A few weeks ago RVtravel.com reported on the upcoming ban on the sale of most RV generators in California. Simply put, in 2024, portable generators (including those installed in motorhomes) must produce significantly fewer emissions. By 2028, generators may not produce ANY emissions. The 2024 ruling may be moot. Cummins, the principal motorhome generator manufacturer, says it can’t meet those requirements and will stop producing gasoline- and propane-fired generators for California sale. We asked for reader comments about the situation. Were the comments shocking? Judge for yourself.
Some had questions
Andrew M. wrote, “I currently have a 2019 Class C with a frame-mounted generator. I have at least two more years before the effective date. What happens when that date comes for RVs that we’re purchased with generators? Will they be grandfathered in or will we be forced to not use them?”
A good question, and happily the answer should be reassuring. The ruling will make the sale of such generators illegal, not the use of existing equipment. So those of us with existing generators should be good to go. Provided, of course, we can afford the gas to run them!
But there still could be problems for existing owners
In our reader comments we found some pointing out a potential problem for those who already own generators. Dominik M. put it this way: “As the RV owner they’re just making it harder. We’re going to have to travel out of state in order to get our gas generators worked on. My generator is framed and wired directly to the RV, so I’m going to have to travel out of state in order to do it.”
Dominik may have a good point. Folks in California with gas-fueled lawn equipment are finding it harder to get their equipment serviced. Why is that? As that state’s mandate for selling only “Zero Emissions Equipment” goes into play, equipment retailers are stocking up the back room with batteries. Fewer and fewer gas equipment parts are being stocked, and in many cases, service departments are being shut down. The same may be foreseen for generator service facilities.
Mixed reactions to the ruling
The new generator ruling has lead to plenty of upset reader comments. Chris B. contributed two pennies in his thoughts. “I think CARB doesn’t want to hear it. But I would argue that generators in RVs should be exempt until such time that battery technology has the capacity to replace generators. The amount of time RV generators are used in the life of an RV seems to be of little impact to the environment in the long run. I had 100 hours on my generator on a 3-year-old RV. How bad did that hurt the environment? CARB should recommend an incentive for manufacturing solar generators instead of gas. That would move the right direction without totally upsetting the industry. My 2 cents….”
With what may be an effective ban on generator sales in California, sooner than later, we asked about RV purchases. Some California RV dealers swear that with the generator ban, many folks simply won’t buy a motorhome in the state, and will go elsewhere to purchase. We asked for reader comments on that. Typical of many, here’s Kyle S.’ thought: “A generator is necessary for my off-the-grid exploring of desert and mountains. I currently have an onboard generator in my trailer. I would definitely drive out of California to buy an RV with an onboard generator for my next purchase if they are unavailable here.”
Not everyone hates the law
The ban doesn’t appear to be distressing to all, at least from some readers’ comments. Michael M. says, “I hate generators. I’m happy to see this rule go into effect. Hopefully it will push the industry to create a zero emission generator. In the past they had no incentive. I live in California and would not drive elsewhere to purchase an RV with a generator. I have a class B. In six years I have used the generator once.”
Stephen H. chimed in a similar tune. “I have a small motorhome with an Onan 4000. Would LOVE to be able to operate 100% without it. I only use it for the microwave, and, very rarely, for the AC or for an emergency battery charge. I fully support California’s laws and hope they’re adopted nationwide. People should stop whining about it and get resourceful with practical non-generator alternatives. Then, soon we would have all the power we need, but WITHOUT the noise, smell and vibration the gennys bring.”
But there’s the rub: Just what is a “practical non-generator alternative”? Some had suggestions. Gordon F. wrote of his experiences: “Just tried out our lithium/solar upgrade. I have 400 watts of solar and 200 Ah of lithium battery capacity. I spent five consecutive days dry camping. If I had twice the battery capacity I would have not have had to use my generator at all. As it was, we only ran the generator for less than an hour a day. I think with advancement in battery technology, RVing will be able to get by without generators. There are already Class B motorhomes without generators. The Winnebago Bolt is an example. The RV industry will adapt.”
Mike S. put it simply: “Get to work on your hydrogen generators!”
It’s a long way from gas and LP generators to hydrogen, at least from what we can see. Edward G. makes a suggestion that might “tide the industry and RVers over” until truly workable alternatives are developed. “Although it would take some effort to redesign into a new RV, a generator driven by the motorhome’s engine, with all the proper pollution controls in place it would not be in violation of the new law. For travel trailers, using a tow vehicle equipped with a generator driven by the engine could do the same. Ford’s F-150 Hybrid with 7.2kW generator is the best example of what is available today. Not perfect, but a start.”
A start. Ready or not, California’s new rulings are going to have an effect on industry and users. And as the saying goes, “Where California goes, other states follow.” It would seem the RV industry, if it wants to stay in business, will need to put more emphasis into helping develop solutions.