Hybrid vehicle batteries playing second role as emergency power source for the home

JIJI

Since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, hybrid vehicles have attracted attention as alternative power sources in times of emergency.

Hybrid car batteries were used to run electric cookers and other home appliances amid the blackouts that followed the disasters.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. have been looking at expanding their lineups of cars that can act as such emergency power sources.

Hybrid vehicles need an inverter when supplying power to homes, as the stored high-voltage direct current (DC) must be switched to low-voltage alternating current (AC).

The Toyota Estima HV is currently the only hybrid that comes with an inverter. Toyota plans to increase the number of models with inverters by year’s end.

Mitsubishi Motors is considering offering an inverter-equipped model in a plug-in sport utility hybrid scheduled to go on sale by next March.

In line with such moves, Toyota Industries Corp. plans to increase inverter production. There have been increasing inquiries not only from Toyota but from other automakers as well, a company official said.

Some automakers are moving to have electric vehicles used as alternative power sources. Nissan Motor Co. has started selling a system to transfer power stored in EV batteries to homes.