Generators are the kind of devices you’ve always wanted to buy – or know you need to buy – but can never pull the trigger on. The thought of something that big taking up precious storage space is quite the deterrent, as is the need to have fresh gas available, and the horror stories neglected generators not running when needed most. They sit squarely at the doomed intersection of guilt-ridden preventative purchase and hassle-plagued tech.
But here’s the thing gentle reader, there should be no need for you to invest in a generator as you already own a device that turns gasoline into electricity. Your car’s alternator is pumping out juice any time your engine is running. You’ve got a generator that has a fresh supply of gasoline, carts itself around, and (generally speaking) is always working.
Unfortunately for my bank account, I am not the first person to notice this. The aptly named CarGenerator company out of Toronto has been plugging away at this problem and has a been selling a fully portable device since 2015. The CarGenerator attaches to your battery, then converts your alternator’s DC power into 7-10 amps of AC power for household use. As long as your car can idle, you’ve got power for a few devices like furnaces, fridges, and that Sharper Image S’mores Maker.
We sat down with CarGenerator inventor Jonathan Schloo to talk about weather emergencies, his product, and how long it would take to charge a Tesla off a gasoline car:
Let’s jump right in – Why do we need this? Why do people need this product?
Jonathan Schloo: No one really wants to buy a generator. No one really says “Hey, I want to have another smelly, heavy thing to store in my garage or my shed and maintain it. So they do nothing and freeze with no power or their fridge goes rotten when they run out of power. What we do is enable. If you have a car, you have a generator.
If a hurricane or flood hits, what should I plug in, in what order? And how do I physically connect it to the CarGenerator?
In Northern climates, the most important thing to keep going is your gas furnace to stay warm. If you’re in a warmer climate, then the number one thing to keep going is your fridge. And it really is as easy as pulling this thing out, it weighs just 11 pounds. You pull it out, you attach it using the built-in heat-proof booster cables. They look like regular booster cables but they’re custom manufactured by a company in the United States to be high-heat proof. So you hook them up to your car, and start you engine, and run an extension cord in from the bottom of the unit. Basically there’s two plugs in the bottom of the unit.
There are two receptacles, basically?
Yep, there’s two receptacles that’ll give you a combined total of between seven to 10 amps. So take it, hook it up, run an extension cord and you have power.
Aren’t furnaces generally directly plumbed into the electrical lines? Or do they have a “male” plug?
So, great question. Up until now the vast majority of them have been hardwired into your electrical panel. Now the new crop of furnaces that are coming out, for a number of reasons actually have a “male” plug right on them. And if you don’t, we sell a simple furnace plug kit or there’s a company that sells a very simple transfer switch that goes right onto your furnace that give you a male plug right on it.
How long of a cable run do you recommend for the average home?
So we’ve found that most of the times between 50 and 100 feet is about what it requires to go from most people’s cars to where the furnace is. So we recommend just go out and buy a good quality extension cord, contractor grade 12/3 extension cord.
When have you personally used the CarGenerator?
We actually used it for three-and-a-half days. One of the first times after I had created it, we had an ice storm that hit us just before Christmas. It knocked out our power and we had no power for 3 days. The power actually came on right on Christmas Eve day believe it or not. So we stayed in our house using a fairly modern car, we hooked this thing up and it powered up our furnace. So the whole house was warmed, not just one little gas fireplace but the whole house was heated just like normal. Nothing was cold. Our fridge ran. And that’s it. We stayed in our house, and our neighbors, all of them had to move out, get hotels, take their dogs, take their elderly parents and do all that and it was terrible. Their pipes froze and all kinds of things.
What is the strangest use that you’ve seen or heard about?
Global medic, they do disaster relief. When they go to places where there’s been major disasters, and they’ll use it with a vehicle to power up their drones. They use surveillance drones to map out and do situational awareness. So that’s really super cool.
Other interesting things, I had a lady in Switzerland buy this because she wants to run her Nespresso coffee maker anywhere she goes.
Your original career was on the software and business side. How did you go from being a CRM database guy, to this – an energy company?
I love it. I’ve actually been very technical and electrical all my life. I’ve actually built my own modem from scratch. I etched on circuit boards back in the day. So I have a pretty lengthy history in doing all that. Now, once I had created this and come up with the concept, I took it to a full professional design firm and that’s how the original design came to be.
So, you basically carted over a shoe-box replica of this product to this design firm, and they made what you’re selling today?
Hahaha one hundred percent. That’s exactly what we did, because at the time I didn’t really how do you create a product, how do you enclose it, how do you do it safely. How do you do all these things. So actually, the professional design firm put all that together.
What’s coming next from CarGenerator?
We’ve already come up with more products in the RV space, then there’s expanding into other countries. There’s a lot of different places we can go as well. There will a more additional products as well in a couple of different cool segments.
Cool, final question – If I plugged in the generator and charged a Tesla with it, what MPG would I effectively get?
Hahaha that is really funny. Um, so you connect it to a gas car and you want to charge a Tesla? Okay, actually, you would get… Let me think on the calculations on that. Most cars, you’ll get between 50 to 70 hours on a tank of gas. Using our 1000 watt model, that’s one kilowatt per hour, roughly. OHowHow many watt hours does a Tesla have?
I believe the Model S has 100 kilowatt hours, so one tank equals one half charge and a full charge is between 250 and 350 miles.
I guess that would be it, yeah. Don’t hold me to it!