We’re used to thinking of cars as mobility devices, but electric vehicles have the potential to provide another, equally valuable service: energy storage. An EV is basically a big battery on wheels. And manufacturers are starting to offer a feature called bidirectional charging, which makes it possible to charge an EV, then later send that power back into a house – and eventually, into the grid.

As Penn State University energy expert Seth Blumsack explains, bidirectional charging involves more than flipping a switch. Powering your house from your EV requires a special charging system and an EV that’s configured for two-way charging – a feature only available in a few models now. But as bidirectional charging becomes more common and utilities learn to plan for higher levels of EV use, cars could become replacements for generators when the lights go out.

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Jennifer Weeks

Senior Environment + Energy Editor

Think of your car as a home power supply on wheels. Tesson/Andia/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Can my electric car power my house? Not yet for most drivers, but vehicle-to-home charging is coming

Seth Blumsack, Penn State

Bidirectional charging is the next big stage for electric vehicles. But storing power in your car and sending it back to your house involves more than flipping a switch.

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