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Can You Charge Your EV with a Standby Generator?

Possible EVS has plans to deploy 5,000 charging stations by 2027. The goal is to make it easy and convenient for electric vehicle drivers to charge their cars anytime, anywhere.

But we’re not there yet. And EV owners, especially in Nigeria, want to feel safe about driving their cars. They often ask us this question: “Can I charge my EV with my standby generator? You know, just in case there’s no light.” We’ll answer the question here.

There are standard ways to charge a modern electric vehicle, and they involve three charging methods:

There is the Level 1 charger, used mainly for home charging. It has 120 volts, but charges slowly, up to 24 hours for a full charge. There are also the Level 2 fast chargers, common in public charging stations. These chargers have 240 volts and can charge your car fully in 6 hours. And finally, the Level 3 DC fast chargers. These are the fastest kind of standard chargers. They can fully charge your EV in less than 40 minutes.

Although there are many charging options, as an EV driver, you still can’t be 100% sure that your car will always be charged when you need it. You’re still interested in knowing whether you can boost your car with a generator, just in case there’s not light. Short answer: Yes, you can. But not without some challenges:

  • Compatibility: Your generator and your EV’s onboard charger must be compatible. While most electric cars have interchangeable charging cords, the technology in an EV’s onboard charger is often specific to its make and model. With Tesla vehicles, for example, your generator needs to have something called True Sine Wave (TSW), which

    is a smooth waveform of electrical output. Before attempting to charge your EV with a generator, make sure they’re compatible.

  • Generator Capacity: Generators come in various sizes and power outputs. However, most portable generators in Nigeria are too small to provide the minimum 10 kilowatts of power needed to charge an EV.
  • Fuel Type and Efficiency: Generators can run on different fuel types, including petrol, diesel, or even alternative fuels like propane or natural gas. In Nigeria, petrol and diesel generators are most commonly used. When considering charging your EV with a generator, it’s essential to factor in the availability and cost of fuel, as well as the generator’s fuel efficiency. Running a generator for an extended period to charge an EV can consume a significant amount of fuel, leading to higher  costs and more carbon emissions.
  • Portability: Generators are typically designed for stationary use. They are not easy to carry about or suitable for on-the-go charging. Consider the noise, vibration, and exhaust emissions you’ll have to deal with when using a generator to charge your EV, especially in residential or urban settings.   
Potential Risks of Charging Your EV with a Standby Generator
  • Battery Damage Risk: Connecting an incompatible generator or setting up an improper charging system can potentially damage the EV’s battery. Given the high cost of replacing EV batteries, the risk here is huge and should be avoided at all costs.
  • Warranty Implications: In some cases, using a generator to charge your EV may void its warranty. It is essential to verify this aspect before proceeding with alternative charging methods

While it is technically possible to charge an electric vehicle with a generator, careful consideration of compatibility, safety precautions, potential risks, and warranty implications is paramount. As Nigeria’s charging infrastructure expands, there will be charging stations everywhere, including on highways, just as there are fuel stations, so the need for alternative charging methods such as a standby generator will become less of a concern.

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