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Car Dashboard

PlugOut vs Generator Comparison

Our PlugOut inverter and your electrified car together create a fantastic generator. Here’s why it works - the hybrid or plugin (e-car) is already a great DC generator with an OEM engineered engine and generator keeping its hybrid battery charged. The PlugOut inverter adds high quality, pure sine wave, AC/DC power output from the hybrid's battery. This combination yields many advantages over mechanical generators.


Reliability: Does your e-car always start? Indeed it does. It's used all the time. Incredible engineering, regular use and already paid maintenance mean it is always ready for emergency use.  Unfortunately, this is not the case with many generators. Generators have modestly engineered engines, are left idle for months, and are usually poorly maintained. As a result, they sometimes don't start when needed. With the PlugOut inverter you won't have to worry about your back-up power source not starting.


Noise Level: Traditional generators can be very loud (65-80db, each 3db= doubled loudness). This level of sound can keep you and your neighbors up at night or distracted during the day. These generators can be dirty and smelly too. For these reasons, most owners try to locate them far from the house. In comparison, when your hybrid car runs, you can barely hear it while it is running (runs at less than 55db) and often does not need to be running at all times (more on that later). The PlugOut system can be run in a well-ventilated garage and not even be heard.


Longevity: Most generators are designed to run for 5-10 hours at a time, before needing fuel, oil, a check-up, and a break from running before they can be started again. This means frequent interruptions and smelly fuel fill-ups. You can beat this by purchasing a larger tank, but that can be expensive. On the other hand, the Prius tank [with PlugOut] can last for 1-5 days at a time, running continuously (24hr/d). When needed, you can re-fill it with jerry cans like a generator, or just unplug and drive it to the gas station.


Power Quality: Most generators will "groan" for a second or so when the load changes, as the mechanical engine changes throttle and rpm to adjust to the new load. When this happens, big transients can surge throughout the appliances, like during brown-outs or power spikes, and in some cases this may damage appliances. Not so with the PlugOut system. The combination of battery buffered power and pure sine wave output mean instant and clean transitions for any load changes (within power ratings), so your appliances are much safer from threat of any damage.


Maintenance: A traditional, mechanical generator will need periodic maintenance (hassle and payments) or it won't work. Ask around about generator maintenance and you will hear about issues like grime, oil spills, filter changes, dirty fuel and more. The hybrid/plugin car is already maintained for driving, and needs no additional maintenance, the PlugOut system also needs no maintenance so the maintenance cost and hassle are zero.


Efficiency: The hybrid's Atkinson cycle engine runs about 30% more efficiently than most car engines -and car engines are more efficient than most generators. Then the hybrid's start-stop technology only runs the engine (generator) when the battery gets too low and only until it is recharged. That means the engine (generator) only runs when charging needed and at near-optimum power levels. So, when fuel is used, it is burned efficiently for any power level need -no wasted fuel idling at low power levels. That's good for 50-100% better fuel use than mechanical generators, and across a wider range of power outputs.

Mechanical generators are somewhat efficient within a narrow range of power output levels, but outside that range, they become less efficient. Honda pegs its best fuel efficiency for portable generators at 4-6kwh per gallon for half loading and greater. The PlugOut Prius produces about about 8kwh per gallon for nearly any loading level.

Pollution: The considerable noise, smell, and mess of generators are covered above.  
Carbon pollution is also worthy of mention.  The e-car + PlugOut only consumes half the fuel per kwh produced and that means half the pounds of CO and CO2.  And, the e-car also has a catalytic converter that further cleans the exhaust of CO, SOX, NOX, etc, resulting in maybe 1/3 the pollution per kwh.  Pollution matters.


Capital Cost: Some mechanical generators can be purchased relatively cheaply in stores, but they suffer from most of the problems mentioned above, including small fuel tanks. Getting larger tanks runs the cost up closer to the PlugOut system, and there may be site prep costs, but the overall Quality is still much lower.  Remember, if the cheaper generator causes harm to just one appliance, or doesn't start because you skipped some maintenance,  the quality and benefits of the PlugOut bubble to the top.

Larger generators that solve larger power needs, like for whole-house power, cost much more than the PlugOut system. They still have more costly and thunderous operation vs the PlugOut, but can usually auto-start.   


Operating Cost:  Maintenance:  With store-bought mechanical generators, you have to fill them with fuel every few hours, test them every 1-2 months, change oil every 100hrs/ 3-6 months, and have them serviced once per year, or the generator will begin to show aggravating starting and maintenance issues. So, you have fuel, oil, and labor costs and hassles every year... or else.  Less so with PlugOut.


Fuel:  Where mechanical generators will make power at 4-6kwh/gallon only at optimally loaded periods, they are often not optimally loaded (low loads) resulting in poor fuel productivity.  The PlugOut system provides power at much lower cost.  If the car is a battery electric vehicle (BEV), the power out costs only about 10% more (round trip power losses) than the cost of power at charging.  If the car is a hybrid (HEV), the engine only runs to keep the battery charged (optimally loaded), and some hybrid engines (Atkinson cycle) are 25-30% more efficient than normal engines.  The result is about 2 times the kwh/gallon vs a generator. 

Ex: Prius; 8kwh/gallon, at $2/gallon= 25c/kwh, at $2.4/gal= 30c/kwh, at $3.2/gal= 40c/kwh for any load level.  If the car is a plugin hybrid, the cost of fuel is a blend of the two e-car cases.  Either way, you end up with a very low cost.  Mechanical generators will cost about 50c-$1/kwh in comparable use.



You generally get what you pay for. Only with the PlugOut system, you already own the car, so you only need to buy the PlugOut inverter, resulting in unprecedented price-performance.Traditional generators may have some advantages if you are seeking the cheapest or highest power models, but after you factor in the costs of operation, maintenance, reduced fuel-efficiency, time to re-fuel and/or larger fuel tanks, the PlugOut provides the better overall experience relative to cost.


Whether you are most concerned about reliability, ease of operation, longevity, power quality, maintenance, efficiency, or cost… the advantages of PlugOut are clear. The PlugOut system gives you the power you need, when you need it, by leveraging the top-of the line engineering already built into your electric/hybrid car and our unique inverter.

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