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What Is a Car Generator?

What Is a Car Generator?

With so many electrical devices in our households, businesses, and even RVs, a sudden power outage can send us into a tailspin. What happens when a superstorm knocks out the electricity to our homes in the midst of winter? How can we run the furnace to keep warm or avoid food spoiling in an unresponsive refrigerator? Even communications can become nonexistent without the power to charge cell phones or laptop computers. 

Fortunately, an entrepreneur named Jonathan Schloo designed the CarGenerator to keep electricity flowing. Let’s check it out and learn other ways you can use your car to generate electricity.

Do Cars Have Generators Built In?

Cars, sports utility vehicles, and trucks all 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 vehicles alternator however produces 12V DC and is designed for the Car, not to power your home or RV.

The Car Generator utilizes a car’s alternator to supply power to external appliances like a home furnace, refrigerator, or lights.

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.

Can You Use Your Vehicle as a Generator?

Using an existing vehicle that already generates electricity is a novel 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.

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This 1,000W – 3000W generator has a 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.

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

Car Generator product shot.
Using a Car Generator on the go can be very beneficial.

The Benefits of a Car Generator

The obvious benefit of using a Car Generator is that it can create 1,000W of power when needed. 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 Car Generator actually 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 Car Generator can transfer its power to external appliances. So, with a full tank, most users can expect 50 to 80 hours of electrical power.

Car Generator product shot
Take the stress out of charging your appliances with a Car Generator.

The Disadvantages of a Car Generator

There are a few drawbacks to consider, however, when using a Car Generator. 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.

Car Generator product shot
Car Generators can range from $725-1300.

How Much Does a Car Generator Cost?

This useful power device has several watt configurations. For a 1,000W Car Generator, the US price is $725, while a 1,500W unit comes in at $966. The 2,000W option is $1,130, and a 3,000W is priced at $1,372. 

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

Man posing with Car Generator in front of RV.
If you’re in an area regularly hit by storms or power outages, a Car Generator can be a great back up plan.

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 Car Generator 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 chainsaws lights, and many other tools off-grid when camping over the years. These simple inverters are much more cost-effective than the CarGenerator.

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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 Car Generator 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. Dont 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 Car Generator 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 Car Generator to power your appliances and electronics? Drop a comment below!

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Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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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.