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The California Generator Ban: Does It Affect Your RV?

The California Generator Ban: Does It Affect Your RV?

Have you heard the chatter about a California generator ban? Well, in this post we’ve got some fact-based details to share that we hope will clear up some misconceptions about the use of an RV generator as a power source in the State of California.

In December of 2021, the California Air Resources Board approved a measure that moves California toward zero or near-zero emissions standards for power equipment including portable gas generators used on RVs.

As is often the case, sensationalistic headlines had some RVers believing that California could ban an RV from entering the state if it had a non-compliant generator built into the rig. In fact, the chatter continues to go on to this day.

So, we thought we’d take a few minutes to dispel rumors and exchange them for facts. Let’s take a look at how California’s updated regulations do and do not affect RV generators.

Can I Use My RV Generator in California?

Yes. As we write this post in February of 2023, you can drive your RV into the State of California and you can camp in and run your gas-powered generator. Here’s what you need to know, in a nutshell:

California is perhaps the most environmentally-conscious state in North America. For this reason, their emissions standards are always being raised and modified to meet greater goals for the protection of the environment in general.

However, California has not banned your current RV generator. Instead, they’ve developed a plan that takes a step-by-step approach to raise their emissions standards over time. This plan includes phasing out the sale of gas-powered engines.

In 2024, the sale of portable generators (including those in recreational vehicles) will be tied to a requirement to meet more stringent emissions standards. Moreover, beginning in 2028, newly-installed/sold RV generators will need to meet zero-emission standards.

HOWEVER…the law doesn’t ban existing generators. It bans the sale of NEW generators that don’t comply with California’s air quality regulations.

What’s AB 1346 and What Does It Mean for RVers?

AB 1346 is a California Assembly bill that involves air pollution from small off-road engines. The measure was approved in December 2021. The new law requires most new small off-road engines to meet zero-emission standards beginning in 2024.

Small off-road engines include those found in gas-powered lawn equipment (such as leaf blowers and lawn mowers) and in portable generators such as those used in RVs.

A backpack leaf blower sitting on the ground

A backpack leaf blower is among the small off-road gas-powered engines that contribute significant amounts of pollution to the environment.

The new requirements apply to manufacturers, so they only affect NEW equipment that’s the model year 2024 and later.

Current California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards were adopted in 1990. This new measure (AB 1346) is actually an amendment to those standards.

If I Buy a Used RV in the Future, Will My Generator Be Subject to AB 1346 Regulations?

No. There’s no ban (nor will there be) on using older generator models or used equipment. In fact, even older models of gas-powered generators and other small engines that are still on store shelves can be purchased and used.

Again, the new regulations apply to manufacturers. Manufacturers must uphold the new standards. But if you’ve got an older model generator on your RV (or if you purchase an older model generator in the future), you’ll still have the right to use it in the State of California.

They’re not banning current machines. They’re phasing out the manufacture of new products over time.

What’s the Problem with Small Off-Road Engines?

Although they may be small, these engines contribute a tremendous amount of pollution to the environment.

urban smog

Small off-road engines contribute significantly to the smog that is incredibly harmful to humans, animals, and the environment in general. California is unwilling to accept the continuation of this problem.

In fact, the amount of smog-forming emissions from small off-road engines (including portable gas-powered generators) has even surpassed that of passenger cars (largely due to the significant improvements in vehicle emissions over the years). By the year 2031, it’s predicted that emissions from small off-road, gas-powered engines will be twice that of passenger vehicles.

In the way of example, the smog-forming emissions generated by using a backpack leaf blower for one hour is equal to those produced by a typical car driving 1,100 miles.

The effect of these new regulations should (hopefully) reduce these emissions by 72 tons per day.

What Are the Two Phases of the Amended Regulations Setting Emission Standards to Zero?

The amended regulation will set emission standards to zero in two phases.

Phase One:

For model years 2024 and beyond, the emissions standards will be zero. This standard will apply to engines used in all types of equipment produced in the State of California for sale anywhere, with the exception of generators and large pressure washers. (The standards for these two types of equipment will be raised by 40-90% beginning in model year 2024, but they will not be zero.)

Phase Two:

Phase two of the new regulations will be applied in 2028 (on products manufactured in model year 2028). In this phase, the emission standards for generators and large pressure washers will be zero.

Do the New Regulations Apply to Diesel and Propane Generators?

No. The new standards you hear referred to as the “California generator ban” will apply only to gas-powered generators… the legislation doesn’t apply to diesel or propane generators.

This seems like a good time to mention the importance of keeping up with your Onan RV generator’s maintenance. This keeps your genny running optimally, providing the power you need, and making it less likely for you to have to buy a new one.

Our original Onan generator has been running like a top for 17 years!

So, Can I RV in California and Run My Generator?

Yes, you can! California still welcomes RVers and yes, you can power your rig’s appliances and devices with your portable gas-powered generator.

An SUV pulling a small camper past the Redwoods in California

The leaders of the State of California want campers to be able to enjoy the environment for centuries to come.

California wants you to know that while the new zero-emissions regulations don’t (and won’t!) apply to your current generator, they exist to protect the environment in which we all enjoy camping, hiking, kayaking, biking, etc., so that lovers of the outdoors can continue to enjoy it for decades and generations to come.

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Thursday 23rd of February 2023

Nice article bringing it all together and clearing some very basic concerns. A couple of notes,

The 2024 CARB regulations do include LP generators, not just gasoline. It does not affect Diesel. Also, the generator you show in your picture as BANNED is actually a diesel generator. But I get the effect.

CARB 2024 law affects portables AND fixed mount generators. Both are required to meet new regulations, depending on their engine classification in 2024 if sold in California.

It is a requirement on the manufacturer of the equipment, in this case generator, however the RV OEM must be sure that all of the RV components comply with CARB rules.

If your current generator has to be replaced after 1/2024 in California, you must buy a model which is CARB 2024 compliant. It is not crystal clear if all current model gas and LP generators will have a CARB 2024 version available. So you may have to either repair your current one or travel out of state to get a replacement.


Wednesday 22nd of February 2023

Thanks for the great article, guys. Well-written and very informative for us RVers as all your articles seem. Talk about unnecessary noise, air, and water polluters - please Cali, just ban all leaf blowers and pressure washers for good!


Monday 20th of February 2023

Your article uses the term portable. I assume the permanently mounted gas generators in RV's are not affected. Is this the case?


Monday 20th of February 2023

That’s correct, Rob. New portable, not-permanently-installed, gas-powered generators are affected. The ban does NOT affect any generators already sold and/or installed.

Gay Travel Enthusiast (Jason)

Monday 20th of February 2023

Great! Just what the automotive world needs, another ban. What's next? A ban on gasoline powered vehicles? I get the concern over the noise level of generators, they can be loud! In some cases, like a sledgehammer next to you. That's damn annoying! But you have to have some means to power your RV when not hooked up to some power source.

Rational Bob

Monday 19th of February 2024

Maybe you wish to look at the environmental issues. I remember a time (1970ish) anytime driving from Chicago to Indiana the smog was so bad you could not see 200 feet in front of you on the interstate. I live in FLA and over 40 years have watched the flooding along the coasts intensify, even from moderate winds and rain.

There is a lot more to these regulations...and I am not an "environmentalist" just someone old enough to have seen what we and nature has done to the environment over time. The earth is changing regardless of cause and if there are reasonable actions "humans" can take, then that's good for all.

As to your statement about RVs, fact is for the majority of RVers, they are luxuries and recreation, not "life and death".

Look at the "bigger" picture....

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