Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM. This week I compare the CarGenerator and the Ford PowerBoost generator.
Saw you at the Airstream International Rally last week, and I’m really glad you brought the F-150 PowerBoost truck.
It’s very nice, but at $66,000 it’s a little out of my budget. However, I saw the CarGenerator you brought, as well. So I wonder if other than the amount of power output, is the Ford technology that much different than the CarGenerator product? — Linda from Lebanon
Dear Linda from Lebanon,
Two weeks ago I couldn’t have answered that question with any certainly because I didn’t have a Ford Hybrid pickup to experiment with. But the brave marketing people at Ford loaned me one for two weeks, no questions asked.
So I drove it 600 miles to Nashville and back to Funkstown. Then I drove it 500 miles to Elkhart and back to Funkstown. I’ll do a full towing report later, but here’s what I’ve learned about the Ford PowerBoost generator so far…
Just the facts, ma’am…
The Ford PowerBoost generator is connected to the vehicle’s high-voltage hybrid traction battery and the 35-kW electric motor/generator mounted on the back of the engine.
The CarGenerator is connected to your vehicle’s 12-volt battery and alternator. Both units operate on the same principle of the car engine creating DC current which is then inverted to 120-volts AC. So the basic power flow is the same between the two technologies.
But will idling my engine for extended times damage it?
I don’t think that idling a modern gasoline engine for extended hours will hurt it at all. Gone are the days of cylinder gasoline wash-down into the oil and fouled spark plugs.
Note that Ford rates their PowerBoost generator for running 85 hours at idle. So I’m confident that CarGenerator is safe to use with your modern car engine for extended idle times.
But as you noted, the CarGenerator (in 1,000-, 1,500- and 2,000-watt versions) has less wattage output than the Ford F-150 Hybrid truck with the 7,200-watt generator option. But I think that CarGenerator is a reasonable solution as a backup plan for boondocking when you don’t want (or are not allowed) to run a portable generator.
What about exhaust emissions?
While I’ve not done emission testing on a portable generator, the fact that it doesn’t have a catalytic converter like your car’s engine tells me the portable generator is much dirtier.
I’m confident that modern vehicle engines are way cleaner than your gasoline-powered weed-wacker or inverter generator. So, a CarGenerator or PowerBoost Generator is much cleaner for the environment.
What the bottom line?
While a Ford PowerBoost is very nice, it’s also a pretty substantial investment. So if you already have a vehicle that you can tow your travel trailer with, then the CarGenerator is an affordable and safe way to add backup power to your boondocking adventures.
No portable generator or extra gasoline containers are required for CarGenerator. But if you need to provide a lot of AC power for extended periods, and don’t mind the weight and extra gasoline of a portable generator, then stick with your inverter generator. It’s as simple as that…
More info for Airstreamers
For the 300 (I’m guessing) of you who attended my RVelectricity seminar at the Airstream Rally in Lebanon, TN, plus the dozens more who couldn’t even get in the door (it was Standing Room Only), I’ll be webcasting the same RVelectricity seminar in another week, just for you Airstreamers. Please let me catch my breath for a few minutes before I jump into editing the video. It’s been a crazy two weeks…
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play safe out there…
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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