The big problem with electric cars is that, should you run out of power, you are screwed. Unlike a gas car where you can get a can of gas, the typical outcome of running out of electricity with an electric car is to call a flatbed tow truck and have your car taken to a fast charger. Some tow trucks carry generators, but it is more miss than hit, and the related fear, called range anxiety, can put you off electric cars.
Well, GM may have just fixed this as they announced that their coming electric trucks would have a feature called a Power Station generator, which outputs power in line with a Level 2 charger. This solution means one of the coming GM trucks could come to your rescue if you run out of power and give you enough range to get to a charger.
Now I was initially more excited about this announcement which was arguably misnamed. The Power Station generator isn’t a generator at all but a powerful inverter that can put out 120-volt power for power tools or emergency power to your home, or 240-volt power to charge another electric vehicle.
We have had cars like the BMW i3, which had gas-powered generators they could use as range extenders that used a 650cc scooter engine to drive a generator. But it added a lot of weight to the car, reducing its electrical range and performance while significantly increasing the cost.
This feature was rather popular because it assured that you’d never run out of electricity as long as you had gas, which was pretty crucial for the i3, which only had a range of 80 to 100 miles.
GM Power Station generator
Fortunately, the GM trucks will have an adequate range—approaching 400 miles depending on configuration—and relative horsepower of up to 1,000; yep, I’m not kidding, that is 1,000 HP in a truck. That means these trucks will have substantially more range than even Telsa’s offer today, which means they can more easily share power.
Simply knowing that another electric vehicle can bail you out of trouble on top of around twice the range of most non-Tesla electrics currently in the market makes this truck line a potentially colossal game-changer.
I think every electric car should have the ability to share power, and that is coming as more and more cars will offer Bidirectional charging. This handy feature is designed to help power your house in a power outage but could easily be used, with an accessory, to charge another electric car, just as GM plans to do.
I’m a little worried about what will happen when you take a relatively hefty vehicle like a Hummer EV, put 1,000 HP in it, and then give it to some older guy (like me) to drive. It better have a crap ton of automated safety features and massive brakes, or it’ll do some real damage if the driver loses control.
Fortunately, GM arguably has the best autonomous driving technology in production. We are expecting Level 4/5 systems around the time these trucks come to market, so; if you let the truck do its thing, it should be pretty safe. But who doesn’t want to see a massive SUV do a 0-60 time in 3.5 seconds (which is considerably faster than my hot sports car)? That is even a ton faster than my old Mercedes AMG track car.
Wrapping Up: Making Electric Cars Less Stressful
Range anxiety is the biggest problem when it comes to selling or owning an electric car. While there have been range extender options like the one for the BMW i3, as we move to higher capacity batteries, just allowing the car to share energy with another vehicle could do a lot to address the reduced range anxiety in owners. This capability could also allow an existing, far lower range electric vehicle to remain viable longer as the longer-range cars hit critical mass can form a safety net for these older range electric vehicles after 2025.
With electric cars expected to advance significantly by 2025 and be cheaper than similar gas cars simultaneously, the automotive market is about to go through a significant and rather dramatic change mid-decade. GM’s aggressive moves for both excess range and the ability to charge other cars make them the company to watch—along with Tesla, of course—as this electric car pivot accelerates.
The future is coming, it is electric, and we are nowhere near ready for it but damned if I don’t lust for that 1,000 HP electric Hummer.