Can a Portable Generator Charge an Electric Car?

Can a Portable Generator Charge an Electric Car? Everything You Need to Know

5 Min Read

Plenty of new electronic vehicle (EV) owners are looking into whether or not a portable generator can charge their electric car if their traditional charging system fails.

Sifting through all of the info out there about can a portable generator charge electric car can feel like a real uphill battle.

Some people say it’s effortless to pull off, others say it’s impossible, and others still waffle between yes it can be done and no it can’t without ever giving a definitive answer.

Well, by the time you’re done with this detailed guide you’ll know for certain if you can power your EV vehicle with a portable generator.

Can a Portable Generator Charge an Electric Car?

Right out of the gate, you should know that you definitely can power an electric car with a portable generator – but you have to be sure that you’re using the right generator to pull this off.

For starters, the portable generator you choose needs to have a clean output sine wave.

This sine wave needs to be as pure as possible, flooding your EV with as much clean and consistent energy as it can without ever “polluting” the system with unreliable and inconsistent electricity.

This means that you are going to need an inverter portable generator. A traditional generator just can’t produce the kind of sine wave you need.

Inverter generators solve the sine wave issue by inverting DC to AC, which results in a consistent power output. On top of that, you need to be sure that your new portable generator is capable of delivering exactly the right amount of charge your EV vehicle needs.

However, be aware some inverters have a sine wave that is a modified square wave or a simple square wave. Some EV vehicles will detect this energy as dirty, and will fail to charge. This is to protect the cars sensitive electronics.

When researching portable inverter generators, always insist on an inverter with pure sine wave effect. Cheaper inverter generators typically offer a modified sine wave rather than pure sine wave.

Most cars are going to need anywhere between 28 and 30 A or so. Take a look at your owners manual or online for the exact power requirements.

Square those two things away, though, and you should be good to go.

Advantages of Charging an EV with a Portable Generator

There are a lot of obvious advantages to charging your EV vehicle with a portable generator, including (but not limited to):

  • Having the ability to charge your vehicle even if traditional power goes down
  • Having the ability to charge your vehicle “on the go” if your portable inverter generator is on hand
  • Having the ability to charge your vehicle away from traditional power sources, including “off the grid” and in far-flung locales

You also have a lot more control over how your EV battery charges when you’re using a portable generator.

Why It’s a Challenge to Charge Electric Cars with Portable Generators

At the same, there are certainly some challenges to charging EV cars with portable generators.

This is why a lot of people wonder “can a portable generator charge electric car” in the first place!

To begin with, small portable generators generally aren’t going to have enough “juice” to get your EV back on the road. You need to be sure that your generator has the energy production capability to fill your EV battery backup to 100%.

Secondly, you may not be able to find a portable generator with a hookup for your specific EV.

Tesla, Chevy, Honda, and Toyota all have proprietary connections for their battery charging systems. You might have to cobble together a system that connects your vehicle to your portable generator, as they are almost always only going to have a traditional outlet style output.

Lastly, portable generators still need fuel to run off of. You’ll not only need to have your generator close at hand but you also have to have a steady fuel supply as well.

Recommended Pure Shine Wave Inverter Generators

Here’s our top picks for the best pure shine wave portable generators to charge your EV. Compact design, pure shive wave output and portability make these all a smart and safe buy.

Important Thing to Remember Before Charging Your EV with a Portable Generator

At the end of the day, if you’re going to be charging your electronic vehicle with a portable generator it’s important that you start really slow and monitor the process every step of the way.

Slowly dial up the amperage, never going above what your owner manual recommends for a charging station.

While it’s possible to charge an EV with an inverter generator, you need to use caution or you could have a real catastrophe on your hands.

Fact is, charging an EV using a portable inverter generator can be a slow and lengthy process. For this reason, you don’t really need to fully charge the vehicle. Just enough to get you to a proper charge station.

Realistically, this kind of activity shouldn’t be an everyday habit. And it should be for emergency uses only.



Brian has spent over 30 years as a general contractor, and in that time seen and faced many challenges. He brings all his knowledge of portable generators, battery powered tools, and outdoor equipment to every post he writes through real life experience. Learn more about us.

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