Tesla Model S Provides Power During Irma Outage – Video


Camping mode is good for power emergencies too!

Hurricane Irma made her presence known in South Florida in a big way last week, leaving many without power for days. One of those was Brooks Weisblat, a serial Tesla owner probably best known for his Drag Times website. While he couldn’t power his whole house with his car, he did manage to supply juice to a few devices using a small inverter and putting his Model S 100D in what the Tesla community calls “camping mode.” As is his wont, he put together a quick video to demonstrate how this is done.

Setting up “camper mode.”

Basically, what you need to do is keep the car “idling.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a setting yet available to get a Tesla to do this — come on, Mr. Musk, the car camping crowd has been crying for this for a while — and so there are a number of steps you have to take to keep the car from shutting itself off after some time with no one in the driver’s seat.

First things first, though: you need a DC-to-AC power inverter. According to Weisblat, you can pick one up for about $25. Plugged into the car’s cigarette lighter, it’s ready for an extension cord to be plugged into it. Of course, since the amount of power available here is pretty limited, you have to be careful not to plug in to many things or you risk blowing a fuse in the car.

To achieve “camper mode,” the first thing Weisblat does is shut of unnecessary drains from the car like the climate control. One should also turn off the automatic wipers. Then he takes off the e-brake, and while holding the brake pedal, taps “the car is in park” message on the 19-inch screen, which puts the car in neutral. From there, he taps on “Parking Brake” on the screen to engage that function.

Now, the car will stay turned on, despite not having a person in the driver’s seat. With that achieved, you can then put the car in range mode, which gives you the option of turning off the most obvious power drain: the headlights. Voila! You have achieved “camper mode.”

With as much as 100 kWh of power stored in their batteries, Tesla vehicles have the potential to supply a lot more energy that what is available through just the cigarette lighter receptacle. Weisblat believes there may be away to tap into as much as a 2,500 watt supply and is actively researching the best way to do that. We suspect another video will be coming our way once that happens.

Source: YouTube

Categories: Tesla, Videos

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

65 Comments on "Tesla Model S Provides Power During Irma Outage – Video"

newest oldest most voted

This is stupid.

You don’t need a Tesla to run a cigarette lighter inverter.

Agreed. Doesn’t it have a traditional 12V battery that a higher wattage inverter could be directly connected to?

I wasn’t aware a Tesla had a traditional 12V battery in it, you usually see that in cars that have been converted from ICE vehicles, like my Honda Fit.

If it has that, and the Tesla will keep it charged by draining the pack, then you can get a battery-connected inverter with MUCH more available power and connect it to that battery. You could conceivably run a freezer off that if your inverter was beefy enough.

Yeah my Canadian Model “S” friends say the battery has to be replaced every year. But after looking at your link: Man what a stupid arrangement! They’ve got those fuses and connection points covering the whole top of the battery, and then the battery is a non-standard layout so that you can’t just put any old 12 volt AGM battery in from the corner parts store as you can with other manufacturer’s 12 volt batteries. The fact that the battery should almost never have to be replaced anyway, and instead is a yearly headache – especially if you don’t live near a service center is compounded by the fact that the battery is needlessly wierd. What a dumb design. Its so dumb it seems right up there with FORD’s design decision one year in the 1930’s to use bolts and nuts that could only be worked with FORD service center authorized tools so that people couldn’t work on their own cars, and this during the Great Depression. As the saying goes, ‘went over like a Lead Baloon’, and they dropped the idea after less than a year since people stopped buying their cars. This battery is right up there with… Read more »

Agree! After getting three batteries replaced (under warranty) about a year apart, I was faced earlier this year with an out of warranty replacement. Somewhere around $400 for another 1 year lead battery. I bought a properly sized lithium battery which Tesla refused to install. After eventually installing it myself, I can tell you it is not something you want to do. EVER. Just an exceedingly stupid design for replacing such an unreliable item. While doing the installation, I brought an accessible SB50 connector out giving me direct electrical battery access. As soon as I started getting the 12v warnings, I installed the first SB50 cable to the “behind nosecone” terminals. So, I can pull about 20 amps continuously out of my battery. STILL that’s only 200-250 watts. I put a 30 amp fuse on it; maybe I should consider 50+ amps.

We have two model S cars one is soon 4 years and the other one is soon 3 years both still using original battery. You must have bad luck .
I have never meet one Tesla owner that has replaced the 12 volt battery. ( but I have read about it before )

Yes, he makes that point in the video and is exploring options as to how to accomplish that.

He says he can get 2,500 watts out of it.

Just to meet code, for a single 110V circuit at 15 Amps, is 1,650watts

You missed the point and comparison that he made. You can use the Tesla car battery as a modest substitute for the Tesla home Powerwall (or the like). Tesla battery obviously a lot bigger than most home battery systems anyway. Many devices don’t draw that much power that you may want (charged phone, internet router, etc). With a gas car you would need to run the engine occasionally to recharge the 12v battery via the alternator as well.

There is a kit made by EV Extend that allows this kind of thing for a Gen 1 Volt, Gen 2 Volt, and Nissan Leaf.

With the Kit from EV Extend, it provides quick connection directly to the battery, allowing inverter sizes up to 1500W, though the vehicle needs to be powered on to keep the 12V system charged.

Example Link for Gen 2 Volt kit: http://www.evextend.com/Gen2-Chevrolet-Volt-Kit.php

Recent review from Puerto Rico purchaser after Hurricane Irma:

“After hurricane Irma much of Puerto Rico went dark. Without power, there was no internet and all cell services grinded to a halt. Luckily, I was able to eek out enough bandwidth to discover EVExtend.com and immediately realized that my fully charged Leaf sitting in my driveway could easily power my fiber optic and basic necessities. I hurriedly fired off an email to Eric at EV Extend, and he sprung into action; within 48 hours we went from having no power to having a plentiful source of reliable energy conveniently in my driveway. Can’t thank you enough!”

Unfortunately, as you kinda state in your disclaimer, that a 1500 watt inverter will not start my 26 cubic foot side x side in my kitchen. Apparently the industry has gotten away from an expensive ($10.00) starting relay for the hermetically sealed compressor to a PTC (positive temperature coefficient) cheapy disconnection device to disconnect the aux winding after it starts up. Unfortunately, when I try to use a 1500 watt inverter (I’ve tried 3 – one on the car and 2 on my SMA sunny boy solar inverters), the compressor fully gets up to speed, but the PTC hasn’t risen its resistance yet to take it out of the circuit, and the whole thing craps out even though the compressor has fully accelerated (and would have worked had Maytag still used the old, proper starting relay). I have a 2000/4000 watt (peak) inverter which is the only thing I’ve found so far that will start the thing.

It does vary a lot across brands and models. I have a full sizede 26 cubic foot refrigerator in my kitchen, and it starts fine with a 1000W inverter with 2000W surge.

As you point out, it’s kind of a bummer that the power required varies so much between manufacturers. Once the initial surge power requirement of the compressor has passed, my fridge only uses about 150W.

This has to be the “FAQ” question. EV Extend explains a refridgerator’s surge issue well. I wonder:

Q-If surges to 2000W are common, wouldn’t a lot more 15amp circuits blow? That they don’t tells me either that surges don’t trip breakers, as much as sustained loads, or that fridges don’t reach 2000 watt surges all that often?

A ~1500 watt circuit limit is fairly common.

Also wondering if surge ratings are common? I don’t have access to fridge, right now 😉

Well I question the use of the term SURGE since it means different things to different people. My refrigerator draws 3500 VA (around 30 amps) for 2 seconds. A 15 ampere fast-blow fuse is borderline here, but most people have usually 20 amp (sometimes 15 for a dedicated refrigerator), that will trip instantaneously at 200 or 150 Amperes, respectively, and shy of this will go through a time-delay curve. My First Norge 20 pound washing machine drew 98 amperes for a 1/4 second while starting, but then only Norge, (and the related Signature nameplate) had 3/4 hp household washing machines… My Tenant still uses it. Oh and another thing – this motor had a true ‘split-phase’ starting winding, as does my refrigerator. Many here are using the British use of the term Split Phase (funny that the Brits use it, since they probably don’t even realize that the facility is common in their country also) to refer to the reduced 120/240 volt single phase system commonly used in North America. There is nothing “Split Phase” about this wiring system as all conductors are in perfect synchronism with no phase shift. To call this system ‘split phase’ ignores: A). The correct… Read more »

Yeah, the time that an appliance draws excess power for during start-up can vary greatly. Inverter “surge” specifications are usually on the order of tens of milliseconds, and beyond that, they will turn off.

So with a refrigerator, sometimes it is less about the surge rating and more about the constant power rating being sufficient to handle that initial startup power requirement.

It would be nice to standardize but with normal grid power it rarely if ever a concern.

To answer your lunch point regarding 120V/208 used in Brooklyn homes, etc, there is nothing ‘split’ about this either, the legs are different phases completely. Now, the current that flows in the range (cooker) and the clothes dryer is ‘split’ from either of the 2 power legs and is in synchronism with neither of them. But back to the main point regarding the system commonly used in over 90% of the homes in North America – this is just a derivation of the old EDISON 3 wire 125/250 volt dc system, and there – there is no phase shifting or ‘splitting’ since everything is frozen in time in perpetuity. Other junk statements are calling this ‘2-phase’ power since there are 2 power legs. That phrase violates about 5 grammatical rules simultaneously – legs may be on different phases but it doesn’t mean all legs are. The crap about it being 2 – phase because of a 180 degree ‘shift’ is as silly as saying there is a time-shift in a 2 terminal battery because you can charge it today, and tomorrow you can discharge it, therefore there is a shift in time. A side definition of polyphase power is continuous… Read more »

You can use any car ..but 12V battery may last only an hour at best. This way it gets more Juice & can last for weeks..


If you want more juice you attach the inverter to the jumper lugs for the 12V battery. These lugs are located behind the nosecone in the older model S’s. The nose cone just pops off. If I remember you then are good for around 2500wats. The 12V battery pulls juice off the main battery.

You don’t understand the point of this. Putting the Tesla in “camping mode” allows you to run your inverter off the pack in the car. Try that with an ICE (or my EV) and you will run your car battery down and you won’t get very far with that. You end up running the ICE to keep the battery charged and if you’re gonna do that you may as well go buy a Honda generator. What would work better would be a larger-capacity inverter but most of them are designed to hook up to a 12V source. An inverter that can run off the pack would be ideal– this is called “site power” or “exportable power” for the commercial vehicles that have it. It usually requires a pretty expensive inverter to do this, and you *really* don’t want to be poking around the orange cables on a Tesla. You have to realize that after a hurricane you will be out of power for as long as a week or so– there are still neighborhoods in Houston that still have no power, for instance. Having exportable power to keep your freezer frozen and run a fan (it’s 85 degrees in Houston… Read more »

Why wouldn’t this work with a Leaf in ‘ready’ mode? The accessories should be drawing power from the main battery pack then, so is the problem that the car will shut down after a while?

You don’t need to run in camp mode if you attach directly to the 12v battery in the frunk, or tap into always on 12v wires. There is a 30 amp fused line that is always on for the power hatch which we added a plug to run our portable 12v refrigerator for camping. The car wakes up every 30 minutes to check the state of the 12v and will charge it back up from the high voltage pack.

You can buy up to 10 kW inverter like this:

But it doesn’t mean that alternator will be able to supply the power. 12 V battery can provide limited ampers too.

As for the hurricanes – you can’t buy any Honda or whatever generator starting by a day or few before hurricane when you start seeing “out of hurricane supplies” notes on shop doors. Post hurricane shops will open after a day or so at best. Also cheap generators are noisy and require regular maintenance.

Draining main BEV battery doesn’t sound like smart idea unless you are really sure you will be able to charge it somewhere else close to home, or have off-grid capable solar that wasn’t damaged. Gas is more readily available and can be stored for cheap if needed.

Yeah the issue here is that it is unknown (by me at least) whether the ‘alternator replacement’ DC/DC converter is current limited on current Teslas or other EV’s. On the Roadster I had it specifically WASN’T and that pulling power out of the 12 volt system from any other place than the 140 watt rated cigarette lighter jack would VOID THE WARRANTY. The first Model ‘S”s accessory jack was rated at 210 watts. In the roadster’s case, they had a small dc/dc converter (around 35 amperes), and high current consumption of the anti-lock hydraulic pulser motor would shut off other accessories through the computer managing the total 12 volt load, which would also temporarily open the cigarette lighter. Going directly on the battery would increase the load on the converter since the computer obviously wouldn’t know what is going on, – that’s why. I suppose I’m taking a bit of a chance with my GM products since I don’t know if the 140/170 ampere converters are current limited, but a LARGE inverter is only needed for 2 seconds or so for motor starting. The average draw during emergency conditions is usually only 1500 watts or so, so within its ratings… Read more »

Most power companies, at least around here, allow homes with solar panels even in the event of a grid outage where your service would normally be completely off one 120v 20a outlet to be powered by the sun.

Heck, some inverters now even have the capability built in to them – http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/energy-solutions/getting-power-solar-equipment-when-grid-down

That seems to make a hell of a lot more sense than this if you ask me. Although you have to have the solar panels to be able to do it though admittedly but as has been said many times a shocking % of people with an EV have solar panels 😀

Sounds like a great way to charge your car at 20 amps during the day, then power appliances from the car at night.

Ya, I can see that as well.

IIRC some guy did it with his Volt. 5 years ago to boot 😀

Was working and randomly that thought came in to my head!

Ahh yes here it is – http://gm-volt.com/2012/11/01/a-chevy-volt-as-an-emergency-electricity-generator/

Or a video for those who are so inclined:

Exactly. I have one of these outlets built into my solar inverter. At least on my model, even when the system is generating 2500 watts, if I ask it to send 1500 (12 amps) to the car, it fails and will only charge at 8 amps (1000 watts).

Still, that’s plenty of power to run the fridge a few times during the day and add a few KWh to the battery pack, and then use something like this method (I use a separate inverter connected to the 12v battery) to run things at night.

A Powerwall would be better and much more automatic, but this system can keep the house functional indefinitely.

Oh great, another Steven.

This is going to get confusing.

Better add another initial, (=

Or an avatar over at gravatar. 🙂

Here is another example of what DJ was talking about using the SMA Sunny Boy inverters.


It’s surprising that some posting here don’t understand how this works.

The car must be “on” for the propulsion pack to charge the 12v battery through a DC-DC converter. The DC-DC converter is limited to the amount of wattage it can deliver. The wiring and fusing to the 12v battery from the DC-DC converter is sized for that wattage.

This allows you to draw a few hundred watts from the propulsion pack “through” the DC-DC/12v system. You can likely do this continuously for at least a week from a fully charged propulsion pack.

The Tesla DC/DC converter is rated for 2,500W. That is more than most 12V inverters you will find. Most of those are limited to 125 amps DC, 1,500W. I would not call that “limited”.

There are tons of battery inverters on the market …

I posted before watching the video. Amazingly, the Tesla DC-DC can deliver 2500 watts. That is a lot more than your average conversion does. You would need to go directing to the 12v battery to make this happen.

So… Brooks has two 100kWh Teslas conceivably offering 5000 Watts of continuous power. This is enough to run virtually “all” loads in the house including refrigeration, coffee maker, washer and dryer, air conditioning, and space heating, though not all at the same time 🙂 Try that with your ICE with a 12v battery!

To bolster Roy’s logic, it is the DC-DC converter in the car that determines the upper limit of power that can/should be taken from an electric/hybrid car’s 12v system. But, I also suggest not to get an inverter that equals or exceeds the DC-DC converter spec… choose an inverter that is rated at 20-25% below the dc-dc converter, just to be safe. Mistakes/burnots can get expensive.

EV’s are required to have conventional 12VDC batteries that are capable of shutting down the relay t turn on and of the connection to the high power battery. It will break the circuit in case of an accident. A lot of low power auxiliary devices also directly run from the 12V circuit.
You could conceivably do the same with most any car, but, would have to run it frequently. I wouldn’t want IC engine exhaust filling my attached garage for hours at a time.

“First things first, though: you need a DC-to-AC power inverter. According to Weisblat, you can pick one up for about $25.” Ugh. Unless you want to power something more important than a lamp, this is basically useless. Especially the cheap $25 ones. What was he powering, anyway? It wasn’t keeping anything important like his freezer running, that’s for sure. That said, I can do the same thing with my Leaf if I just hook an inverter up to the 12v battery, or even disconnect that and connect the inverter directly to the DC-DC converter. But the very best way to accomplish this is with a hybrid. Then it runs as a generator (and does the job far quieter and cleaner than any other kind of generator) if and only if the battery is too low. The same principle applies. You can even power a significant portion of your house if you do it just right and you are super careful. And you can kill yourself or turn your inverter into a smoking paperweight if you do not do it just right. It’s usually better to just use an extension cord to reach your fridge and a spare lamp for this… Read more »

You can find 1500W pure sinewave inverters as cheap as $210 now, if okay with a “hot neutral” configuration.

I cant wait to supercharge for free and then drive home and power my house !

Electric cars already have a built in inverter for transforming DC battery power to AC in order to power the AC motor. Shouldn’t it be possible to use this to provide AC power to a standard electrical socket? Why don’t electric cars already come with such a socket installed in their trunk?

Not too many things in a house run at the 300+ Volts the Cars Motor runs at! Also, this high voltage inverter is not at a strait 60 Hz or 60 Cycles, either!

However, having an EV with V2H (Vehicle to Home), is the next step, and seems to be a general current conversation!

I think the Nissan Leaf –
In Japan – had a box you plugged into the BiDirectional CHAdeMO port for that! Not sure anything like that has been built for CCS or if it is a BiDirectional standard, though.

AC 3 phase is different from typical household single phase 120V or split phase 180 degree 240V system.

But yes, it can be done, but not as easy as one thinks.

If only he had a leaf he could have used the chademo connection and had 5 kW of power

Or he could buy a Tesla Chademo adapter and do the same thing but for 3 times longer.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Best to use a Puresine inverter and not the cheap modified sine.

I’m not sure how this is news. People have been attaching inverters to the 12V batteries in their Volts since 2011. The big battery keeps the 12V battery charged. And the engine can run occasionally to keep the big battery charged.

Doing this via the cigarette lighter is just asking for trouble, not to mention how low the wattage available is.

Yeah must be a slow news day. I use a 2000/4000 watt inverter on one car, and a 1500 watt inverter on the other car to form a ‘poor man’s’ 120/120 volt 3 wire ckt that I backfeed into the house to run all the 120 volt stuff in the house. The reason it is not 120/240 is that the 2 inverters are free running and not synchronized with themselves. But the wiring is heavy enough that the neutral current can occassionally be the total of the 2 inverters. Occassionally there is partial cancellation. I tap directly off the 12 volt battery in each of the 2 cars, and if loads are high (say I want to run the microwave to cook dinner, etc, or start the refrigerators) I turn the cars ‘on’ so that the 150 ampere (or whatever it is) DC/DC converter can operate and raise the inverter input from 12 to 14 volts thereby raising the inverter capability. When loads diminish to just a few hundred watts, like when watching tv, etc I just turn the cars off and let the 2 twelve volt batteries drain for 1/2 hour before starting both cars again for a while.… Read more »

I made a suicide cable that bridges the two phases within its L14-30 plug. That way I can feed both sides of the panel with 120V from a single source. Obviously 240v loads don’t work.

In my case, 1/2 the house runs off of 1 inverter and the other half runs off the other inverter. split between 2 cars it works very well, and I can obviously run both sides off of one inverter if someone needs to use the car. The wiring is from a back-fed welder outlet in the garage so there are no wiring changes in the house.

I also have 2 SMA sunnyboy inverters for the solar system that I have their independent ’emergency power’ hookup with light switches that is totally separate from the main connection so that the inspector or utility doesn’t worry about it.

Good for 1500 watts per unit (2 of them) provided the sun is out. Too bad I can’t parallel them since they are synchronized all the time EXCEPT when I would actually need them.

Hey Bill, do you have a good chassis connection location identified under the hood of the Bolt EV for the return path?

If so, we should chat about that on Friday, there’s a fair amount of people interested doing this with their own Bolt EVs

Direct attachment to the battery terminals, or as near as possible, is best.

Where is the battery in the Bolt? The Volt has it under the rear load floor. The Spark EV has it under the hood.

An alternative chassis ground point for the inverter’s return is often important in EVs… they usually have a current sensor to help manage the DC-DC converter output. A direct connection to the battery’s negative terminal bypasses that current sensor.

Right on. I hooked up a 2000/4000 watt pure sinewave inverter to the Bolt to a transfer switch to run the refrigerator and most of the led lights in the house. Luckily didn’t need it this time. Now we need to figure out how to hook up to a Leaf inverter http://setec-power.com/product/278604-3069357.html

This isn’t news.

Just about all cars can do it and all other EVs can do it.

The problem with EVs is that if you have no power in your house and if you use up whatever is left in your battery, you also lose mobility until you live close to a public station that still has power.

That is why I like the Volt. If I lose power, I can run on gas, if I lost access to gas station, I can run it on electricity. Less likely to lose both at the same time. Certainly another layer of capability than just single energy source.

There’s a guy in Florida doing the same thing with his Ford Fusion Energi. That has a 110V plug built into it, however it can only handle 150W so this guy hooked up a 750W inverter to the lugs to get more power. The 12V on that car is kept full by a DC-DC converter from the HV battery.
Don’t have to worry about killing the HV battery since it is a PHEV, you can always drive on gas.

German first Tier car supplier Continental had a press release about “Allcharge”, a bi-directional charging solution that offers a plug for camping devices and runs presumably directly from the main battery.


Looking Carfax used Leaf prices starting from 5000$ can it be used as powerwall on wheels if even left 50% its 10kw should be enough for storing electricity from solar panels. Use it as spare parts donor and get it even cheaper. Have someone done it already?

ConVerdant Vehicles has offered a 2kw and 3 and 5 kva inverters for the Prius for years that work off the traction battery. For Prius only. Too bad they are closing down.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has a true camper mode where you can access the big battery and output fairly high amperage.