RV Electricity – Industry Update: CarGenerator Preview

17

by Mike Sokol

When is a generator not a generator?

I saw this cool gadget at last year’s Alumapalooza® Airstream Rally, and thought it was a great idea for campers who don’t want to drag around a portable generator – possibly for when the sun isn’t shining on their solar panels or they’re going on an occasional boondocking trip.

It’s called CarGenerator™, and it hooks up to your tow vehicle’s engine battery, allowing your vehicle alternator to provide 1,000 or 2,000 watts of pure sine wave power while running at idle. So no extra gas cans. No loud generator noise. And no lifting heavy generators out of the bed of the truck. One of these is being shipped to me as we speak for a review next month, but I’m giving my newsletter readers a sneak peek about what it is and how it works.

Most of you should know by now that portable inverter generators aren’t really generators at all, in the traditional sense. Nope, they’re actually 3-phase alternators very similar to what you have in your car. And they don’t make 120-volts AC directly. Nope, they produce 12-volts DC internally, which is then connected to a 12-volt-to-120-volt inverter similar to what you might have inside of your RV already. This allows the gasoline motor powering the alternator to run at whatever RPMs it likes for best fuel economy. And this is exactly how all Honda, Yamaha, Predator and Cummins-Onan inverter generators work. There’s a fuel tank, a gasoline (and propane) engine, an alternator, and a DC-to-AC inverter making pure sine waves at 60 Hz.

Now let’s assume that instead of building a big quiet box with acoustic isolation, a fuel tank, and gasoline engine with muffler, and an alternator, that we just hung the inverter part of an inverter generator directly onto the battery and alternator of your tow vehicle instead. That means you can idle your vehicle engine, plug a box into your vehicle battery with a special high-amperage connection and wiring, and then be able to make 1,000 watts (or more) of 120-volt AC power at 60 Hz, exactly like a Honda inverter generator.

Enter the CarGenerator™. The beauty of this technology is that you don’t need to bring an extra can of fuel for a portable generator since you probably have 20 gallons or more already in your tow vehicle, there’s no engine maintenance on the generator to perform, and you can stash the CarGenerator™ box in your living quarters without the smell of gasoline. Oh, and it is as quiet as your vehicle engine idling around 700 to 900 RPM.

The all-weather model that you can hang on the front of your vehicle (when you’re not driving, of course) is around $700, which seems reasonable if it works as advertised. And there are also 1,500-watt and 2,000-watt versions available. So when it arrives in a week or so I’m going to hang it on my Nissan pickup truck, connect it to my 10,000-watt load bank, and monitor it for harmonic content, overheating, etc. If it passes my acid test, then you can buy it in confidence that it will power your next boondocking adventure without any problems. See you here next month for a full review of the CarGenerator™.

For more info, please visit https://cargenerator.com/ and tell them Mike Sokol sent you.

Let’s play safe out there….

 

 

Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.

Email me at mike (at) noshockzone.org with your questions.

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17 Comments
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Les Harmon
7 months ago

It would be great for power emergencies (storm, etc) to power your RV.

TIM
7 months ago

I’m withholding judgement but doubt using my 375hp engine as a generator is a good idea. I look forward to reading your review, Mike.

Rob
7 months ago

Kinda have to agree with Mike here below. Your vehicle makes a really expensive generator (Unless you’re like me and drive a 1966 International that I paid 600.00 for back in 1985 or so) Why not just hook up some jumper cables to your house batteries for that occasional emergency charge.

Tommy Molnar
7 months ago

Today, when there is always a concern for “idle time” with overly DEF’d and REGEN’d diesel engines, I don’t think this plan is going to work. There’s a reason why there is a ‘gauge’ that shows just how many hours your truck has idled. It’s not GOOD for them!

Wolfe
7 months ago

This is hardly a new invention… I’ve done exactly this setup for several years and i’m NOT the first to think of it. I have dual alternators on my truck and following an unfortunate encounter with busybody generator nazis, clamped my 4KW inverter straight to my alternator/battery. I don’t even have to high-idle the truck. Imagine the fuming busybody trying to figure out how to complain about my idling truck, which was totally allowed outside generator hours!

Now, before you think this is great… idling the truck burns a TON more fuel than a traditional generator. I only did/do it for emergencies and shortest duration.

Also, I don’t think alternators are really built for running continuous near-max-output… pulling 2-400A nonstop for long could hurt your alternator or overcharge your battery. The alternator/ charging system expects to successfully charge a weak battery or carry modest loads

…and $700 ?!?! You could buy a Predator 4KW inverter generator for that and NOT have to monkey around.

Fred
7 months ago

The newer Ford 6.7 diesels automatically shut down after 30 minutes of idling because of potential problems due to def & other issues. I would definitely not use something like this on my $90K truck unless the car mfgs gave it their blessing. And you might have to spend extra bucks on an upfitter switch or software to bypass the default shutdown software. You can bypass it on the dash computer screen, but it defaults to shutdown again next time you start the truck.

Scott Taylor
7 months ago

Is there any risk of damage to the car/truck electrical system by placing such a load on the alternator/battery?

Wolfe
7 months ago
Reply to  Scott Taylor

Yes.

…but it depends on how many amps you’re drawing vs capable of generating. Recharging your RV battery with jumper cables is pretty safe, 800W inverters are pretty safe for most cars, but running a significant (2-4KW) inverter full-out is more than most alternators are built for.

Harry
7 months ago

So I hang that generator on my 1985 Ford F-150 diesel truck and fast idle!
What will yneighbors say?
Ok, a car not a truck generator!

mike
7 months ago

While I can see some draw to not hauling around a generator and extra gas, a $6,000 or $20,000 car makes a really expensive generator. I would hope this item is chosen for the occasional camper that needs power for cooking. If it’s for charging the house batteries – it would be way more efficient to hook them up to the car.

Eddie
7 months ago

Very interesting!
Looking forward to your analysis.