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September 27, 2004

Buy a generator from G.M. and they'll throw in a truck


From Spike Gillespie's story on hybrid vehicles in yesterday's New York Times magazine:

But the secret, entirely inauspicious appeal of hybrid trucks and S.U.V.s may just be that most ubiquitous of domestic necessities: the electrical outlet.

The Ford Escape comes with a 110-volt outlet (for an extra $110), which is perfect for those days when the car pool is running late and you need to take along a toaster or hair dryer.

More impressive, G.M.'s Siverado and Sierra have four 120-volt outlets (two interior, two exterior), which in effect turn them into generators as well as a means of transportation.

Four appliances can run off the engine for up to 32 hours.

This capability earned G.M. some favorable attention recently during a power outage at a Nascar event in Indianapolis.

While the crowd waited for the electricity to be restored, a Silverado hybrid kept fans happy by running the M.C.'s audio system and XM radio sound panels.

G.M. also sent a fleet of 50 hybrid pickups to Florida after Hurricane Charley.

"They're being used as work and rescue trucks," said Matt Kester, assistant manager of communications for Hybrid Powertrain Systems at G.M.

"One is capable of powering four 20-cubic-foot household refrigerators. They can cool plasma or medicine."

I think this is huge.

I remember some months back, during one of Charlottesville's routine power outages after a thunderstorm, wondering if one couldn't use a regular gasoline-powered vehicle as an emergency generator.

You'd fill up your tank with gas, park your car outside as close to your house as possible, start the engine, put the car in "park," put the emergency brake on, connect an AC-DC power inverter, then run a heavy-duty extension cord into your house and connect up any appliances you wanted to use.

TV, computer, lamps, small stuff rather than refrigerators or the AC.

Why wouldn't it work?

I asked around but no one could give me a good answer as to whether it was feasible.

The use of a hybrid vehicle would appear to take my idea to the practical level.

Hybrids are designed to be emergency generators, in effect.

I will seriously consider one of these vehicles the next time I shop for a new car, for this reason alone.

September 27, 2004 at 09:01 PM | Permalink


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