What the California Generator Ban Means for RVers
The Statewide Ban Takes Aim at Generator and RV Manufacturers.
As previously reported, in September the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 1346, which bans the sale of all “small off-road engines” (SORE), including gas-powered lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and other lawn care equipment. The bill was later signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, who previously issued an executive order to eliminate the sale of all internal combustion engines in the state by 2035.
Under the state’s broad definition of a SORE, gas-powered generators commonly used by RVers fall under this ban. Several lobbying groups requested an exemption for those devices but to no avail.
Additionally, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) passed an amendment to the law on December 9 that extends the ban to generators built into RVs and not just standalone units.
So, what does this all mean for RVers? As it turns out, not as much as you might think.
A Ban on Sales Not Use
On the surface, the new law seems like bad news for RVers who use a generator at the campsite. The reality is, the ban only affects the sale of new generators and RVs that come with generators built-in. It does not prohibit using generators that are already owned and in use. In other words, you can continue to use the generator you currently own without fear of consequences.
The ban is bad news for the companies that make the generators and RV manufacturers that build them into their vehicles. Eventually, those companies will no longer be able to sell their products in the state of California. It could also spell trouble for California residents looking to replace an aging generator but won’t be able to purchase one.
When Does the Ban Go into Effect?
The ban on the sale of standalone generators doesn’t begin until 2024. At that time, gas-powered models will be removed from store shelves across the state, along with all other SORE equipment.
With the addition of the CARB amendment, RV manufacturers have until 2028 to phase out any models that come with a built-in generator. Those vehicles will remain on sale in states that don’t have a similar ban, but they will no longer make their way to California RV dealerships.
What is the Reason for the Ban?
California banned SOREs as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), reactive organic gases (ROG), and particulate matter (PM) produced by these small engines. According to CARB, SOREs emit those harmful elements at an alarming rate, creating potential health issues for the public. This directly lead to the drafting of Assembly Bill No. 1346.
Just how bad are SOREs for the environment? Research indicates that a single leaf blower running for one hour produces the same harmful smog levels as driving a car for 1100 miles. Members of CARB have also stated that by 2031, gas-powered equipment—such as lawnmowers, chainsaws, and electric generators—will produce twice as much smog as passenger cars.
What are the Alternatives to SOREs?
California officials encourage residents and visitors to adopt zero-emissions equipment (ZEE) as replacements for SOREs. In the case of gas-powered generators, that means switching to portable power stations as an eco-friendly alternative. These devices use large lithium batteries to store power and, as a result, don’t release harmful pollutants into the air. They are also completely silent, giving them a significant advantage over their gas-powered counterparts.
However, the current generation of portable power stations does come with a few caveats. While they do work well for keeping devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets charged, very few models can power an RV for any length of time. On top of that, recharging the lithium batteries requires plugging the power station into an AC outlet, DC accessory port, or a solar panel, which aren’t always readily available while camping.
The good news is that numerous companies are working to improve portable power stations’ charging speed and capacity. By the time California’s generator ban goes into effect in 2024, new models offering improved performance should be available to the public. This will make replacing a SORE generator much less of a challenge and make the campsite more environmentally friendly.
The bottom line is if you’re an RV owner who lives in California—or one who visits the state often—the 2024 ban on the sale of generators is likely to have little impact on you. Since the state isn’t banning the use of those devices, you can carry on as you have in the past.
After 2024, if your generator stops working, it will become increasingly difficult to get it repaired in California. Buying a new gas-powered model in-state will also be out of the question. However, if you travel out of state, you can purchase a replacement and bring it back with you.
Efforts to lobby the California Legislature to create an exemption for gas-powered generators are ongoing. Through those efforts, the use of generators for RVing and emergency use at home may get approved in the future. But, as of this writing, this is where the generator ban currently stands.