household use during a blackout.

Several electric trucks are going to hit the market in 2020 and beyond, and each will have 120 and possibly 240-volt outlets for field power, which is a good start. You could run an extension cord to power critical home appliances. 

Winter Is When Electric Vehicles Really Shine

You may think this claim is counterintuitive, but consider the following:

Electric cars never need to warm up. Get in, put it in drive and go! (In Teslas, there’s not even a “Start” button.) Moreover, your cabin will be warm in less than 1/2 mile, because it doesn’t depend on an engine warming up.

You’ll never break down.  There is hardly anything to fail. Remember, it’s just a battery and a motor (or two).  You’ll never stall and you’ll never need a boost. There are only 50 moving parts in an electric car. What can fail? I like to tell people that the only time you’ll see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s an accident or a flat tire or the driver needs to duck behind a bush.

With their low center of gravity and 50/50 front-to-back weight distribution, electric cars handle better and more safely on wet or snow-covered roads. The battery in most EVs is mounted underneath the cabin. My AWD Teslas perform better in snow than my AWD 2009 Lexus RX 400h did. Here’s a 11-minute YouTube video of all three Tesla models being test-driven on Tesla’s Alaska test-track:

Imagine the worst winter scenario, where you get stranded in the snow and need to survive overnight or longer in your car. An EV is perfect for that situation, because you won’t have to stop and start your gas engine to keep warm and worry about carbon monoxide poisoning. The EV will lose less than 5 miles of range per hour to keep you warm. And it won’t matter if your car is upside down. If you charged your car beforehand, you’ll have long-term warmth.

One of my favorite EV features is the ability to leave the climate system on when I go into a store or meeting on a frigid (or super hot) day. When I return to the car, it will be at 70 degrees.  If I’m going to be in a long meeting, I can turn on the heat or A/C using my smartphone app as I’m leaving the meeting room and know that the car will be comfortable by the time I get in it.

As I wrote last month, the best deal in electric cars is a used one. According to Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com), my good-as-new 2015 Tesla Model S 70D has a private resale value of $33,402. That is crazy.  I paid $93,000 for it new.

Seats Still Available for Next Thursday’s Information Session on Electric Vehicles

Golden Real Estate’s monthly Sustainability Series continues next Thursday, April 18th, at 5 p.m. with Session #4 about electric vehicles.

Eleven people have already signed up for this session, but we have room for twice that number, so sign up if you’ve been wanting to understand the technology, economics and practicality of owning and driving electric cars.

Did you know that electric cars outsold gas powered cars until about 1915? Drivers (especially women) preferred them until, ironically, the electric starter  made gasoline-powered cars easier and safer to start.

So, electric cars are not new. What’s new is the battery technology which now allows EVs to carry enough stored electricity on board to provide a range approaching that of a tank of gasoline — as high as 300+ miles.

Lead acid batteries were the only kind that the original electric cars could utilize. Today’s batteries are lithium-ion, but within a few years there will be solid state batteries.

This is just some of what you’ll learn at next Thursday’s session. To reserve your seat, email me at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com.  The session will be at our office, 17695 S. Golden Road, in Golden.

If you can’t attend, you might enjoy a 35-minute YouTube video of my presentation, “Gas Cars Are Obsolete — and Here’s Why.” It’s online at www.GasCarsAreObsolete.info.

The session is followed on Saturday, April 20th, with a “Drive Electric Earth Day” event in our South Golden Road parking lot, where you’ll be able to interview the owners of many different models of EVs about their cars and why they love them. An electric bicycle dealer is also bringing bikes to test ride! Register as either spectator of EV owner at www.DriveElectricWeek.info.

Electric Vehicle Event on April 20th at Golden Real Estate

Golden Real Estate is celebrating Earth Day by holding an electric vehicle round-up on Saturday, April 20th, from 10 am to 3 pm in our South Golden Road parking lot.

It’s a national event, called “Drive Electric Earth Day,” organized by Drive Electric Week, which is held every September. As with that event, we’re inviting owners of electric cars, trucks and motorcycles to show their vehicles and maybe offer rides. You can register online at www.DriveElectricWeek.info as either an EV owner or attendee

As an extra added attraction, I have invited Best Electric Bikes USA (who sold me my electric bicycle a few years ago) to set up shop and bring some electric bikes for test rides. Research has shown that owners of electric bikes ride more often and therefore get more exercise than owners of non-electric bikes. It’s true for me!

EV’s: Yes, They Have Lower Range in Winter, But Consider the Offsetting Benefits

Maybe you saw the coverage last week of the American Automobile Association’s warning that electric cars lose up to 30% of their range in very cold weather. This happens because the battery in an electric car is also used to warm both the cabin and the battery itself. This loss of range matters more, of course, when EVs have only 100 miles of range than in the newer electric models with over 200 miles of range.

Having driven EVs for seven years now, I can report that an EV is, in fact, the best car for winter driving. Here are just a few reasons:

You’ll never have trouble starting your car. It’s a battery and motor! Turn it on, put it in drive and go — no warming up. Also, you can warm up the cabin before you unplug. Even if you don’t, the cabin will be warm in less than a mile.

You’ll never stall or get stranded. And you’ll never break down. There are only 50 moving parts in an AWD Tesla. The only time you’ll find an EV on the side of the road is when it has a flat tire or has been in an accident.

You won’t have to gas up in the cold. Think of your EV like your smartphone. Plug it in at night and you always leave with a full charge in the morning.

It handles better in snow. An AWD EV has a 50/50 front/back weight ratio and a lower center of gravity, which translates to great traction.

If stranded in a blizzard, you’ll have heat. Even if your EV is upside down in a snow drift, the heater will keep you warm, burning only 5 miles of range per hour. And no worry about carbon monoxide poisoning!

Talk to any EV owner to learn more. If you don’t know one, call me!

Golden Real Estate Launches Sustainability Series

As you may already know, Golden Real Estate is a leader in sustainability, as expressed in the value statement printed on all our yard signs: “Promoting and Modeling Environmental Responsibility.” And most of our agents, including myself, are Certified EcoBrokers, having taken extra training in all aspects of sustainability as it applies to real estate.

We’d like to share what we’ve learned with you, so we’re launching a Sustainability Series that will take place on the third Thursday of every month in our office.  We can accommodate 20 or more attendees in our office, but we will move it elsewhere if the demand exceeds our capacity, so please RSVP. You can do so now for all sessions.

Each meeting will focus on a single aspect of sustainability. Here’s the schedule for the first six meetings (subject to change):

Jan. 17th — Home Insulation — Walls, windows, foundations, crawl spaces, attics. (This is a bigger topic than you might think, but it’s also the cheapest and most effective path to reducing energy consumption.)

Feb. 21st — Home Heating Methods — Forced air, heat pumps, radiant floor, solar thermal, and other technologies.

Mar. 21st — Solar Power — Rooftop and ground-mounted photovoltaic, solar gardens, solar panels vs. solar roof tiles, and home battery storage/backup.

Apr. 18th — Electric Vehicles — What’s here now and what’s coming soon in cars, trucks, motorcycles and more.

May 16th — Sustainable Renovation — What are the more sustainable and popular materials and designs?

June 20th — Water Conservation — The latest concepts and products for conserving water use, both indoors and outdoors.

All sessions are 1 hour long and begin at 5 p.m. in our Golden office or nearby if a larger space is needed based on the number of reservations received. The sessions will be led by experts in the field, although you can count on me to add my own comments!

Go ahead and reserve your seat for any or all sustainability sessions now by sending an email to  Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com. We look forward to producing this informative series!

Golden Real Estate’s Sustainable Practices

1)   Our office produces more energy than it consumes. With our 20 kW of solar panels, we heat, cool and power our office and charge our six electric cars. We also provide free EV charging to the general public, yet our Xcel Energy bill is only $11.26/month.  At our request, Xcel removed our natural gas meter.

2)   We accept polystyrene from the public in our “Styrofoam Corral,” keeping over 200 cubic yards of the material out of the landfill every year.

3)   We use only LED light fixtures and have four “sun tunnels” (skylights) for naturally lighting our office.

Click here to read about our transition to “Net Zero” in our Jan. 4, 2018, column, “Promoting & Modeling Environmental Responsibility.”