The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which Congress and the White House passed in November 2021, promises to distribute $7 billion in funds across the U.S. to expand the nation’s electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. The goal is to make it possible for consumers to easily charge their EVs anywhere, anytime.
But we’re not there yet, and even when we do reach that point, many people want a little extra peace of mind. They want to be sure they can charge their electric cars with a generator or backup battery so they can always get power in a pinch.
So can you use a backup battery or another power source to recharge your electric vehicle? In short, yes. But it’s a little more complicated than that. Let’s look at how it works, what it could cost you, and the challenges you’ll need to consider if you want guaranteed charging capabilities.
Standard Ways To Charge Your Electric Vehicle
For everyday charging needs, you’re going to need more than just a backup battery or generator. To keep your vehicle ready for the road, you’ll need regular access to one of three charging methods:
Level 1 Charging
This is your standard, 120-volt residential power source. You can plug into any home outlet, and all you need is a dedicated circuit to ensure it’s not draining power from the rest of your home. However, this takes as much as 40 hours to fully charge your car, so it’s not ideal if you drive more than 50 miles a day and don’t have access to charging at work.
Level 2 Fast Charging
These are the most common chargers you’ll find in the public, and many residential consumers install them at home, too. These 240-volt stations can fully charge most EVs in under five hours.
Level 3 DC fast charging
These chargers use direct current (DC) to charge your vehicle much faster, but they’re impractical and too expensive for use in most homes. They can fully charge an EV in 30 minutes, making them ideal for businesses and charging stations along freeways.
You can’t plan on owning an electric vehicle without easy access to charging from one of these sources. So before you plan for your backup power, make sure the charging you can access at home and work is sufficient to provide for your daily driving needs.
Can You Charge an Electric Car With a Generator or Backup Battery?
Even if you have the ideal charging setup at home, it’s not a 100% guarantee that your car will be ready to go. There’s always a possibility that you’ll wake up in the morning to find you’ve had a power outage, leaving your EV “tank” on empty.
To avoid that unpleasant situation, you might be looking for a way to charge your EV with a backup battery or generator. It can be done, but there are some obstacles to overcome.
First off, you’ll need to ensure that the backup power source actually provides enough power. Most portable electric generators are too small to provide the minimum 10 kilowatts of power, so you’ll most likely need to install a permanent generator or backup battery in your home. These standby generators provide enough energy to power your entire home and charge your vehicle, but they’re large (especially the generators) and expensive. A home generator or backup battery will likely run you between $7,000 and $20,000.
If you’re installing a home backup battery as part of a larger solar upgrade, then these costs will be easier to absorb thanks to long-term energy savings. But that’s a major upfront investment in and of itself and not one every EV owner is prepared to make.
You’ll also need to make sure you have the right generator or battery and adaptor to safely charge your electric vehicle. Teslas, for instance, require True Sine Wave electrical output to avoid damaging the battery. Be sure to check the documentation for your car and your backup power source before you attempt to connect them.
Portability Is the Biggest Challenge
An at-home battery backup may not be your only — or even primary — concern. According to Deloitte’s 2022 Global Automotive Consumer Study, range anxiety continues to be the number one hurdle for U.S. consumers who are hesitant to make the switch to EVs.
If you’re worried you won’t be able to get to a charging station when you need it, you may wonder if you can carry a backup battery or generator with you to recharge. This is where it gets especially tricky.
It’s fundamentally difficult to create a backup power source that’s small enough to toss in your trunk, yet powerful enough to deliver a significant boost. Currently, there is one promising option on the market: the ZipCharge Go.
If the idea of using a gas-powered generator to power your electric vehicle doesn’t quite sit right, the ZipCharge Go may be a better option for you. This portable battery backup, which will officially launch in late 2022, claims to deliver 20-40 miles of range in 30-60 minutes of charge time. It works with any EV with a Type 2 charging socket. Pricing isn’t yet finalized, but it’s expected to be subscription-based and run around $68 per month.
As more consumers enter the EV market, there will likely be more options like these available.
Is Backup Power for Your EV Practical?
Range anxiety and other worries about charging continue to be serious concerns for many drivers who own or are considering an EV. To alleviate those concerns, you can find ways to charge your electric car with a generator or backup battery.
However, these backup options come with additional costs, not to mention the uncomfortable fact of possibly using gasoline to power your EV. As charging infrastructure expands, there will be more ways to charge your EV on the go, so this will likely become less of a concern. If you’re looking for backup power for your EV, though, be sure to research your options and your vehicle’s requirements. Consider your decision carefully before you make a purchase.