PG&E will test GM’s electric vehicles as backup power for homes

Western utility giant PG&E Corp. and automaker General Motors Co. are working together to see if electric vehicles can be harnessed as an emergency power source for homes in Northern California.

The companies plan to begin testing the ability of a GM battery-powered car to provide electricity to a residence at a lab owned by PG&E, according to a joint statement released Tuesday by the companies. PG&E and GM said they aim to expand the pilot to a small number of homes by the end of the year. The goal is to demonstrate how an electric vehicle could be used to power a home in the event of a loss of grid electricity, PG&E vice president of business development Aaron August told media on a call.

The project is being undertaken as the California state government pushes for greater adoption of electric vehicles in an area prone to frequent power outages due to utility outages due to inclement weather. One in five electric cars on the road in the United States are in PG&E’s service territory, the utility said. PG&E began its practice of intentionally shutting off power to some customers during dry, windy weather in 2018 to prevent live wires from starting fires, after company equipment was blamed for starting some of the worst wildfires in California history.

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