As we reported in December, new generator rules by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) could affect the RV industry. The ruling doesn’t ban the use of portable generators in the Golden State, but it does significantly hamper generator sales come 2024. Date aside, the RV generator industry giant, Cummins, has already frightened RV manufacturers with an announcement on the matter.
No feasible replacements
Generators aren’t the only small engines to get hit by the ruling. By 2024, the sale of gas-fired lawn equipment will be completely banned in California. For the most part, if you want a leaf blower, lawn mower, etc., you’ll have to buy “ZEE”. ZEE stands for Zero Emissions Equipment, and essentially means rechargeable battery equipment. Initially, CARB had intended to throw generators in with all other equipment. Generator manufacturers successfully argued that there is no feasible ZEE replacement for gasoline- or LP-fueled generators. CARB acknowledged publicly that such a ruling will mean hardships for the RV industry, and so allowed for the some slack-cutting.
But the new generator rules only cut so much slack. By 2024, CARB mandates significant reductions in exhaust emissions from portable generators. During the rule-making process, the RV industry implored CARB to give motorhome manufacturers a break. Instead of classifying on-board RV generators as “portable,” and therefore subject to the new rules, they asked these be exempt. When the new rule was approved by CARB, no such exemption was granted. Come 2028, only ZEE generators will be allowed for sale in California. Does your RV generator sit on the ground and connect to your rig with an extension cord? Or is it “frame-mounted” and directly wired to your RV? Either must meet the new requirements to be sold in California.
Cummins is the lynchpin
The principal manufacturer of frame-mounted motorhome generators is Cummins. Even before CARB voted in the final generator rules, the RV industry gave the governing board a warning. Citing CARB’s new generator rules standards, industry officials wrote that while the standard might be “technologically feasible” to reach, “it is unlikely to be complied with by Cummins-Onan, given the cost of developing a compliant engines[sic] cannot be supported by the very small generator business in California.”
The statement “it is unlikely” has now become true. Earlier this month, Cummins wrote to its RV industry customers a to-the-point letter. The gist of the letter is in two sentences: “Cummins understands the requirements and continues to investigate potential options / responses, while continuing to support the needs of our joint end customers. However, 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.”
Included in the letter was a list of Cummins-Onan generators that are affected by the CARB generator rules. They are 2.6, 2.8, 3.6, 4.0, 5.5, 6.5, and 7.7 kW generators. Under CARB’s rules, NO diesel-fueled generators will be affected.
Fallout for industry—and consumers
What does Cummins’ decision mean for the RV industry? The RV Industry Association says that some 10,000 RVs equipped with generators are sold in California each year. Of those, close to 80% are gasoline- or LP-fueled units. Translated, come 2024, thousands of RVs normally equipped with generators will be without them.
The financial implications to industry are huge. “Absent generators, we anticipate over one billion dollars in lost sales in California for just the 2024 model year,” said RVIA in a letter to CARB. “This loss of product will impact RV manufacturers in the U.S. and will have dire consequences for California-based dealers and their many employees.” RVIA anticipates that without generators to be had, customers will drive out of California and buy generator-equipped rigs in other states. Last week, RVIA requested emergency relief from CARB, once again asking them to exempt in-frame (essentially motorhome) generators from the 2024 deadline.
And what about electric-powered RVs?
Interestingly enough, their request letter indicated just what the RV industry views as the practicality of electric RVs. CARB’s generator rules would require zero-emissions generators come 2028. “We continue to believe that zero emission alternatives to traditional gas-powered RV generators will only make sense if and when the engine used to propel the motorhome down the road is replaced with an electric drivetrain. We do not know when this time will come. It is not mandatory that RVs be electrified for propulsion. We think 2035 is the earliest we will see electric RVs hit the market in any significant way.” (Italics ours)
Whether or not CARB will listen to industry’s request for relief remains to be seen. While RVers will still be able to use generators, if the new generator rules are left in place, in less than two years it may become difficult to buy a motorhome in California.
What do you think? How critical is an on-board generator in your RV world? If you’re from California, would you travel out of state to buy a generator-equipped RV? Fill out the form below and note, “California generator” on the subject line.