Tuesday, December 5, 2023


California generator ban – What does it mean for RVers?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Thursday’s decision by the State of California Air Resources Board (CARB) has angered RV manufacturers and worried RVers. But the seeming generator ban may mean much more to industry than to RVers on the ground.

What’s behind the ruling?

CARB was ordered by law to develop new rules that would reduce air pollutant emissions from “small engines” to zero by 2035. When we say “small engines,” the agency targeted small engines on equipment like lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed eaters. Even gas-powered pressure washers were roped in. And yes, a generator ban got mixed in, as well. Small emergency generators, as used by families and small businesses, were exempted, provided they are permanently mounted or “fixed” units.

The agency trotted out statistics that show that SORE (small off-road equipment) produces huge amounts of air pollutants. These include particulates and nitrogen oxide. Admittedly, these pollutants do take a serious toll on health. Since the automotive industry was given the mandate to clean up tailpipe emissions, a major chunk of California’s air pollution comes out of SORE. Interestingly, though, CARB admits only about a fifth of that SORE-produced air pollution comes from small generators. Depending on how their figures are calculated, that in itself might be more than the reality.

How does the rule work?

Those hit first by the new rule would seem to be folks in the lawn care business. By 2024, no more will gas-fired lawn equipment be allowed for sale or lease in California. Sort of. Through a system of “credits,” companies may be able to continue to build and sell them for a time. But in the main, if you want to buy lawn equipment, you’ll largely be forced into buying ZEE. That stands for Zero Emissions Equipment, which many California residents already have. Battery operated, rechargeable stuff. But professional lawn care operators say the number of battery packs they’ll need to lug with them to get through a full day’s work will have a major impact on them.

But what about the generator ban? CARB ruled that generator manufacturers will need a little more time to deal with a zero emissions standard. Testimony from generator manufacturers during a CARB hearing on Thursday spoke volumes. And to be sure, the RV industry had plenty of folks testify. But with a time-limit of two minutes per speaker, laying out a succinct case against a ban didn’t have much of a chance to change minds.

For “portable” generators, come their model year 2024, new generators will have to have significantly less air pollution out the tail pipe. By 2028, only ZEE generators can be sold.

So, what’s a ZEE generator?


Theoretically, these are zero-emissions equipment generators. For some uses, they might be practical. Imagine a power inverter connected to a large battery bank. Plug in for pollution-free, absolutely quiet shore power. For many RVers, this would be idyllic. But the devil is in the details. There’s a finite amount of power that a battery can store. Once it’s used up, the ZEE generator will need to be lugged to a source of shore power and recharged. That’s a major crimp for some RVers, or a deal-killer for others.

So what does the new rule mean for RVers?

For now, absolutely nothing changes. RV retailers in the Golden State can go on selling RVs with on-board generators to their heart’s content. But by 2028, the music stops. Industry representatives complained long and hard. They said this could easily spell the shutdown of a third of the state’s dealerships once the new rule goes into effect. Others testified that RV dealers would relocate across the border in neighboring states and sell RVs with smoggy generators.

The RV industry made a concerted effort to get CARB to rule that RV-mounted generators should be classified as “stationary.” This would have exempted them from the new rules. Industry threw towable RV owners under the bus with their stand, but no matter – CARB wouldn’t hear the argument anyway.

But for you and me, the new rules will take a while to have much of an effect. Even when 2028 rolls around, a “generator ban” there won’t really be. For folks visiting California, your generator, no matter how old, is still lawful. For California resident RVers, your existing generators can continue to be used – and repaired. That goes on until they finally die their own death. However, with the increase of ZEE equipment, it will be interesting to see if there’s an impact on repair shops in California. Will they still have service departments that can handle repairs? The testimony of some equipment retailers suggests some are downright worried that they’ll be able to keep service departments operating.

Keep in mind, all of these new rules apply only to GASOLINE-powered units. If you fancy an RV with a diesel-fired generator, this so-called generator ban has no effect.

Are there alternatives?

Let’s say there was an effective generator ban. What would RVers do? For boondockers, the effect would be devastating. CARB suggested solar might be a way out. But in practical terms, building enough solar power into your rig to take the place of an on-board generator would require more roof area for panels than an RV could provide. The additional weight and footprint of storage batteries just from a practical standpoint would rule it out. Add on the financial toll and the matter is moot.

But at this point, unless California decided to try an outright generator ban, this is needless worrying. If your existing RV generator is up and running, keep it maintained and happy motoring. But if you see a new generator need in your future, either chassis mounted or truly portable, you might be ahead to do it before 2024, when prices will likely go up.

If you choose to comment, be kind. Nasty comments will be deleted and readers who made them banned from commenting again. 


Do you have a generator with you on your RV travels?
More stories by Russ and Tiña De Maris


Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña De Maris
Russ and Tiña went from childhood tent camping to RVing in the 1980s when the ground got too hard. They've been tutored in the ways of RVing (and RV repair) by a series of rigs, from truck campers, to a fifth-wheel, and several travel trailers. In addition to writing scores of articles on RVing topics, they've also taught college classes for folks new to RVing. They authored the book, RV Boondocking Basics.



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Kent (@guest_167949)
1 year ago

Given the numerous PGE planned power outages in California these days, it would be outrageous to ban generators. As for RV’s, we have an onboard generator we seldom use. The Lithium batteries coupled with solar panels are about all we need for a quality camp.

ron romero (@guest_157428)
1 year ago

I’m not going to stop using anything that they don’t have a suitable replacement for.

Mitch (@guest_157341)
1 year ago

One can only blame the voters in California. Just like the latest rule that will surely increase the cost of bacon 4 fold in the golden state.

Mitch (@guest_156985)
1 year ago

STOP…Read…The “ban” only refers to the “sale of”…NOT the use of. It just means go to another state to purchase your generator. I will bet the retailers in Nevada and Oregon will have plenty of inventory available. I also believe that this ruling will eventually lead to more restrictions on the use of, but not yet!

Dave (@guest_156969)
1 year ago

I guess Newsom wants to kill the camping industry too.

volnavy007 (@guest_156964)
1 year ago

All the recharging of batteries should really help California with their annual summer brown outs — NOT! That’s what happens when a full “cost accounting” is not done but rather shaded in the desired direction regardless of facts.

Terry (@guest_156934)
1 year ago

God I am glad I live in North Carolina. You are welcome to move here from California but remember to not bring your liberal voting habits.

Contractor (@guest_156930)
1 year ago

Umm, wait until shopping centers out in parking lots, and other remote areas can’t get fixed. There is not a non gas or diesel generator on planet earth than keep our power tools running. Let’s also note that almost ALL TEMP POWER and emergency lighting, will not happen unless MAJOR advancements happen before then with battery equipment. Just my 2 cents as a contractor of 23 years ..so far.

Captain Quirk (@guest_157346)
1 year ago
Reply to  Contractor

Did you mean “put in parking lots”?

Jeff Craig (@guest_156914)
1 year ago

This is a BIG opportunity to improve the state of power generation. Yes, solar and wind can be good alternatives for power generation when boondocking, but this really opens the door for fuel cell technology! WATTS systems are expensive now, but so were flat screen TVs twenty years ago, and electric cars ten years ago. Between a 1KW fuel cell system, and solar/wind/LiFEPo battery rig, you can have all the conveniences of home without the power cord.

Looking at the comments below, I really am disgusted that people would do deliberate harm to the environment over a rule to protect it. How did you all become so consumed with hatred??? You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jeff Craig
Jay Ward (@guest_156701)
1 year ago

Just another good reason to avoid travel to California. Keep your money where it’s appreciated.

Frank Steal (@guest_156630)
1 year ago

So what about job site generators ? I know there are diesel ones but they are usually for large job sites and pricey but smaller sites from my experience use the gas powered ones more often

Roberto (@guest_156624)
1 year ago

What happened to being able to vote for things like this?
Oh ya I forgot Mary Nichols is not and was not voted in so CARB marches to the beat of the governors drum!
If anyone did any research on the disturbing history of CARB and their bogus findings, and phony doctored up reports from their “emissions collection sites”, they would be disgusted!
And when our land is full of spent lithium batteries which will not decompose then what?
Oh ya and those batteries are the end result of rare earth mineral mining, most of which is not found here in US, but found elsewhere in China, so we just will keep on feeding the monster it looks like

Jeff Craig (@guest_156915)
1 year ago
Reply to  Roberto

Lithium batteries are easily recyclable, and with the growing need for them it’s going to be big business! (So, please, stop parroting Fox ‘News’ and OAN about waste….). As for China, we get more Rare Earth Minerals from Africa (where China has spent a fortune on foreign policy – while Conservatives rail about even feeding starving refugees).

chris (@guest_156916)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig


LER (@guest_157418)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

Please keep your politics out of the discussion.

chris (@guest_157450)
1 year ago
Reply to  LER

I take it these are not your politics, because these comments are full of politics.

Last edited 1 year ago by chris
John (@guest_156622)
1 year ago

So I guess if you live in CA and have an RV and your onboard gen dies. You take a trip to a neighboring state, have it replaced, then go back home. Or better yet, move to another state. Time for millions of Californians to vote with their feet and get out of this whacko state.

James G Childs (@guest_156620)
1 year ago

I have been a life long democrat. But after the last couple years of governing, I will vote Republican.

Captain Quirk (@guest_157321)
1 year ago
Reply to  James G Childs

I’m a liberal* who votes Democratic, but I am incensed that this ban was passed AFTER Newsom’s recall election. And I’m sure that was no accident. If this new ban had been approved BEFORE the recall election, I certainly would’ve voted AGAINST Gov. N*******. >:-(


* The word “liberal” comes from the Latin word for freedom (“liberalis”) — the same source for the word “liberty”. THATS the kind of liberalism I stand for — not the current model that seeks to restrict or outlaw everything that is deemed politically incorrect. There’s nothing free or truly “liberal” about telling people they can’t buy useful products.

Andre Beverly (@guest_168575)
1 year ago
Reply to  Captain Quirk

Really? The generator ban is what would have put you over the top as far as your vote? If you truly value freedom as you claim, I don’t see how you would ever support Gov. N or his party, which constantly seeks to relieve you of your freedoms

chris (@guest_168594)
1 year ago
Reply to  Andre Beverly

Nobody here is to be believed as to whom they vote for.

Jhone doe (@guest_156618)
1 year ago

I’ll make sure I burn a tire or 3 every year to make up for this lunatic law

Gary (@guest_156612)
1 year ago

CARB is responsible for “stealing” more money from citizens than any other organization in the state. Even worse, they are literally accountable to no one. CARB should actually be disbanded, and it’s upper management should be imprisoned.

Jess (@guest_156609)
1 year ago

And what are we supposed to do when our electricity is shut off for days at a time? How do elderly or disabled people keep their medical equipment running? Not everyone can afford to have solar installed, so what are they supposed to do now that they can’t use an emergency generator?

Captain Quirk (@guest_157324)
1 year ago
Reply to  Jess

Contact your elected representatives and tell them to repeal this ridiculous law.

Mike Barner (@guest_156608)
1 year ago

What about APU’s on big trucks? When the state banned idling, they said you could use an APU (AUXILLARY POWER UNIT) in lieu of running your diesel engine. Now what?

Captain Quirk (@guest_157330)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Barner

Double-talking hypocrites!

As I told Jess a moment ago, if you’re a Californian, contact your elected representatives and tell them to REPEAL this ridiculous ban.

If enough people complain, something may be done about it. Unfortunately, news of this ban is pretty much only being dispersed among the RV community, so we need to get the word out to the general population.

Last edited 1 year ago by Captain Quirk
Larry H (@guest_235693)
6 months ago
Reply to  Mike Barner

The article did mention that the ban is to apply only to gasoline-powered generators, exempting those that run on diesel.

That said, California takes enviro-lunacy like this to ever-increasing levels, and I certainly wouldn’t put it beyond them to try to ban diesel generators somewhere down the road. But at least as of the date of publication of this article, for the time being, it looks like truck drivers are unaffected by this.

Glen (@guest_156605)
1 year ago

Meanwhile, the REAL polluters have corrupt politicians in their back pockets!!!

NO WAY does these small engines contribute to the air quality reduction in California at all!

chris (@guest_157325)
1 year ago
Reply to  Glen

I would rather see campfires banned. What a smoky nuisance they are.

John L Martin (@guest_156602)
1 year ago

Gasoline evil but diesel and I suppose propane isn’t? Must be more of that liberal logic I don’t get like increasing power demand on a grid that can’t keep up now while they are also eliminating 9 percent of power production by closing Diablo Canyon with no way to replace that loss.

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