Back in late 2021, we reported on California’s potential ban of the sale of gas-fired portable generators. The “ban” allowed that by 2024, gas-fired generators would need to meet new, stringent air pollution standards. Many RVers were fired up, as the state’s Air Resources Board (CARB) lumped built-in generators, like the Onan brand, right along in the regulations. But CARB was sure the industry could respond. Onan’s manufacturer, Cummins, was not.
Within four months, the company wrote a letter to the RV industry that said, in part, “Given the current regulatory timeline, differing standards between CARB and EPA, and the significant changes to the generator the standards would necessitate, Cummins will not have any gas/LP/EVAP product(s) that meets the new regulations readily available on January 1, 2024.” That tune changed when later the company said it could maybe come up with something. Now it seems, under pressure, a crop of Cummins new generators will be available, just in the nick of time.
There is no real “ban” on generator use
Just how will RVers be affected when the 2024 deadline rolls around? First, even if your existing RV generator doesn’t meet the 2024 CARB standards, you can still fire it up in California. What it does mean is that generators sold in the Golden State will have to meet the new emissions standards. Cummins new generators will meet those standards, whether a smaller, say, truck camper model, or something with enough muscle for your big Class A motorhome.
Cummins new generators
Here’s the breakdown of Cummins’ new generators. In the mid-range size, the current QG 4000 (which now sells in the low- to mid-$4,000 range) will be phased out by the QG 4000i. Electronic fuel injection and other changes will make a big difference in air pollutants. Cummins claims the new model will provide better fuel efficiency.
In the smaller class, Cummins’ new generators will make a few changes to the existing QG 2500i and QG 2800i models, which were introduced in 2020. “A few more mechanical enhancements and new engine calibrations” were all that was required to bring them “up to snuff.” The tweaked versions of these will be out in February next year. The new releases will look the same and apparently have roughly the same dimensions as the older models.
On the higher-power end, the Onan QG 5500 and QG 7000 generators will have new California variants. There are electronic fuel injection “variants available today and are undergoing electronic calibration and certification development to reach the new targets,” says Cummins. If you like your existing model, you’ll still be able to get one in states other than California. Sales in California will have the new “variant” that will theoretically meet CARB standards.
And just how much will they cost?
The big question, of course: How much will they cost? We spoke with Andy Kelly, Cummins “Global Marketing Leader.” Will new Cummins generators come with a new (and hefty) price? Kelly was quick to point out that all the technology changes, like going from carburetion to electronic fuel injection, and adding in sophisticated emissions monitoring and control systems, “will impact costs.” “Prices will go up slightly,” he told us. Just how “slightly”? It will “vary by model.” Uh-huh.
Cummins is “currently working with OEMs,” Kelly says, meaning, Cummings is likely negotiating with RV manufacturers, their biggest customers. “Retail pricing,” we were told, “is not likely to be released until January or February 2024.” Since not all models will be built with CARB compliance, one would hope if you’re thinking about buying one of those green electrical boxes somewhere other than in California, the prices should be much the same as they are today. Time will tell.