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What Is a CarGenerator?

When the power goes out these days, our world pretty much stops. Generators of one sort or another are the best way to guarantee you can keep powering your world. Many also carry generators when camping or traveling to keep their lights on and batteries charged. Generators, however, have a big drawback of needing fuel. Today we are taking a look at a product we have tested out that can turn any car into a basic generator. No fuel needs outside your normal car fillup and runtimes in the days instead of hours! Stay tuned to learn more.

Do Cars Have Generators Built-In?

Yes all vehicles have their own existing ‘generators’ under the hood called an alternator. It’s responsible for generating electricity to charge the battery while the engine is running. They also keep the electrical components in the vehicle charged. The vehicle’s alternator, however, produces 12V DC and is designed for the Car, not to power your home or RV. Even electric cars have a generator of sorts that converts the high voltage from the main battery into 12V DC.

The CarGenerator utilizes a car’s alternator to supply power to external appliances like a home furnace, refrigerator, or lights. The device converts the 12V DC into 120V AC for powering your standard appliances.

No Generator RV Alternator Charging Electrical System Overview & Performance | Go North Explore More
We used the alternator in the truck of our Go North expedition vehicle to power everything. No generator on board.

CarGenerator Review

Using an existing vehicle that already generates electricity is a way to supply emergency power to our homes and businesses. It was that idea that ‘powered’ the design of the CarGenerator. 

CarGenerator is a coffin-shaped box that you hang on the front of your Car or Truck and connect wires to your car’s batteries. This device is designed to quickly and easily turn your vehicle into a generator.

cargenerator on a chevy volt
On our electric car the battery is in the trunk.

While this is a neat idea its not exactly novel. The CarGenerator is a 1,000W – 3000W (depending on model) pure sine wave inverter that takes the 12V power from an automotive engine’s alternator and converts it to 120V power, making it possible to plug in a furnace, computer, refrigerator, or lighting system and run it on AC power. In essence, it mimics a 120V generator.

This is something I have been doing since I had my first car but with a basic inverter. The main benefit that the CarGenerator product offers is a clean, weatherproof way to easily mount and unmount the product when needed. It features a rubberized backing that will minimize scratching on paint and straps to hang it off the bumper.

Overall, the CarGenerator does what it says. We have used it on three different vehicles, and all of them operated properly when loading it up. Setup is easy, and it is a weatherproof product that you don’t have to worry about in the rain.

As for actual use cases, we do think that the CarGenerator is a good option for those looking for a clean, easy power solution that wants it as a backup or for the occasional camping trip. For those looking for a more permanent solution that will need it more often, I don’t think I would recommend this. The product has some limitations that make regular use less than ideal, but as a backup or option to keep in your vehicle just in case its pretty neat!

Lets take a look at some of the pros and cons.

Pro Tip: New to RVing and want to know more about generators? We put together The Complete Guide To RV Generators.

Heres a shot of the inverter housed in a cargenerator unit
Heres a shot of the inverter housed in our CarGenerator unit

The Benefits of a CarGenerator

The obvious benefit of using a CarGenerator is that it can provide power when needed if you don’t have another source. And because the power is coming from a car battery while its engine is running, there’s less noise and lower emissions compared to a typical gas generator. Plus, the CarGenerator frequently uses less fuel. 

Most vehicle engines can handle long periods of idling without detriment to the auto. And as long as there’s gasoline in the tank of the vehicle, the CarGenerator can transfer its power to external appliances. So, with a full tank, most users can expect 50 to 80 hours of electrical power! This is far more than a standard generator, and you don’t have to handle the fuel cans.

The CarGenerator came in handy recently when the power went out at a friend’s house, and we didn’t have another source of generation on hand. Pulled out the CarGenerator and kept the fridges from melting for about 48 hours! It really saved the day! Here’s a clip of it powering the deep freezer.

Running A Car Generator During A Power Outage

It has also come in handy to run power tools and charge batteries when we were not prepared for power needs. We keep It in our truck, so it’s ready just in case. When pairing it with batteries, it can become even more useful. For a camper that has batteries onboard, the CarGenerator can charge them up; then you can shut the car down so it doesn’t have to run overnight.

The Disadvantages of a CarGenerator

There are a few drawbacks to consider, however, when using a CarGenerator. If, for instance, a load of over 1,000W is put on the system, damage may occur to the vehicle’s alternator. 1000W will require about 90 to 100 amps off the alternator which most can put out without problem. The problem comes when this load is used for extended periods of time. This can overheat the alternator and melt internal windings. This means that you must take care when accumulating several appliances on the electrical line. 

For example, most air conditioners require more power than this device can support, as do microwaves and other high-heating appliances, so check their wattage requirements before using.

The other consideration may be the wear and tear on the existing vehicle from long idling times. Regularly maintain your auto before taxing its extended running capabilities.

The CarGenerator manual, however, comes with detailed instructions on what voltages to watch for off the car to make sure you are not overloading it. The unit itself has a voltmeter that is easy to read right on the front of the case.

The biggest drawback we see to the product, however, is that you can’t use it while you drive. Say you are running your fridge and furnace on it during a power outage. Well, your car is tied up as a generator and can’t be used unless you unplug it. This usually is not a problem to unplug for a while, but if you plan an extended trip, you don’t have a generator to power your needs.

CarGenerator installed on off road truck
CarGenerators can range from $899-1799. Dont expect to drive anywhere while its connected however.

How Much Does a CarGenerator Cost?

This useful power device has several watt configurations. For a 1,000W CarGenerator, the US price is $899. The 2,000W option is $1,495, and a 3,000W is priced at $1,799. CarGenerator however is offering Mortons on the Move readers $150 off. You can get the discount at this page or from our deals and discounts page.

There are also less expensive options for dry units, which means they’re not waterproof for use in rain or other inclement weather.

plugging in the car generator
If you’re in an area regularly hit by storms or power outages, a CarGenerator can be a great back up

Can You Use an Older Vehicle with CarGenerator?

Just because your auto or truck is an older model doesn’t mean it’s not useful as a power generator. You can use any older vehicle with a working battery and alternator in conjunction with a Car Generator. 
It’s also important to note that this device works on newer vehicles like hybrid or electric cars. It doesn’t really matter how the vehicle gets its fuel; the generator operates the same. 

Pro Tip: Want to buy a generator for your RV, but don’t know what you need? We’ll help you discover What Size Generator Do I Need for My RV?

Is CarGenerator Hard on Your Car?

What are alternative options to the CarGenerator Product?

While CarGenerator offers a clean weatherproof package that can be easily used on any vehicle, its not a unique concept. You can use most inverters installed in your vehicle to accomplish the same thing. Most are not weatherproof, however and would need to be permanently installed or keep in under the hood.

In fact, I have been carrying a simple inverter with alligator clips to use in this fashion for many years. Connecting it to the vehicle’s batteries, I have run blenders, electric chainsaw lights, and many other tools off-grid when camping over the years. These simple inverters are much more cost-effective than the CarGenerator.

1000 Watt Pure Sine Wave ETL UL458 Power Inverter...
  • 【1000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter】Provides 1000w DC 12volt to AC...
  • 【More Widely Used】The 3 AC outlets and 2x2.4 amps USB ports...
  • 【Smart LCD Display】Showed current DC voltage,Hz,VAC ,output...

Using an alternator to power RV’s is becoming more and more popular due to the simplicity of not needing a separate generator. These systems however are built-in directly to the vehicle but could act as a generator just the same as CarGenerator.

What Goes Into an Off-Grid Power System? Overland RV Solar Power System With 12V Air Conditioning
In this build we use a DC-DC converter to charge the camper batteries from the vehicle alternator

Should You Use Your Vehicle as a Generator?

Using your vehicle to power external appliances and electronics can be a good option in emergency situations. And if you depend on a CPAP machine or medicine that requires refrigeration, having consistent electricity may be essential for daily life. That’s when a CarGenerator can become the perfect stop-gap until power can be restored.

Just keep in mind that these are best used with smaller loads to prevent damage to your vehicle. Don’t try running heaters, hair dryers or well pumps off this product.

If you’re living in an area that’s regularly hit by storms or you suffer through uncontrollable electrical outages at home, it might be prudent to have a CarGenerator on hand. It could supply backup power for heat, refrigeration, and even communication. Put it and your existing vehicle to work to provide you with power when you need it most.

Do you use a CarGenerator to power your appliances and electronics? Drop a comment below!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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Sharing is caring!

David Turk

Thursday 4th of July 2024

Not all cars have a generator called an “alternator”. Some cars, typically vintage or classic, have a generator called a “generators”! Some of those generators are 6 volt, and some have a positive ground!

Jonathan

Thursday 5th of October 2023

Here are some customers sharing their personal experience using a CarGenerator. https://youtu.be/xywQKiX6FL0

Automotive Hospital

Monday 7th of March 2022

Great content and informative that every car owner can follow through. And totally agree with all of it. Thanks for sharing.