One of the many advantages of electric vehicles is their potential to produce energy as well as consume it, and that's being tested to provide emergency power in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
VIA Motors, which makes plug-in electric SUVs, vans and pick up trucks, has a Power Export option that can provide enough electricity to power a home in an emergency, including sump pumps, power tools, lights, stoves, heaters, computers, and other equipment.
Like the Chevy Volt, Via's vehicles have a gas-electric generator that recharges the batteries while driving, but it can also power the 110V and 220V outlets installed in a port on the side of the truck.
California's utility, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), has been testing the trucks, although it only sent conventional ones to assist east coast utilities in responding to Hurricane Sandy.
"Not only does the extended range electric work truck reduce emissions and provide huge savings in fuel, it can also provide emergency power to help prevent outages and speed repairs for large utilities," says David Meisel, Director of Transportation for PG&E.
VIA is also working with the Department of Defense to test bi-directional connection to the grid, to provide emergency power to protect vital base operations and reduce energy costs.
The US electric grid doesn't have a cost effective way of storing large amounts of electricity needed for emergencies or to avoid blackouts. In the future, electric vehicle batteries could do that.
Via integrates its V-DRIVETM power train into new vehicles, which it sells to fleets under the VTRUXTM brand. Vehicles have a 40-mile battery range and unlimited extended range, averaging over 100 mpg in typical daily driving.