Electric-car buff uses vehicle to power Saanich house during storm

Manfred Wissemann doesn’t have to think twice when answering a question common after blackouts: Where were you when the lights went out?

It took just over a minute for Wissemann, the founding president of Victoria’s electric vehicle club, to press his Nissan LEAF electric car into service to supply power to his Saanich home during a recent windstorm.

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“Many people don’t even realize you can do this,” he said.

With downed trees falling on wires and knocking out power from Sooke to North Saanich, it was an ideal opportunity for the electric-car buff to test his vehicle’s potential.

Wissemann attached jumper cables from the car’s auxiliary battery to a 3,000-watt power inverter that provides power for home appliances.

He then turned his vehicle’s power on so the inverter could receive power from its main battery pack. Seconds later, Wissemann was able to provide power to his home’s plug-in lights.

“I carry an inverter in the back of my car, so I take it out, put it in front, snap on the batteries and immediately I have power,” said the retired businessman.

“It’s distributed by extension cords.”

While his car’s main battery power was low that evening — he had only a 20-kilometre range left — Wissemann found a workaround.

Once he had activated his own vehicle’s inverter, Wissemann drove his daughter’s LEAF to Uptown’s fast charger, charged the vehicle while he had coffee, and returned home 20 minutes later.

He then charged his own car at Uptown, gathering enough power to hook up two fridges if necessary.

While Wissemann said he knows many LEAF owners who have successfully installed inverters, he emphasized that drivers do so at their own risk and advised them to take precautions and read the instructions.

“That way you’ll be ready and confident of what to do when you need emergency power,” he said.

Wissemann said the emergency power such vehicles can provide could be useful during an earthquake.

“If someone is on a health system and you have to have power, you can have it within seconds and get them back on life-support,” he said.

“You can immediately use it if you need an electric blanket or if the kids want hot chocolate, you can plug in a hot-plate.”

Wissemann, a tireless advocate of “affordable ecological transportation,” invites anyone who wants to learn more about the LEAF’s side-benefits as a provider of emergency electricity to check out the Victoria EV Club.

“We don’t charge membership fees or ask for donations,” he said. “It’s about helping the planet.”

For more information on the Victoria EV Club, go to victoriaevclub.com.

mreid@timescolonist.com

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