Every morning, as freezing winds blow through his construction site in northern China, Liu Jianhong gathers his workers over a hot cup of tea. Liu, whose business in Shaanxi province often operates out of reach of power grids, plugs a hairdryer-like charger into his hybrid electric car, a sport utility vehicle from Chinese automaker BYD Co. The Other End of the charger connects to its kettle. A few minutes later, he whistles and tea time begins.

“With the help of the electric car, we can drink tea whenever and wherever we want. My employees are over the moon,” says Liu, 57, who used to drink hot water every day from an undersized thermos from a nearby village, forcing his employees to take turns drinking tea. Liu’s electric vehicle has come to the rescue before, such as when he had to charge an electric drill in a newly built house that he didn’t realize wasn’t connected to a utility. “If it hadn’t been for my car, I would have wasted all my time and energy going there,” he says.

As EVs with plugs proliferate, so-called “two-way charging” is becoming table stakes in the electric diving experience. Drivers like Liu are among a growing number of people who see their car not only as a cleaner and cheaper way to get around, but also as a source of electricity in everyday life and during emergencies. In China, where more than one in five new cars have sold this year was electricMore people than ever are experiencing a future in which vehicles double as power banks, and EV manufacturers are touting their products as “batteries on wheels.”