I’ve got the power: Using the Cybertruck to power my off-grid Tiny House

December 3, 2019
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I watched the Cybertruck reveal and knew I had to have one because it was everything I had always wanted in a car but never been able to have. I grew up lusting after the Lamborghini Countach and the Lotus Esprit in the 80’s and then later the Delorian DMC-12 and finally all the killer cars from the Blade Runner movie. I grew up obsessed with Steve Jackson’s Car Wars game that he sold in tiny plastic ziplock bags and cost almost nothing. It’s funny that I still have all my old Car Wars books, it’s one of the only thing other than Lego’s that I actually saved from my childhood. This article is about how I plan to power my off-grid Tiny House using nothing but the CyberTruck (hopefully with the solar panel option) and how you can do the same. It also has a section about how to power your entire house off the Cybertruck in emergencies or scheduled blackouts which seem to be getting more and more common in California.

First, you have reservations, then you have a reservation

I currently live in a 1500 sq ft apartment which is way bigger than what I need for one person. When my son lived with me it was a better size, but he has been living with his mom for several years now and is in college so I started building a tiny house last year that is ~250 sq ft. I’ve decided that this is really all the space I need to live and there is no reason to heat and take care of more than that. My original idea was to keep the tiny house about 200 ft from my home so I can tap into the water/sewer and grid power. I’ve been waffling about it for a long time because I’d much rather have my tiny house in the back of my property which is about 1500ft away as the crow flies and about 2500ft away by the driveway. Incidentally, if you’re interested in following what I’m doing with my property you can check out chestnutparadise.com . Long story short I’m growing 10,000 trees for food without using a tractor in less than 1 year time. Although that seems like an insane goal, it looks like unless something really bad happens I’m going to meet that goal.

Dude, that’s my truck!

When I ordered the Cybertruck I started really thinking hard about putting the tiny house (build thread here) far away and just using the Cybertruck to power it. My wife and I have lived off-grid at her house for 6 years now and I have a very good idea of exactly how much power I need to run all the lights, a fridge, the pump, and my computers and what I can get away with. The plan is to have a 50 amp charger plug at the barn and to be able to charge the truck at the barn when I need to.

Trojan’s Cost per usable kWh

We use a bank of 4 of these right now and they will take care of our needs for ~2 days without sun, they cost us about $1400 shipped

You can see the batteries we have been using right now hold about 2Kwh of power, but can only be drained down 50% without risking plate warpage so that breaks down to a cost of $1,400 per usable kWh. Pretty crappy by any stretch, but Lead Acid batteries are reliable if maintained and predictable. We’ve managed to blow up two sets of batteries (acid and smoke everywhere) but I feel like we’re special when it comes to destroying batteries.

A pack only a ‘mother’ could love, that’s my baby

My homemade ‘Lego’ ebike pack

If I look at my homemade 52v 24Ah ebike pack that cost me about $500 to build (and took about 50 hours of labor) then you have 1.25Kwh of which about 1Kwh of it is usable which makes it about $500 per kWh. If you buy a premade ebike pack it will generally cost about twice that which breaks down to about $1000 per usable kWh. I haven’t blown it up yet.

The Bollinger electric truck will have 4 120v AC outlets, but the Cybetruck will have a 240v outlet which will likely be two 120V AC lines out of phase 180 degrees to make 240v (like your house has)

Tesla Powerwall 2 is a decent deal

The Tesla Powerwall 2 costs $6,500 each plus about $1000 for installation and has a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh. This breaks down to ~$550 per usable Kwh. Just a side note here, a single Tesla Powerwall 2 would run my wife’s house for a month without any sun if we didn’t do laundry, run the shop vac or any power tools. We’d probably start smelling pretty ripe after that long, but those are our only big energy suckers. We are on our third set of batteries in the 15+ years she has lived there when our current trojans die we will 100% be replacing them with a Tesla Powerwall 2.

There is a budding community of awesome geeks with bigger cojones than I have building homemade ‘power walls’, make sure to overinsure your home guys

Hey, Elon how about making Powerwalls out of old Tesla cells and selling them for a lot cheaper to us cheapskates? Great use for the glut of old electric car cells that will soon be everywhere.

These are some of the different US outlets, I’ll bet the Cybertruck is going to be the L14-30 250V New Generator plug which will carry 30 Amps and work with most generator hookups

Tesla Cybertruck is insanely cheap in cost per kWh

The Tesla Cybertruck that I’m going to buy is the $50,000 AWD version (because if you’re going to spend over $40K on a truck it might as well be 4WD). We gotta guess at the battery size for this beast but 120kWh is a pretty safe bet. This breaks down to $416 per usable kWh. If the Cybertruck was hooked up to my wife’s house and we smashed all the solar panels it would provide all our electricity needs for about 240 days straight. That is long enough to get through a pretty harsh nuclear winter with some time to spare. If you start looking at the cost per usable kWh on the tri-motor version the number gets even more insane. That truck will have 200kWh usable and cost $60,000 so the cost per kWh will break down to just $300/kWh. This is not the cost for just a Powerwall, it’s a bulletproof 4WD Powerwall that you can drive over anything (or anyone) with. This truck would power my wife’s house for over a year without any solar input. A friggin year. Keep in mind we use only LED lightbulbs, a very efficient chest fridge, and low power consumption computers.

This plug is very common and can twist and lock into the socket. It can also support either 120v at 30 amps or 240v at 30 amps, it’s likely the 120v plug will be a ‘normal’ 15 Amp design

The irony here is that you are paying $60,000 for a vehicle that holds about $23 worth of electricity. That irony is not completely lost on me. Also when using the Cybertruck to power your house you will be limited to 7200 Watts (if it’s a 30 amp plug) or whatever the Cybertruck power output is limited to. That is also peak power, you won’t be able to pull more than about 5500-6000 Watts continuous because the power rating for plugs is generally a bit below what they claim to be. Try to pull 15 amps through a standard 120v 15 amp outlet for any length of time and it will probably melt the plastic or at least it will get darn hot. If you shut off the breakers for your hot water heaters, electric stoves and electric heating units in your home you should be fine and likely won’t hit the Cybertruck’s wattage limit.

Four friends (yes I have 4 friends, although my wife was one of them so that doesn’t really count) and I put up the walls, windows, doors, and roof in just one day

The Cybertruck is the best electric-powered generator money can buy

If you’re on the grid you can hook up the Cybertruck to your breaker and if there are power outages or scheduled blackouts they simply will not affect you. I could probably wire a standard 240v generator plug and cord into my breaker box with an interlock kit in about 30 minutes. I would NOT hook your Cybertruck up to your house without an interlock or isolator generator switch, you are threatening the lives of the utility people who come to repair the downed lines. Also, be aware that in many places if you want to hook up a ‘generator plug’ to your breaker box you will need to have an electrical inspector come and inspect your work when you are done. Check your local regulations and if you don’t feel comfortable in the rat’s nest that is your breaker box please hire someone to do it.

Or you can just overinsure your home and do whatever the hell you want, just don’t sue me when your house burns down.

The power plug on the prototype was behind this metal panel in the bed

Keep in mind with a Cybertruck generator there is zero risk of dying from carbon monoxide poisoning (430 people die a year on average in the US from CO poisoning, many of these are from gas-powered generators). CO poisoning is no joke, and our favorite tiny house neighbor was almost killed by CO poisoning and ended up being hospitalized. She was in bed and knew what was happening but she couldn’t move to get help.

Install an interlock, the life you save might be someone else’s

For my Tiny House, I would wire the Cybertruck the same way but without the interlock

Since my Tiny House is off-grid I don’t have to worry about installing an interlock, just install a double pole single throw 30 Amp breaker (or whatever amps the Cybertruck will allow) and I’m good to go. I made this short video briefly showing my future abode and talking about the Cybertruck (yes that is my natural hair color).

I’ve been so disconcerted with the mainstream media coverage of the Cybertruck that I pretty much won’t even read any of it anymore. With climate catastrophe the new normal if you have the opportunity to buy a truck that would run my wifey’s home for a year without any solar help then you should probably grab one before the Apocolypse hits and you are left with nothing but regrets. If small solar panel options for the bed are available for the Cybertruck and you are planning on living off-grid, I would highly recommend getting those as well. To install a 1.5kW off-grid solar setup with free installation labor 15 years ago it cost well over $8000. It might be a bit cheaper now since panels are dirt cheap, but if you have to pay someone to do it, it is darn expensive. The Cybertruck with panels is a built-in off-grid solar set up with an equivalent of 15 Powerwalls built-in for no extra charge. If you wanted to buy 15 new power walls straight up it would cost $97,500 before the install fees.

The Cybertruck is the best deal to be found for electric backup power that won’t accidentally burn your house to the ground or kill you in your sleep. Hands down.

Ride On.

This is the 5000W generator we use at my wife’s house in the winter, it cost about $3000 + another $3000 to convert it to propane, but with the Cybertruck, I can ‘ferry electricity’ to her house easily … so no more generator (yay)

Karl Gesslein is a degenerate hooligan of the highest caliber living in upstate NY. His passion for e-bikes and all things sustainable causes him to be obsessed with climate change and finding solutions that will keep humanity from becoming extinct from our own hubris. His personal blogs include electricbike-blog.com, awaken-spirit.org & chestnutparadise.com.


6 Comments

  1. I love your thinking. I would like if Tesla goes a bit further. Why not make it possible to have a bi directional charger. I like to see a, say, 11kw bi directional charger/inverter. This will save me buying a large number of Tesla powerwalls, currently thinking that I need at least four to run my 300 sqm house with pool, spa and 2 sauna’s! Always nice to have one for the running the house when you are away with your car.

    • That would be nice, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. It would have to autosense whether there was power available then decide whether to power the home or charge the truck. Again the interlocks with the utility company are always the problem here.

      Standard solar inverters pay attention to the line and then shut down if the power from the utility company is interrupted.

      • As far as I know the Tesla powerwall 2.0 keeps parts of the house going when the utility company switch down. So that should not be a big issue to get that also in the bi-directional charger.

        Second power the home of charge the truck? That is jus a logical issue and can be solved with some simple computing power. E.g. when truck is below 60% charge the truck. When solar power available use for the house and charge the truck. When no utility use power from truck. When daily trips are be done. e,g, school runs, bring powerwall to 50% before by charging or using so solar can be stored and power still used. Or when you want to go for a long trip charge at night to 100%. This is all logics what can be easy build in by Elon and his staff.

        At the end I am talking about the only one interesting version for this, the 500+ miles version, to have an abundance of capacity.

  2. Great article, Karl. Always thinking!

  3. Brilliant as usual Karl. Enjoyed the article!

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