Gas-powered generators have been a staple of portable power stations for Fourth of July barbecues, tailgating, camping, and backyard festivities, not to mention power outages and natural disasters.
Today, battery-powered generators (also known as gasless generators) are replacing fuel-burning generators as a cleaner, less noisy alternative for users seeking a more environmentally sustainable or portable device, whether they’re avid hikers and campers or just need an indoor-friendly power source.
Battery-powered generators, particularly lithium battery generators, come in different shapes and sizes.
Top Five Battery Powered Generators
Below are product reviews of five popular portable power stations, the value of these generators and how they work (including the pros and cons of using them), and other frequently asked questions.
1. Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 500
- Lithium battery power of 518Wh with a 144,400mAh battery capacity, including 500W rated power and 1000W surge power.
- The station is Jackery’s largest and highest-capacity portable power bank with dimensions of 11.84 x 7.59 x 9.2 inches.
- At 13.32 pounds, this Jackery station is of good middle-weight compared to its competitors.
- It includes three USB ports, one AC outlet, and one 12V car output.
- The unit does not have any USB-C ports, which are smaller connectors than standard USB cords but are reversible and can deliver more power.
Users can charge the station through the AC outlet, the DC carport, or solar panels (to be purchased separately).
The station can charge multiple electronic devices, including smartphones, laptops, cameras, drones, and CPAP machines. For example, the station can recharge an iPhone 8 roughly 50 times and a 12-inch MacBook approximately seven times.
It can also charge relatively small appliances, including a small car fridge for up to 39 hours and a 32-inch TV for up to seven hours.
Jackery’s LCD screen shows charge and discharged data as well as battery life status. If you’re an avid camper or hiker, the station’s built-in LED flashlight will help you traverse the wilderness more easily.
If you’re on a budget, however, the price tag might be a turn-off, and despite its power, the station is not used to power medium-to-heavier appliances like space heaters, large blenders, or vacuums.
Additionally, though the product is advertised for outdoor use, the station’s manual instructs users to keep the unit out of heavy sunlight, extreme outdoor temperatures, and rain and moisture.
2. Rockpals RP300W Lithium Portable Power Station
- 280Wh of battery capacity as well as 300W of continuous power and a 600W surge maximum.
- It can be charged by its AC and DC ports, as well as by Rockpals 50W and 100W solar panels (purchased separately).
- At 7.3 pounds and 7.48 x 5.9 x 5.5 inches, the station is smaller and weighs lighter than some competitors, making it optimal for storage in vehicles or backpacks.
The station has ten separate ports: one AC port, four USB ports (including two Quick Charge 3.0 ports), four DC 12V ports, and one DC 24V port, but no USB-C ports.
Though boasting more ports, the station requires the user to manually switch off the DC, USB, and AC ports, and all must be turned off for the entire unit to switch off.
The station’s LCD screen shows which ports are powering at that moment and how much power the station is charging through them. Also, the LCD indicates whether the unit is taking in or using electricity. Plus, it shows whether the fans are enabled or disabled.
However, the display does not show the estimated number of hours of power left based on how much wattage it is using.
The station can charge smartphones at 2,000mAh up to 25 times, laptops at 56wH up to 4-5 times, and smaller car refrigerators at 75W for up to 3-5 hours. It is also an excellent generator for CPAP machines.
Two LED lights are available for nighttime use or during emergencies like power outages.
The Rockpals 300W station has a price range between $260 and $300, making it more affordable than other units for those seeking a quality generator at a lower price.
3. Prymax 300W Battery Generator
- A battery capacity of 298Wh with 300W rated power and peak surge power of 600W.
- Like other units, it can be charged by wall, car, or separately purchased 50W and 100W solar panels.
- At 6.5 pounds and dimensions of 9 x 7.4 x 5.5 inches, the station is lightweight and portable.
- It includes two AC ports, 3 DC ports, 2 USB ports, one USB-C port, and one cigarette lighter port.
The station can charge smartphones up to 40 times, laptops up to 7-8 times, a 32-inch TV for up to 5+ hours, and CPAP machines for at least four nights, though a DC converter must be purchased separately to power CPAP machines for that length.
The back of the unit contains a built-in LED flashlight with SOS light design for nighttime use and during power outages or other emergencies.
At $270-$300, the Prymax station is affordable and provides more power (298Wh) than the Rockpals station (280Wh), which may be a selling point for consumers.
The station also boasts a fan that is powered automatically when the unit is too hot. However, some Amazon reviewers have reported that their battery tended to overheat.
4. Paxcess 280W Portable Power Station
- Running watts of 280W with a peak power of 350W and a battery capacity of 250Wh.
- It contains one AC port, two USB ports, and three DC ports.
- The station can be charged by solar panels (purchased separately), cars, the AC outlet, and other generators.
- At 4.4 pounds at 10.24 x 3.94 x 6.14, the Paxcess 280W station is super light and compact, making it easy to carry and perfect for portable use, particularly camping and hiking.
The station can charge laptops up to 3-4 times, a 32-inch television for up to 1-2 hours, and CPAP machines for up to 3-4 nights using the company’s CPAP DC converter.
It also contains the built-in capability to prevent overcharging and discharging.
However, the unit has no built-in flashlight. If users need light while camping or hiking in the dark or want to illuminate their campsite during the night, the Paxcess station is not optimal.
The Paxcess station is a very affordable option for its 280W power capacity, making the unit a great first choice for beginning generator users. However, with its smaller capacity, the device is not recommended as a longer-term power source.
This lithium battery generator is powerful and affordable enough for CPAP machine users, particularly when CPAP machines require charging on camping trips or during emergencies. However, the Paxcess website recommends turning off the humidifier if the unit is powering a CPAP machine for a more extended period. This requirement can make some users’ experiences uncomfortable.
5. Goal Zero Yeti 400
- A 428Wh capacity with a 300W of continuous power and ability to handle surges of up to 1200W.
- Two AC outlets, 3 USB ports, and two 12V ports that can power up to seven devices at once.
- At 16 pounds and with dimensions of 11.26 x 6.97 x 7.48 inches, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 station is relatively weighty but also powerful.
The station’s heaviness allows it to be strong enough for outdoor use and to withstand accidental falls to the ground.
For consumers who use solar panels to charge their generators, they can charge the Goal Zero 400 station using 200W solar panels (sold separately); these panels can charge the unit in 4-5 hours in good sunlight. The battery is also replaceable.
The unit is optimal for longer-term use, mainly 2-3 days. This feature makes the station ideal for campers and trip-goers.
The glaring downside to the Goal Zero 400 station is the price, which makes it unaffordable for some customers who either do not want to spend that much or do not have much experience with battery-powered generators.
How Do Battery-Powered Generators Work?
A generator does not generate but instead converts mechanical energy into electrical energy.
Unlike generators that rely on gas, propane, or diesel as their primary energy source, battery-powered generators rely on electricity from the electric grid or from the sun.
Think of a battery-powered generator as a rechargeable battery that can be charged through a standard 120v outlet, a vehicle, or solar panel.
Battery-powered generators do not use fuel, so they don’t produce carbon monoxide or other emissions. Plus, they’re generally silent compared to the purring noise of gas-powered generators.
More battery-powered generators are beginning to rely on lithium-ion batteries. These batteries contain power-generating cells. As the battery charges, lithium ions move from positive electrodes to negative electrodes and the battery stores energy. When batteries discharge power, the lithium ions move back to the positive electrode. The process results in energy to charge the battery.
Pros and Cons of Lithium Battery Generators
Want to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of lithium battery generators? Let’s start with what we like.
- Lithium battery generators do not use fuel and thus produce no emissions. That means no carbon monoxide or other harmful emissions, making battery-powered generators better for the environment and overall air quality.
- These generators are better for use indoors, as gas-powered generators produce fumes and should never be used inside.
- Battery-powered generators are generally easy to charge. If you’re indoors, just plug the generator into a wall socket. Depending on the generator, it will likely have a port so you can connect the generator to a car or solar panels.
- A lithium battery generator is silent compared to fuel-powered generators, which generally emit a hum or purring sound.
- The portability and relatively lightweight nature of lithium battery generators make them great for personal use and easy transportation. Depending on their size, these generators can be easily placed in a car or even backpack.
- The ports in a battery general can charge several different devices, often at the same time, particularly smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
- Battery-powered generators can charge using sunlight, a renewable energy source. For consumers who want to avoid the fumes or emissions of gas- or propane-powered generators, a lithium battery generator is a “greener” and more environmentally sustainable option.
- These generators can provide similar power functions as other generators without having to refuel them with gas or propane.
- Lithium battery generators are lighter than generators that use lead-acid batteries.
Here are some potential issues with battery powered generators:
- Lithium battery generators are slow to charge. Some units may need several hours or even an overnight period to reach a full battery. What’s more, once your battery is dead, the generator is dead and cannot be refueled like a gas- or propane-powered generator.
- For the most part, battery-powered generators are less powerful and have smaller battery capacities than fuel-powered generators do.
- Many battery generators, including the five reviewed above, do not come with solar panels; they must be purchased separately, which adds to your cost.
- Though solar panels receive and store renewable energy from the sun, solar power isn’t as reliable if your generator gets insufficient sunlight or you have to charge under cloudy skies—a generator will still charge, but not as efficiently.
- Further, charging a battery generator with a solar panel simply takes longer. For example, the Goal Zero Yeti 400 connected to a 200W solar panel will need 4-5 hours to charge.
Specifications and Features of Battery-Powered Generators to Consider
Before you buy a battery powered generator, here are a few things to consider.
Power Needs (Wattage)
Getting enough power from a generator is the primary thing to look for. Consumers will need to figure out how much energy (in total watts) their gadgets and appliances need to work and to purchase a generator that can produce it.
Duration of Use
How long will your generator be used? For a few hours, or for a couple of days? For more prolonged use or to power multiple devices, a more high-powered generator would be optimal. Similarly, the time of day or location can matter if you plan to charge a battery-powered generator with solar panels, as you’ll need sufficient sunlight for the highest efficiency and for shorter charging times.
Ease of Use (Weight and Size Particularly)
Portable power stations range in size and weight (from 4 pounds to 17 pounds or larger). For hikers, a lighter generator is more comfortable to carry, and for campers, a more massive generator can better withstand the elements or power more devices. Some generators can be easily placed in a car or even a backpack.
You can check if a generator has an easy-to-use handle or if wheel kits are attachable to make it more portable. Remember also that battery-powered generators are not 100% water-resistant.
Durability and Strength
Generator users should always read their products’ manuals for specific instructions, but generally, a more durable generator is better suited for outdoor use or exposure to the elements. A more durable generator can also better withstand accidental falls to the ground.
Built-In LED Lights
If you plan on being a nighttime generator user, a built-in LED light can help illuminate your walking path or brighten your campsite. This feature will also help if you’ve misplaced your flashlight or if your flashlight battery runs out.
Rather than buying more than a portable battery generator, you can purchase a unit with replaceable lithium batteries or one with the option to add more batteries.
More ports allow for more device-charging. A battery-powered generator usually has one AC port that can connect to a standard household outlet, though some generators may include two AC ports. More USB ports provide more smartphone or laptop charging if you’re in a group.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What are battery life cycles?
The length for which a battery maintains its rated capacity is called a lifecycle. One lifecycle is equivalent to using a battery from 100% to zero. Battery life cycles vary depending on battery type. Lithium-ion batteries generally have 500-800 lifecycles, and lead-acid batteries have 200-300 lifecycles.
A battery can still be used if it reaches the end of its lifecycle, but the total capacity will decrease, and thus battery life will shorten. For example, past 500 lifecycles, a generator’s recharge capacity may lower to 80% and to 60% capacity after 1,000 cycles.
How long will battery-powered generators charge specific devices?
You can calculate the amount of time a generator will run like this: Divide the battery’s capacity (measured in watt-hours, or Wh) by the power the device consumes (measured in watts, or W). For example, a 500 watt-hour battery can run a 12-volt machine requiring 50 watts to operate for 10 hours.
Can lithium batteries be taken on flights?
Current FAA regulations allow for carrying on lithium-ion batteries up to 100 watt-hours (Wh). Lithium batteries over this standard may be carried on with airline approval, but always check to see if regulations have been changed.
What is the difference between pure and modified sine wave inverters?
A modified sine wave inverter is very common, more affordable, and works better with smaller electronic devices, such as smartphones and laptops. A pure sine wave inverter generates the same amount of power a standard AC wall port in a home does.
Do I need to purchase additional cables for my generators?
Generally, companies that sell battery-powered generators will provide all necessary cables to use your generator, but it is best to contact each company and find out whether you may need additional cables to work a generator.
How long are the warranties on battery-powered generators?
The warranty on a particular product varies depending on the company. Some warranties may be for one year, and others may be for 18-months or two years.
A Noiseless, Portable, and Environmentally Friendly Alternative
Gas-powered generators may remain a more reliable power source with the ease of refueling them. However, lithium-ion battery generators are becoming more accessible and affordable. They produce zero fumes, can be used indoors, and are reasonably portable.
For consumers seeking a silent, more environmentally friendly option or who have purchased solar panels and want to use them over fuel to charge a generator, a lithium battery generator may be a great option.