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Any issues with running 1000w inverter from 500e?
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Thread: Any issues with running 1000w inverter from 500e?

  1. #1
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    Any issues with running 1000w inverter from 500e?

    Power hasnt been fully dependable here in Northern California the last few, and while the power was out I was wishing I could run my fridge and a couple lights off of my fully charged fiat. I wanted to check in with owners that might have some insight on any flaws with this plan: get a 1000w sine wave inverter, and put it under the hood of the 500e (maybe on the plastic thing that covers the inner workings), and attach it to the 12v battery with some short, heavy wire with ring terminals on each end. Then turn the car on in park, and turn on the inverter. Run a heavy, 10 awg extension cord into the house to run the necessities. Lock the car up with the spare key.

    I couldnt find info on it, but remembered reading somewhere that when the car is on, the car will keep the 12v battery charged from the main, high voltage battery. I imagine when the fridge is connected it might draw 20-30 amps out of the 12v battery into the inverter.

    I was was thinking it would be great to have the inverter permanently installed inside the car, but wouldnt know where (if anywhere) there was heavy wiring that could be tapped into that was fused for a heavy load like this.

    Does anyone know how much is too much of a current draw on the 12v system? Also, any known issues with the car being turned on, in park, for a couple days? Thanks!

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    Just a quick in-head calc: 20 A would be 2100 to 2200W. That may be high. You could plug your fridge into a kill-a-watt and see what the load is when the compressor (or compressors) are running. (Read peak A, not average, and multiply by 110V.) If it's energy star, it might be using 5A, or about 550W, but some older models draw 3 times as much. Assuming the lower draw, add in a couple LED bulbs, and assume 600W max draw. (At the car's end, that should be around 55 to 60 A battery load... too much to trust to the cigarette lighter.)

    An energy star mini-fridge OR mini-freezer *might* be a reasonable load. I understand some of those draw as low as 100W.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbR9eevHx5U for one dude's setup, running 3 light bulbs and a 300W inverter. His load was set up for a couple LED lights and his gas appliances. His 150W drain is maybe a 13 to 15 A drain on the battery (depending on how efficient the inverter is). I'd size the inverter at least twice the size of the max load you expect.

    ...just my late night thoughts...

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    Senior Member PLP's Avatar
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    I did some load math on the 12 V in the car.
    Headlights, wipers, rear defroster, blower, heated seats, power steering - it barely came to about 1 kW. I am not sure how much more could be coming from 12 V.
    So, having said that - I guess one could try slowly loading the 12 V battery to max 800-1200 W.

    I am not sure what "alternator" power this system has. I guess the only way to find out is to measure battery voltage across the terminals to see at what point it may not keep up.

    Just make sure you have a good connection as at 1000 W @ 12 V you are pulling over 80 A. That will create nice heat...
    2016 KIA Forte5 SX 1.6 T-GDI, A/T (sold - CARMAX now has it)
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    Quote Originally Posted by PLP View Post
    I did some load math on the 12 V in the car.
    Headlights, wipers, rear defroster, blower, heated seats, power steering - it barely came to about 1 kW. I am not sure how much more could be coming from 12 V.
    So, having said that - I guess one could try slowly loading the 12 V battery to max 800-1200 W.
    If you have the TomTom nav unit, you can look at the energy meter and see how much total power those items are using. However, people on the forums have said (I don't know how true it is) that the cabin heater and AC run directly off the main battery, so it may not be indicative of how much power is available through the 12V system.

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    Senior Member PLP's Avatar
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    You are right, it shows power use. And I never went above 1 kW no matter what I did. Hence my attempt to calculate. I think the gauge maxes out at 3 kW. Does it mean that might be the limit (3 kW)?

    I do not think AC is actually running of the HV battery as whenever the compressor kicks in I see spike in power use.
    And now I need to take back my statement from above - when using AC I can see the spike in over 2 kW. So AC is definitely from 12 V, besides there is a fuse for AC. Sure, full blast blower will consume a bit of power, but AC compressor and the radiator fans will definitely add a lot.
    If one add ABS pump (something I did not test yet - no snow yet) - it may take another few hundred watts.

    Therefore, 12 V may be actually good for up to 3 kW after all.

    Although I will not risk
    I already stressed my car a lot by towing it in neutral after running out of juice (it started acting up, although initial roll was fine), or using the app to connect to ECU... Poor little baby.
    2016 KIA Forte5 SX 1.6 T-GDI, A/T (sold - CARMAX now has it)
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    Chinchilla Wafers (10-25-2019)

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    Senior Member smark's Avatar
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    I think, I’d invest, into a Honda generator. Not mess with your car. Then again, you need to find a filling station, with power, to pump the fuel.

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    map (10-16-2019)

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    Senior Member PLP's Avatar
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    Sorry, I was wrong. AC is HV battery... the fans in condenser when kick in draw quite amount of power, but AC compressors seems to be running of HV, unless the climate system can calculate power draw from both HV and LV systems.
    2016 KIA Forte5 SX 1.6 T-GDI, A/T (sold - CARMAX now has it)
    2014 FIAT 500e
    2016 FIAT 500X Trekking Plus AWD with Roof and Beats
    2016 Audi Q5 Premium

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    Thanks very much for the thoughtful replies. Rkw, good to know about the gps unit, I sold mine, since I live in a small town, unfortunately, but might be able to borrow one. PLP, thank you especially for taking the time to check out the current draw with the climate system. If I had to guess, I would guess the heater is a special high voltage system, since the regular fiat doesn’t need an electric heater, but, I would guess the AC system is 12v, because that’s what runs the gas fiat 500s, and why wouldn’t they reuse that system? Along with the seat heaters, etc?

    I got the system set up while the power was off- a 1200w sine wave inverter, on top of the plastic thing under the hood, connected to the screw lugs on the 12v battery, with some short 4awg cables, and a wire to connect the inverter 120v safety ground to the building earth, and heavy, 10awg extension cord to run into the house. I made sure to cover up the red wire connection on the inverter end with a little sleeve. But just when I was ready to throw the juice, the power went back on. Yet to test it with a full load.

    The inverter has a input (12v side) volt meter, as well as a watt meter, which takes guesswork out of how the system is working. Interestingly, when the car is off, the battery measured 12.3v, but when I clicked the ignition part way on, (not all the way to turn the motor on), the voltage went up to 14v, which I interpreted as the 12v battery being actively charged by the HV battery system. Whatever is the equivalent of the alternator was on, with the ignition. That seemed like it wouldn’t be as weird as leaving the car all the way on for a couple days.

    3A2CBB35-0A15-4217-ADA6-415F0C22D0AA.jpg

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    PLP (10-25-2019)

  12. #9
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    I’ve tested the system out running the fridge for a few hours, and it worked great. I’ve also left it wired into the fiat for the last month with no issues. If anyone would like the specifics of how to do it, I wrote a guide for a (non electrical) friend, that I’ll copy here:

    You will need:
    >
    > Inverter: 1000 to 1200 watt, pure sine inverter. Avoid the less expensive, “modified sine” inverter, that is the jagged shape inverter that is rough on the fridge motor. The one I got is nice, because it has a meter for how much power (in watts) you are using, as well as the voltage from the battery.
    > https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    > There was a more expensive one, with a GFCI (the plugs like in bathrooms/kitchens) which I like, safer, if you are doing anything near water.
    >
    > Heavy cables to connect the inverter to car battery: I used 3’ long, 4 gauge (awg) cables with copper eyes on each end, that get screwed down. The eyes should be about 5/16” holes, 3/8” is ok but a little looser. I used 1/4” but they were a little small and I had to drill them out. The cables that come with the inverter a thinner, 6awg, I think (fine gauge for a short cable) but a little too short for our setup. The eyes on the battery end were giant as well. If you prefer to put the inverter outside the car, I would get heavier wire, like 3awg. Think jumper cable. It needs to be fat, because the current can get quite high, 80-100 amps. It would be possible to use cables with clip ends (like little jumper cable clamps, on the battery side (screw lugs on the inverter end) if you didn’t want to mess with screwing it together every time you need to set it up. Whichever cable, it is a good idea to make a little cover/sleeve for the red wire, on the inverter end, so nothing can short it out. Also the cables should have heat shrink around the lugs, you don’t want extra exposed metal on the ends. I’m not sure if the car gets hot, it might be a good idea to get some braided Teflon sleeve at the auto parts store to go over the cable. See the drawing below. I made mine, with parts from the auto store, by crimping the heavy brass lugs on, by using the sides of two bolt heads, in a vice. You could also use a hammer and screwdriver. Or they might be able to make them up at the auto parts store with the special tool. Or just buy these, and add a little boot over the red end on the inverter side, and the heat resistant tubing.
    >
    > A heavy extension cord: for going into your house, close to your fridge (or other higher draw appliance. You can split off smaller extension cords from there, and run lights, internet, etc. Don’t recommend toasters, hair dryers, microwave, etc. If under 25 ft, 14awg is ok, under 50’, 12awg is ok, mine is 75’ from the parking spot to the fridge, so I used 10awg. Over 100’ to a major appliance wouldn’t be a good idea.
    >
    > Velcro: wide, industrial, from the hardware store. Or other way to secure the inverter under the hood. I used a couple screws, to stick the inverter to the fiat’s plastic cover, but I think that might have been overkill.
    >
    > ——————————————————————————————————————
    > To set it up, pop the hood, and pop off the big black plastic cover, it just pulls straight off. Velcro the inverter to the plastic thing, unless you want to keep it outside the car, which would be fine in a garage where no one can get into trouble. In the middle near the back of the plastic cover is good. Connect your cables to the inverter. Good idea to cover the red end, at the inverter, with something, I made a sleeve out of tubing and cut a notch out of the end, to slip over the screw terminal on the inverter. Tape would be fine too, just something so there is no way the two wires from the battery could short together.
    >
    > Put the cover up on the engine compartment, so the cables can reach the battery. If you are using screw lug connectors on the battery end, just use a crescent wrench or socket to undo the nut holding the 3 black wires together at the battery terminal, and add the cable lug onto the stack. Think about how you want the cables to wrap around the plastic thing (I sent them around the back, but away from the big square metal thing with the warning signs, I think that might get hot, because it takes coolant. Then tighten it down. Connect the red cable to the screw on the battery plus, and then replace the little red cover over the battery, and then stick the plastic cover back on.
    >
    > Connect the extension cord into the house to the inverter. Plug in the fridge, maybe add lights later. Turn on the car ignition, but don’t start it. The electric car charges the 12v battery when the ignition is on, from what I can tell. Turn on the inverter. Watch the wattage meter on the inverter, make sure it isn’t too high. The fridge will draw more power when it is starting up, that is ok. You can close the hood a click and lock the car with a second key if you are outside, or leave it open if it is parked in a garage.
    >


    when you take it apart, turn off the inverter, turn off the car, disconnect the red wire from the battery end FIRST. Remember the little red cover over the battery +. Then the black wire from the battery end, then the others (or just keep the wires attached to the inverter).


    The only thing you need to be careful of, are inadvertent shorts between the battery + and metal stuff on the chassis, hence the connecting the battery + last, disconnecting it first.

    0EB0A7BE-3E91-45F6-BBA0-42079B521981.jpg35BDC40B-9B4D-4F22-9FEC-FF59C40276BD.jpg50F7F6D6-69C1-477E-80DB-BEA8FACD371B.jpgD396ADC5-1777-4165-AF59-B0C565E8E270.jpg

  13. #10
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    Idea inspired by a commercial product, and the intriguing idea that you have most of a generator, in your driveway. They mention it works especially well with EVs.

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