A generator can be a real lifesaver when you’re RVing off the grid or even if you’re at home and a storm knocks the power out. Though people living in the state of California might soon find it difficult to purchase a generator that runs on gasoline.

In its constant battle against air pollution, the great state of California has turned its ire on small gasoline-burning engines, with intense scrutiny turned toward what they call “Small Off-Road Engines,” or SOREs. This includes generators and any other spark-ignition engines that are rated at or below 19 kilowatts or a rating of 25 horsepower or less.

Though like many new legal and environmental regulations, there are some important details to understand. Especially if you live in California or you’re planning an RV camping trip there, and you want to use a generator. To make sure you are completely compliant now and on future camping trips to the Golden State, we’ll need to look at the devil in the details.

Are Generators Illegal In California Now?

At this time, generators are not banned in California. However, the sale of small gasoline generators is about to be banned in the future.

This will make it hard for California residents to buy a new portable gas generator. It can also make it hard to find common replacement parts for a gasoline generator if you take an RV vacation to California and you suffer a generator problem.

Keep in mind that you can still use a portable gasoline generator, and larger gasoline generators that meet California emission standards can still be sold in the Golden State. Diesel and propane generators can also be sold and used in California without any repercussions.

What Is AB-1346

AB-1346 was passed by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in October of 2021 with the intention of gradually phasing out the sale and eventual usage of small off-road engines. The thinking behind it is that many SOREs have minimal to no air filtration or air pollution capture systems. Thus they release a high volume of nitrogen compounds and reactive organic gasses that can potentially compound California’s efforts to improve overall air pollution throughout the state.

Key Points to The California Generator Ban and what it means for RV’ers

There are a few key details about the reasoning behind the California generator ban and some of its fine-point stipulations. While it’s being called a “Generator Ban,” it actually affects a wide range of small gasoline engines. It’s also worth bearing in mind that California is one of those states that strongly believes that “Ignorance is no excuse.”

So, if you live in California or you’re considering a camping trip to the Golden State, there are a few things you need to know about the California Generator Ban AB-1346.

1. What Engines Are Prohibited by California AB-1346?

The California Generator Ban AB-1346 bans the same SOREs (Small Off-Road Engines) with a horsepower rating of 25 or less or below 19 kilowatts. This is a lot of small popular gasoline generators like the:

  • Honda EU2200iTAN1
  • Honda 121cc GXR120
  • Power Equipment 25 HP
  • Kohler Command
  • Serine Life 155
  • Westinghouse WGen 9500
  • WEN 56200i
  • Powermate PM 2000

Other Engines That Are Affected by AB-1346

Of course, California isn’t just after generators. The definition of what qualifies as a SORE also prohibits the sale of things like:

  • Chainsaws with less than 45 cc engines
  • Lawn Edgers
  • Gasoline Hedge Trimmers
  • Small Gasoline Lawnmowers
  • Gasoline Leaf Blowers
  • Log splitters
  • Pressure Washers
  • Small Gasoline Riding Lawnmowers
  • Gasoline String Trimmers

2. When Does AB-1346 Go into Effect In California?

While the California Generator Ban was passed into law in October of 2021, it doesn’t fully go into effect until January of 2024 for lawn care equipment like leaf blowers and lawn mowers. It also gives time for manufacturers to come up with alternative battery-powered tools.

AB-1346 goes fully into effect for all gasoline and dual fuel generators on January 1st of, 2028. Though this just pertains to the sale of those generators in the state of California. It does not specifically ban their use.

The biggest impact in the near future will be on generator manufacturers, who will have to come up with alternative options to their smaller gasoline generators or forgo selling SOREs in the state of California.

Both the R&D cost of developing alternatives as well as vacating their market share in California will leave small off-road engine manufacturers suffering a massive financial loss. This will likely be passed on to consumers in increased cost of generator sales leading up to the ban’s effective dates in 2024 and 2028.

3. What Does the New Rule Mean for California RVers?

If you live in California or plan a trip there in the next few years, you can still use your small portable gas generator. However, you should expect any replacement parts for these generators to be in low supply and high in price. So, it might be wise to bring things like replacement sparkplugs and carb components with you or purchase them when you’re passing through another state.

You might also want to consider other small gasoline engines in your camping arsenal. Small gasoline chainsaws, leaf blowers, and lawnmowers are also considered SOREs and won’t be available for purchase or cheap repair in California. This can be a factor if you like to off-road camp or primitive camp with your RV and plan to harvest your own firewood!

4. Can I Still Use My Gasoline Generator In California?

California’s AB-1346 has a clause in it that allows for grandfathered use of existing gasoline generators. If you already own one or are from another state coming into California to camp, you can still use your gasoline generator. At least, that is for now and into the foreseeable future.

Though as California trends toward a zero-emission standard, chances are good that some form of updated legislation might restrict the use of gasoline generators in the future.

Still, nothing on the foreseeable legal docket leading up to 2028 would ban the total use of SORE generators in the state of California.

5. What About Generators Built-Into an RV at the Factory?

Generators that are built into an RV in a factory typically need to meet all state emission standards for the RV to be legally sold by a California RV dealership.

Just like how an RV dealership can’t sell you a motorhome with a faulty brake system, they aren’t allowed to sell you an RV with SORE gasoline generator once the California Generator Ban goes fully into effect.

Legally, the RV dealerships are responsible for ensuring that all factory-installed generators meet pertinent California regulations. However, you can expect to see diesel and propane equivalent generators installed in the place of small gasoline generators in the models that include them installed directly from the factory.

6. Can I Buy a Portable Generator From Another State?

If you live in the state of California, and you want to buy a SORE generator, you can still purchase it from another state with more lax generator laws. Just note that you will have to do this in person.

You won’t be able to simply order a generator online from a vendor in another state and have it shipped to your California address. If anything, it gives you a good excuse to take an RV trip out of state.

7. Does The California Generator Ban Apply to Diesel Generators?

The good news is that AB-1346 doesn’t apply to diesel generators, diesel pressure washers, diesel pumps, and diesel riding lawnmowers. This is because diesel engines aren’t known to produce the high volume of nitrogen and reactive organic compounds that CARB hopes to curtain in California’s atmospheric emissions.

8. Does the California Generator Ban Apply to Propane Generators?

A generator set up only to use propane or connected to a plumbed natural gas line is exempt from AB-1346. While these generators aren’t 100% as efficient or productive as a gasoline generator of the same size, they are still a very viable alternative.

9. Does AB-1346 Apply to Construction & Farm-Use Small Engines?

Existing Federal law prevents states from regulating new engines which are used in construction equipment. This also pertains to vehicles that are used in farm equipment or vehicles that are 175 horsepower or less. Though these exceptions do not apply for small off-road engines used for camping purposes.

The state of California has also created a $30 million budget specifically to help landscaping businesses and similar companies that use SORE power tools. Regulations on how these funds can be accessed and distributed are still in the works.

The overarching goal is to help these businesses afford new equipment that aligns with the zero-emissions standards. It’s also hoped that it will further encourage small businesses to keep up with the legal changes without suffering a significant financial loss in the process.

From Solar Panels to Portable Power Stations: How Campers in California Can Adapt to the Generator Ban

The California Generator Ban doesn’t restrict propane and diesel generators. There are also some other energy technologies to consider adding to your RV repertoire.

  • Solar Panels – At this time, solar panels are more effective for helping to maintain or top up an RV’s house battery bank. They’re only really effective for powering popup campers and teardrop trailers that don’t have any sort of air conditioning system.
  • Wind Generators – Consumer-scale wind generators continue to evolve in their effectiveness and performance. If you are planning to camp near the coast or in an exposed stretch of the mountains and adopt energy-conscious practices, a wind generator can be a handy way to keep your RV’s house batteries over 50%. Though they become much less effective for camping in forests and lowland areas where strong breezes are intermittent at best.
  • Upgrading To Lithium Batteries – While they don’t produce power, lithium-ion RV batteries don’t suffer the same fade in performance when they dip below 50% as 12 Volt lead-acid batteries do. This means you can get more effective use of the electricity in your batteries and the power produced by other alternative energy sources by upgrading to lithium-ion.

Preparing for California’s Gas Generator Ban

On the face of it, the California generator ban might look like bad news for RV travelers in the Golden State, but it only really applies to the sale of small off-road engine generators that use gasoline and have an effective rating under 25 horsepower.

If you already have a portable gasoline or dual fuel generator, or you buy one between now and when the generator portion of the ban goes into effect on January 1st of 2028, you can still use it in California without penalty. You can also purchase a portable gasoline generator from another state and still use it in the state of California.

Though this is a purchase, you will have to make it in person. You won’t be able to simply order a gasoline generator from a company in Alaska or Iowa, where generator requirements are sparse, and have it shipped to a California address.