California bans petrol mowers & blowers

by | Oct 13, 2021

Petrol powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers will soon be completely banned in California after their Governor, Gavin Newsom, signed into law a bill that will ban the sale of small internal combustion engines primarily used as garden equipment.

Arstechnica reported that the new law – authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman from Menlo Park – is expected to start as soon as 2024 and will also offer rebates for consumers to purchase new electric replacements. According to the report, the new law builds on previous rulemaking already underway at the state’s air regulator, the California Air Resources Board, better known as CARB.

The new law states that currently, there are zero-emission equivalents to all [small off-road engine] equipment regulated by the State Air Resources Board.

“The battery technology required for commercial-grade zero-emission equipment is available and many users, both commercial and residential, have already begun to transition to zero-emission equipment,” the law states.

Operating a gasoline-powered leaf blower for one hour can produce as much volatile organic compounds and NOx as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry from New York City to Orlando, Florida, according to State Officials, with small engines spewing large amounts of smog-forming NOx, cancer-causing volatile organic compounds and lung-damaging matter.

The new law comes as electric lawn and garden equipment is increasingly competitive with gasoline versions. Quality, battery-powered lawn mowers now have close to the same scores at Consumer Reports as their gasoline-powered counterparts, with US manufacturers now offering battery-powered riding mowers capable of mowing two acres per charge, according to the report.

California currently has 16.7 million gasoline-powered lawn equipment and generators state-wide. Though the law does not mention go-karts or golf carts, those that make less than 25 hp (18.6 kW) are already regulated under CARB’s small off-road engine regime. More powerful engines are subject to large-spark ignition regulations.

As recently as last year small engines produced more NOx and VOC pollution in California than passenger vehicles, according to the report with small engines essentially unregulated before 1990 in California and 1995 elsewhere.

Even under recent EPA regulations, lawn and garden equipment operators are exposed to pollutants at potentially harmful levels, with fine particulates (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide the worst offenders, according to the report. Those using the equipment for more than an hour would, under certain conditions, be exposed to pollution levels that exceeded national air quality standards for a 24-hour period.

The new law calls out not just exhaust emissions but also those from fuel tanks where evaporating gasoline can release large amounts of benzene and other hazardous compounds, according to the report. Evaporative emissions now account for around 35 per cent of pollution from small engines.

Stricter regulations were enacted throughout California for evaporative emissions from small engines in 2003, however when CARB checked 60 pieces of lawn and garden equipment, it found that 33 of them were not compliant. Small engine-makers have been fined by CARB over the years or reached settlements for not complying with state regulations.