Tuesday, September 28, 2021


RVelectricity – Just Ask Mike (J.A.M.): CarGenerator / Ford PowerBoost Comparison

Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I compare the CarGenerator and the Ford PowerBoost generator.

Hey, Mike,

Saw you at the Airstream International Rally last week, and I’m really glad you brought the F-150 PowerBoost truck.

It’s very nice, but at $66,000 it’s a little out of my budget. However, I saw the CarGenerator you brought, as well. So I wonder if other than the amount of power output, is the Ford technology that much different than the CarGenerator product? —Linda from Lebanon

Dear Linda from Lebanon,
Two weeks ago I couldn’t have answered that question with any certainly because I didn’t have a Ford Hybrid pickup to experiment with. But the brave marketing people at Ford loaned me one for two weeks, no questions asked.

So I drove it 600 miles to Nashville and back to Funkstown. Then I drove it 500 miles to Elkhart and back to Funkstown. I’ll do a full towing report later, but here’s what I’ve learned about the Ford PowerBoost generator so far…

Just the facts, ma’am…

The Ford PowerBoost generator is connected to the vehicle’s high-voltage hybrid traction battery and the 35-kW electric motor/generator mounted on the back of the engine.

The CarGenerator is connected to your vehicle’s 12-volt battery and alternator. Both units operate on the same principle of the car engine creating DC current which is then inverted to 120-volts AC. So the basic power flow is the same between the two technologies.

But will idling my engine for extended times damage it?

I don’t think that idling a modern gasoline engine for extended hours will hurt it at all. Gone are the days of cylinder gasoline wash-down into the oil and fouled spark plugs.

Note that Ford rates their PowerBoost generator for running 85 hours at idle. So I’m confident that CarGenerator is safe to use with your modern car engine for extended idle times.

But as you noted, the CarGenerator (in 1,000-, 1,500- and 2,000-watt versions) has less wattage output than the Ford F-150 Hybrid truck with the 7,200-watt generator option. But I think that CarGenerator is a reasonable solution as a backup plan for boondocking when you don’t want (or are not allowed) to run a portable generator.

What about exhaust emissions?

While I’ve not done emission testing on a portable generator, the fact that it doesn’t have a catalytic converter like your car’s engine tells me the portable generator is much dirtier.

I’m confident that modern vehicle engines are way cleaner than your gasoline-powered weed-wacker or inverter generator. So, a CarGenerator or PowerBoost Generator is much cleaner for the environment.

What the bottom line?

While a Ford PowerBoost is very nice, it’s also a pretty substantial investment. So if you already have a vehicle that you can tow your travel trailer with, then the CarGenerator is an affordable and safe way to add backup power to your boondocking adventures.

No portable generator or extra gasoline containers are required for CarGenerator. But if you need to provide a lot of AC power for extended periods, and don’t mind the weight and extra gasoline of a portable generator, then stick with your inverter generator. It’s as simple as that…

More info for Airstreamers

For the 300 (I’m guessing) of you who attended my RVelectricity seminar at the Airstream Rally in Lebanon, TN, plus the dozens more who couldn’t even get in the door (it was Standing Room Only), I’ll be webcasting the same RVelectricity seminar in another week, just for you Airstreamers. Please let me catch my breath for a few minutes before I jump into editing the video. It’s been a crazy two weeks…

For more information on CarGenerator, please click HERE.

OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.

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.
Join Mike’s popular and informative Facebook group.
And you don’t want to miss Mike’s webcasts on his YouTube channel.

For information on how to support RVelectricity and No~Shock~Zone articles, seminars and videos, please click the I Like Mike Campaign



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1 month ago

it’s basically a yeti [goal zero], it just has a charger already in the truck that allows you to plug it in. with a yeti or any other, you have to spend $400 to get that plug. pretty expensive. but less so than buying a full ford truck [and all ford’s problems]

1 month ago

You mentioned plug fouling from idling …but (when using inverter stationary) wouldn’t starting and stopping the engine 30-120 times in four hours be a much bigger concern? Starter wear, bad fuel mixing, etc…? Swapping cynic hat for engineer hat, I would think something like multiple displacement and steady-run would be MUCH better…

1 month ago

Real data is always king, but Ford’s 85 hour claim is playing the same game that portable generators play with run time… They’re using an enormous gas tank to mask poor KWh/gallon. I found the differences in fuel consumption testing half a dozen inverter generators to be radically different, and then your numbers for this Ford are double the worst inverter generator I tested!

I agree on the convenience factor for contractors, but saying this would replace a good portable for camping seems bending the facts for price and efficiency.

1 month ago
Reply to  Wolfe

BTW, I have a 4KW inverter in my RAM2500 (aftermarket) for always-here and anti-generator-nazi.

…and I never use it if I remember/can bring my generator because fuel and noise are both atrocious by comparison. It sounds like Ford did it better than I, but the concept of routinely running a truck as genny is still absurd IMHO, and trust me, the busy bodies beg me to turn the genny back on when i start the truck.

1 month ago
Reply to  Wolfe

I have the Powerboost and have found it to be a fantastic alternative to the generators we used to tote around. First, no need to haul gas, it’s in my tank. Second, no need to move around a heavy generator. Third, much better for the environment given the exhaust treatment on a modern vehicle vs a generator. Fourth, and this is a big one, QUIET, much quieter than any generator when the truck is running. FIFTH, and probably the biggest one, the engine in the truck ONLY RUNS when the big lithium battery needs charging. The truck is NOT constantly running like a stand alone generator needs to. I can run my AC off that lithium battery and have the truck engine start occasionally to charge it. I love the fact that at night with minimal draw in the right (for example, no AC running) the truck may not start all night long just supplying basic juice to the rig as needed from the lithium battery. Sixth, I can actually support TWO 30amp RV’s off this truck, buddy camping plus!

1 month ago
Reply to  Bear

Note, when the truck is not running and the generator is supplying electricity via the truck’s lithium battery there is NO noise! Finally, I love being able to run my house off the truck during an electrical outage – BONUS!

1 month ago
Reply to  Bear

oh yeah, one more bonus, no need to maintain another gas engine and the hassle of carb’s getting full of gunk when not in use. I use my truck all the time.

Donald N Wright
2 months ago

Thank you. I have wondered about the car generator. Next year I hope to make the Airstream Rally.

Mike Sokol
1 month ago

I’ve been invited to the 2022 Airstream rally next year. See you there…

Dana D
2 months ago

I like my Champion 4500w dual/fuel generator. Hook it to the external propane outlet on my travel trailer and let it run as long as there’s propane. It’s very quiet as well. I’ll never carry gasoline to power it. Also in a home power outage situation, I can use the propane tank in my barbeque grill to power the generator, providing limited 120 volts to my house. I’ll be installing a transfer switch and outside outlet at some point so I just have to plug the generator into the outside outlet to get some 120v to my house.

2 months ago

Mike, All your talks are “standing room only”, if you get there late. I’ve enjoyed all that we have attended and learned “stuff.”

Bob M
2 months ago

I had a Toyota Tacoma with a inverter in the bed. I ran it for over 24 hours to provide power to a stoker coal stove during a power outage. It didn’t seem to affect the truck any long term. But I would change the oil a little sooner. It’s good to hear about the F150 Hybrid. I’m not sure the extra $4,495. dollars option is worth the extra cost. It only gets about 3 mpg more average than the econo boost engine. Curious what milage your getting towing. But I’m still thinking about buying one if Ford has any deals.

1 month ago
Reply to  Bob M

Bob, the 7.2kW is technically an add of $750 as an option. Of course it requires you to add the Hybrid for a total of $4050 for the Hybrid and 7.2kW generator. Since I already wanted a Hybrid for me the extra $750 was a no brainer, cheaper than most stand alone generators. I get at least 24-25mpg, driving around town and anything under about 60mph not towing. If I drive 80mph when running the interstates I get 22.5mpg. I get 9-12mpg towing my camper depending on hills/winds/etc. I have about 8,500 miles on mine now and the mileage has continued to improve as the manual promised it would. I think I’m about at the peak mileage now since the computers seem to have learned my driving style and matched the shift points accordingly.

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