4 votes

Can you convert your car into an electrical generator?

This question is for Big T, and other gearhead/electrical gurus in the house.

I have recently purchased a used Honda Accord with the 2.3 liter 4 cylinder VTEC engine.

Part of the reason I got it was to have a more fuel efficient car aside from my truck that could be used as a grocery getter, and for other transportation needs in a time of crisis.

Hondas are pretty famous for having long lasting dependable engines.

We already have a couple of generators, but they are loud and attract unwanted attention. This Honda engine is like a little sewing machine. Very quiet, and very smooth.

What I was hoping to do is have an extra deep cycle battery (or two), that could be charged by the alternator of this car, and hook it to an inverter (something like 8000 watts), and have it maintain charge at idle or slightly higher RPM.

We used to do multiple battery car stereo installations, that fed 15,000+ watt amplifiers, so I was wondering if I couldn't do the same but for an inverter that would power a small cabin with a window unit A/C, small lights and appliances.

My concern is messing up my electrical system on the vehicle, and if a battery isolator or some other solution would somehow work.

Any info would be greatly appreciated. I couldn't find hardly anything on the net, so I defer to the great minds of the DP.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
No.7's picture

Get cheap generators and power inverters here



The individual who refuses to defend his rights when called by his Government, deserves to be a slave, and must be punished as an enemy of his country and friend to her foe. - Andrew Jackson



Homeland security statement: patriotism is now considered terrorism.
I love www.isidewith.com shared it with everyone I know. If anything they realize its not just a red and blue idiot running for reelection.

Jefferson's picture


6+ minutes I'll never get back.

On the other hand it might be helpful if I wanted to make a stun gun out of 244 9V batteries. (provided I could find a big enough piece of plywood to carry them around on....;)

Not quite what I was looking for but thanks anyway.

A big inverter

is a pretty cheap way of having a reliable generator.

Hondas run quietly, unlike most generators, and you generally pay much closer attention to car maintenance than you do generator maintenance. You'll have fresh gas in your car, fresh oil and you know the thing starts when you need it.

Not the worst idea.

Author of Shades of Thomas Paine, a common sense blog with a Libertarian slant.


Also author of Stick it to the Man!


PTO generator

You can pick them up for much cheaper than this one, but they may have a little use. I think they come quite a bit bigger too. http://houston.craigslist.org/ele/2283682432.html

Use a diesel tractor and you have a great setup with fuel that can be stored for long periods of time, or even made if in a pinch. Here are some on Ebay, bigger and better prices.


maybe the car could be incorporated to drive one of these...or just use a tractor.

Sure. Are you Saudi?

You're going to waste a hellofa lot of fuel. You'll be running a 4 cylinder engine minimum, designed to carry 1500 pounds or more at various speeds along roads that are full of friction. Then, you'll be taking a small amount of that power to turn a small alternator that is designed to be just large enough to maintain a charge on a battery.

How long will your car idle on a full tank? How much does that cost? Let's say your tank holds 14 gallons. At $4 a gallon, that's $56 per tank. Don't forget about the gas it will take to have enough to go get a fill. Will that even run a whole day? If it runs a week, it'll cost $224 per month. A day more like $1680 a month.

You would be better off harnesing that engine's power as close as possible to the mechanical takeoff. In a temporary situation, maybe raise the power wheel and extend it with a belt that runs a generator. Or in a more permanent setting, size a generator for either your peak needs or battery charging, and for an on-off cycle that meets your requirements for maintenance, fuel, power generated, babysitting requirements (want to fill the tank all day?) etc.

If plugging in your car to power our lives was that easy, we'd all be doing it.

On the other hand, I think it would be a great idea to have an inverter large enough to power lights and communication devices. Out in the night, you don't mind spending a few gallons of gas for some light and heat. They're not that expensive, especially the smaller ones that would be good enough for some lights, a TV or small appliance, etc.

Am I Saudi?

Close.....I am Texan. We have lots of oil wells, and a king that we can't get rid of. His name is Rick Perry....8)
Unfortunately, I don't own any of the oil wells.

I should have clarified in the OP that I sold the equipment, and did not install it. The installers (to their credit) did all of the critical thinking, and told me what they needed.. Home Theater was my specialty. 20+ years ago.

I embarrassingly know 2 things about electricity:
1) It will kill you.
2) It can mess you up pretty badly.

It looks like you receive a power loss whether it be through the inefficiency of the inverter, or through the drive train.

It was a nice thought on the surface. To think that I could isolate my electrical system somehow, and whatever spilled over would go into a bank of batteries, but I am seeing that as not feasible.

Powering anything continuously other than a laptop, or a small tv, seems like it is going to be a challenge.

This is part of why I love the DP. So many smart peoples here....8)

There is a way it can be economically feasible to generate your

own electicity. You need a diesel generator running off of used vegetable oil, and of course you need to get the oil for free, or cheaply, very difficult nowdays as much of it is used to produce biodiesel. There is an older design stationary model made in India and China, but cannot be imported anymore due to "environmental concerns" (a crock). Look up "Listeroid". You can also go to the website: www.utterpower.com. The layout has changed so I cannot tell you exactly where to go. Lots of other useful (and practical) information there.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Google black diesel fuel

Google black diesel fuel

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere".

It's hard not to be a menace to society when half the population is happy on their knees. - unknown


yes, I have plans for that also, just a little more involved than WVO.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Inverters are bad

and so are drive trains which I don't know that much about, at least regarding efficiency.

Here's a real world illustration of just how inefficient inverters are. I work for a company that sells telephone systems and wrote a few paragraphs to explain AC vs. DC battery backup to our customers.

See AC vs. DC Power at http://www.telephonecentral.com/Products/721105.aspx for a quick explanation.

That's also the reason people with solar and wind systems will re-wire their houses to run their lights on DC as opposed to the inverted AC, so they don't lose those electrons.

That reminds me of something else that I found interesting. You know a flock of geese flys in a V right? Do you know why one side of the V is always longer than the other?

Jefferson you have two things right for sure..

I embarrassingly know 2 things about electricity:
1) It will kill you.
2) It can mess you up pretty badly.

That is about all I know too, but that's normally enough to get by.

I like the idea of using the drive wheel to crank a generator or something though. I have been looking at a very high output generator that hooks up to the pto of a tractor. I could park the tractor in the daylight basement/shed and charge up my electrical system for the house if need be. Say the wind died for a while or perhaps we went full on clouds for a few days. Just route the exhaust outside, hook up, and let it go.

I'm about to switch to diesel on my vehicles too, that way we can store fuel for longer periods of time. Gas just doesn't hold up and is a little volatile for my taste.

Take a different direction man.

If you are really stuck on using this car to do this then your best option was the post below where you drive onto some rollers and use another wheel to drive a generator. The 3rd world pulley thing would work too, but it sounds like you want to still use your car with out being inconvenienced by a bunch of work. You are just trying to get too much out of something that wasn't ever design to function that way by trying to go off the alternator/battery system. It is a good idea for small things though and people should maybe think about that for short term emergency situations as an option to get a little power. But damn you are asking for a lot of power.

Honestly your best bet is a real generator preferably diesel. Yes you can build a sound insulated enclosure to deaden all the sound. You can probably find a really good "extra quiet" muffler some where. I used to work on XQ mining trucks designs. So long as you get enough air flow into the engine intake, don't mess up the back pressure too much (w/the muff), and make sure you keep the engine cool with your radiator (fan noise can be a problem) you can pretty much get the engine down to a level that can't be heard unless you are near the engine. AKA it won't draw attention to itself.

get a lister diesel generator

look one up online; and you probably need a 500-1000 watt solar system w/ a 4000 watt xantrex inverter (pure sine wave).

I've analyzed the situation - ended up getting PG&E @ $23k instead of a pure solar off-grid setup. You just cannot run large well pumps, air conditioners, normal refridgerators, etc off grid without a $25-50k solar array, $10-20k battery storage, $10-15k wind generator, backup propane generator, etc. Then to kill your battery array after the kids leave TV's on all night, lights on etc. Too much of a headache.

I have a 5000 watt solar system grid-tied so I don't have a bill.

The xantrex inverters are the way to go.

Peace, Freedom and Prosperity. Not War, Welfare and Bankruptcy.


The old style listers are really hard to come by now....

I think the EPA outlawed importation a few years ago.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Friedrich Nietzsche

If you are talking about a small safe house ...

Used only in emergencies.

You should consider converting the home to all DC wiring and appliances.

Go LED for lighting.

There are DC appliances on the market, for things like RVs.

Supermarkets have back up packs under their belts for the computer and other needed items, and these can be got used for literally pennies. They must have inverters in them because they have A/C output. They are heavy as hell.

The alternator will have to be upgraded but it could work. It wouldn't be very efficient.

Put some Ts in your cooling hoses, and plug it into a heat reclaim tank when parked and used as a generator. Put the reclaim tank in front of the water heater and you got yourself some efficient hot water.

8000 watt inverter

At full capacity that inverter would draw about 660amps (six hundred sixty) on a twelve volt battery bank so you will need 00 or 000 cables from a capable battery bank to the inverter. Remember that every amp at 120vAC will draw 10 amps 12vDC plus what it takes to run the inverter itself.

So if the airconditioner draws 20amps surge at startup that will be 200 amps+ surge draw on your battery and if it runs at 10 amps then it will require 100 amps continuous from the battery. The output on your stock alternator will be 45-85 amps (I'm guessing) so it wouldn't be able to keep the batteries charged while the airconditioner is running so you would have to shut down every so often to let them charge. You will have to check the appliance and do the math yourself.

Also remember the AH (amper hour) rating of your deep cycle batteries is very important and you need to research it very well. For example: A 100 AH battery will NOT run 100 amps for one hour. Deep cycle batteries are rated at 6 or 20 hour rates so a 100 AH battery at a 6 hour rate will run about 15 amps per hour for 6 hours but if you only pull 7.5 amps it will run about 20 hours but if you pull 100 amps all at once it will only run for about 20 minutes maybe before it is dead. These are all rough estimates but the jest of it is that the rate of discharge is exponentually related to amperage draw.

I did what you are talking about doing after tropical storm Allison when I lived in Houston but I was only running a box fan and a TV on a 700 watt inverter connected to two Trojan T105 (225AH) batteries. I couldn't let my car run constantly for fear of theft so I had to recharge every three hours or so when the low voltage alarm sounded. I later realized that 700 watts or about 6 amps at 120 vac was pulling 60 amps at the batteries.

Anyway, 12 volt inverters are nice for short periods of needed AC power but the amp draw needed to run normal appliances like airconditioners for long periods makes them impractical for offgrid power.

A great post. And another thing,

you can figure a 10% or so capacity decrease per year in your batteries with the decay increasing faster as your batteries get older. This is a major cost in solar and wind systems that most people overlook. Deep cycle batteries are expensive and must be replaced. Think about your car with a bank of 4 batteries instead of one. Problems multiplied. That is unless you're trying to run 8kw, then you'll need a hell of a lot more of everything.

If you will let me?

My friend, if you will let me send you some pictures I have a couple of cool generators to show you.Seriously I am good at this type of thing.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

I see no problem

with your idea. Not the most efficient system but investment would be low, and, you're getting dual use from the car.

It might be that over-charging the batteries would be your only concern. I would just run jumper cables from the car battery to the batteries you want to charge. You can figure out fairly easily that at idle speed the system will charge a battery in a certain amount of time.

Now if you could capture the heat of the idling engine to heat your house you would be getting triple use! Good luck!


I got in trouble one time.

I got in trouble with my wife one time because we were living off grid at the time and she asked for a wash machine.In an hour I drew up plans to take a front wheel drive sub-frame unit and turn it into washer on one side half shaft output,Spinner rinser for the other side.

I was then going to pipe the A/C and Heater into one of the living-room windows,I then had the 12 volt,65 amp output going to our solar system batteries.

She stated to me she did not want to see that in "Her" yard!LOL!It would have worked great at an idle.But because of my wife's sense of aesthetics it was never built.That next summer she was asking for an A/C system that she never got.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

hAH! Well done!

Back in the day I had friends off the grid who ran their house at night off a marine battery. They charged it with their car (peugeot) for about 1/2 an hour every day. Never bothered the car and they always had some power. Of course they weren't running air conditioners just lights and a radio.

Years ago Fiat took one of their little 500 cc engines and turned it into a powerplant/heater system that they sold to homeowners. It produced AC and heat. Very simple and I bet the Honda engine would be even better.


Since you mentioned still being able to drive the car...

Here's something to consider. Racing motorcycles often don't have even a kick starter, so they either need to be bump started or fired up some other way. A while back someone devised a roller apparatus that you could drive your car onto, put the bike's back wheel onto the other end, and fire up your bike by revving the car engine while in gear, like this:


If you put a wheel and tire on the input shaft of your generator and plop it down on a pair of these rollers, you'd have a quick and easy setup that should work pretty well. An added advantage would be that you could use any car, not just the Honda.

I closed on my NH house.

There is a river at the back of the property I will make a water wheel and hook it up to an car Alternator and charge batterys if I can I will get the smallest solar system and put the river power into it. I will be able to bank electric for the whole year.

Patriot News
Stand up For your Civil Rights

If you want to see something impressive

Take a little search for the new Jag concept hybrid with two small turbines over electric.200 MPH and almost 200 MPG.

If I disappear from a discussion please forgive me. My 24-7 business requires me to split mid-sentence to serve them. I am not ducking out, I will be back later to catch up.

1989 Hyundai Engine


This guy did a great job !!!



Youtube is such an awesome tool. Like my dad used to say, "The internet is like a hammer. You can build yourself a house with it, or you can hit yourself in the head with it."
There are some great ideas on there.

Thanks for that. I probably won't get into something that involved, but it is impressive nonetheless...Hopefully I can integrate something onto one of my vehicles.

your welcome

I have to start learning about car and truck parts again. Used to drive rigs but forgot quite a bit.


If you have room under the hood

(which in a new car you probably don't) you could get a generator unit, and fabricate brackets to add it into your belts, you would need to get a different size belt, so you would need a real mechanic to do it.

Here is a link to a welder/generator added under the hood.


The big thing will be space though. There is so much crap on new engines that there is hardly any room under the hood any more.

*May the only ones to touch your junk, be the ones you want to touch your junk.*

Those look

pretty nice.
They're probably going to laugh me off the phone if I call and ask them about outfitting a Honda....8)

I did see a "small to medium sized car" 150 amp though.

They also have a "6x6 ATV" which might even work better.

BTW, If you ever get the chance to get a Polaris 6x6, take it. They are the toughest ATV I have ever seen. Ours has hauled literally hundreds of tons of materials up and down the face of a slope. approx 1200+ bags of cement, tons of 200lb limestone blocks, railroad ties, all materials to build an exposed beam 16 x 32 A frame cabin with a loft, rocks, dirt, furniture, appliances, you name it.
We could make a good Polaris commercial. Highly recommended if you're in the equipment business.

I'm not quite sure how it would all hook up but
I'll give them a call and see what they say. Thanks ODell.