Prius Generator Project
This page provides
information on my Prius generator project, which is a system to utilize
the battery and charging system of the Toyota Prius to provide power
for the home during emergencies.
First off, this isn't my idea, just my particular implementation. Full
credit for the idea and research for this project goes to Richard Factor
(www.priups.com). Please visit his
site if you are interested in all the details.
Disclaimer: This project involves high voltage and other potentially
dangerous activities and should not be attempted by anyone unless they
know what they are doing!
Note: Brief description of Version 2 is given below (Updated June 2019).
Original Version 1 from 2010 is below
The original Version 1 unit has served well since 2010, but the Liebert UPS that was used
finally gave up the ghost and would not start due to some power factor correction
error. In considering it's replacement, it was important that the new UPS supports
a cold start function, i.e. being able to start from battery alone, without line
voltage. The Liebert was not able to do that and I had to use a generator to start
it, as well as needing to keep batteries around, since it also did a variety of
pre-start battery tests that could not be performed with the Prius battery. Since Version 1,
several folks have determined that the APC SURT/SURTD 3000-6000 series also used 16
batteries and would cold start, so it was an ideal UPS for this purpose. The
only downside was that it was a 240V single inverter UPS, unlike the Liebert, which was
a dual inverter UPS. So an extra SURT003 center tap transformer was required.
These are both heavy
units (even without batteries) but if you are patient, you can eventually procure
them on ebay at decent shipped prices. Anyway, Version 2 is shown below on the left, with
the old Version 1 on the right:
As can be seen above, the new system is essentially smaller and more compact, despite comprising
two units and supporting the same capacity. The back unit is the SURT003 transformer and the front unit is an
IBM branded version of an APC SURT6000XLI UPS, good for 6000 kVA or 4200 kW. The
UPS only puts out 240V non-center tapped, so the transformer was required to
provide a 120V-CT-120V feed for the transfer switch.
The picture above shows the L6-30 connection between the transformer and the UPS.
From the transformer, an L14-30 connection goes to the POD, which was something
I kept from the Liebert, to distribute to two L14-20R and several 120V receptacles.
One L14-20 connector goes to the transfer switch. The Prius battery feed goes into the
external battery pack connector at the back of the UPS.
The system works well, and upon power failure, all I have to do is to connect
and start up the Prius, power up the UPS and flip the transfer switch.
Much simpler than the generator shuffle I used to have to do.
On a side note, just as I implemented this version, the Prius finally gave out
the dreaded P0A80 trouble code after 14 years and 155k miles. So I got to change
out a bad cell from the HV pack as well. I won't go into it here as it's pretty well
documented on numerous Youtube videos. I don't know if it's use as a UPS battery
pack affected it's longevity, but you can't really complain after such a long
time. After changing one bad cell, it's back to normal and I am getting the usual
2 mins charge, 8 minutes discharge duty cycle that I was getting before.
SPL June 2019
Historical Details (This is Version 1 from April 2010)
As an introduction, the system utilizes a large Uninteruptable Power
Supply (UPS) to deliver power to the house via a transfer switch. UPSes
are designed to operate on batteries for a short period of
time during a power outage, giving time to shut down devices orderly.
However, if you were to augment the internal batteries with the
battery of the Prius, then you could keep the UPS running for as long
as you have gas in the Prius. So, the goal of the project was to find
a suitable UPS and to hook it up to the battery of the Prius.
Well, in order to get power from the Prius, the first thing that is
required is access to the high voltage traction battery. This is
achieved by connecting to the high voltage battery leads in the trunk. I
did what other people have done, and that is to bring it out to the
driver side storage bin in the trunk.
As you can see above, I brought the battery connections out via Anderson
Powerpole connectors. The corded plug that goes into the socket runs to
another junction box in my garage
There's got to be a better way to get the battery cord out of the car!
Here's a view of the battery cord stored on the junction box. The cord is 12
gauge stranded wire, but from the junction box to the UPS, it's 10 gauge Romex.
This runs from the garage to the basement where it connects to the UPS.
This is an exposed view of the UPS and load center panel during initial
wiring. The battery wiring from the garage has not yet been run in this
picture. The UPS is a Liebert UPStation S 6KVA unit that I managed to
get on ebay for $295 shipped. The batteries were shot, so I
had to buy new batteries for another $184 shipped, so my total cost for
the UPS was $479. The original batteries were 16 pieces of 12V 12AH
units but I replaced them with 7AH batteries, as runtime wasn't an
issue and they were considerably cheaper. You can see that they occupy
less space than the original batteries in the battery bays.
The UPS consumes about 200W in idle mode, so leaving it on standby
continously wasn't an option for me. However, since the unit would not
start up without 240V input power, I needed an alternate means of
starting it. I settled on using my gas generator to start it. You can
see an existing generator transfer switch on the right side of the panel
that is normally connected to the generator. When I first loose power,
the idea is to first fire up the gas generator until the Prius makes it
home, and/or then use the generator to start the UPS. The UPS 240V power
outlet on the left of the load center is wired to two cutover switches above it
that can switch it from it's normal circuit breaker to the 240V from
the generator. Once the UPS is started and connected to the Prius
battery, input power can be disconnected and it will now be running on
battery. At that point, the input to the transfer switch is switched
over to the UPS output (manually via L14R20 plugs), and the gas generator can
then be shut down.
This is a picture of the completed and closed up system. You can see the
orange Romex carrying the battery connection coming down on the right
side of the picture. The white junction box just provides a way to
switch to flexible wires.
Here's a close up of the diode and heatsink, which was mounted where the
UPS fan could provide cooling. There is also an inline fuse inside the
junction box. I ran out of 10 gauge cord wire, so I used solid wire from
the box to the extension battery connectors at the bottom.
So, that's it. That's the whole system. It works well. Although I have a
6KVA UPS, my regular loads are less than 3KVA, so it's running very much
below it's limits. The battery voltage at the UPS varies between 210V
and 245V when connected to the Prius, which equates to 2 and 3 bars
respectively on the Prius display. I had some concerns that the high
voltage might cause the UPS batteries to overcharge and start to gas,
but it is at that high voltage for less than 30 seconds before the
engine shuts off and the voltage starts to drop. At my normal
consumption, which is mostly computers, furnaces, entertainment system,
lights, etc, the Prius runs a 23-33% duty cycle. Charging seems to take
about 2 1/2 minutes and discharge times vary from 8 to 5 minutes, depending
on the load.
I look forward to the next power outage :)
Constructive comments or questions are welcomed at priusgen (at) sandbox.org
** Update - Nov 2011
On October 29th, 2011, an early winter storm took out power for almost 2 full days.
The Prius generator performed flawlessly, and consumed about 5 gallons per day, which
was a lot less than a normal generator, but still a lot more than the grid.
SPL April 11th, 2010