The law targets small engines that can cause more pollution than passenger vehicles. Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a bill banning the sale of small internal combustion engines, often used in lawn and garden equipment, from 2024.
The new law, written by Mark Berman of Menlo Park, offers consumer discounts on electrical alternatives, and builds on previous legislation already in place at the state's air regulator, the California Board of Air Resources, better known as CARB. This phase will start sooner or later by January 1, 2024, each starting at a later time.
Read more California bans new internal combustion engines starting in 2035. “Currently, there are no equivalent emissions for all equipment [small off-road engines] that are regulated by the State Air Resources Board,” states Law. "The battery technology required for zero-grade commercial equipment is available, and many users, both commercial and residential, are beginning to switch to pollution-free equipment."
Lawn mowers and leaf blowers are exceptional pollutants. Their small engines emit large amounts of nitrogen oxides, which contain smoke, carcinogenic VOCs, and harmful particles in the lungs. Running an electric gas blower for an hour like driving a 2017 Toyota Camry from New York to Orlando, Florida, produces volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, according to state officials.
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California is filled with gas-powered equipment and generators totaling more than 16.7 million units nationwide. By comparison, about 35 million cars, trucks, and half trucks are registered in the state. Although the law makes no mention of karting or golf, those with less than 25 horsepower (18.6 kW) are currently subject to the CARB small off-road engine system. More powerful engines are subject to large spark ignition systems. Advertisements Small engines were largely out of control in California before 1990 and elsewhere before 1990, and new restrictions have reduced the pollution of small engines over the past two decades. But late last year, small engines produced more nitrogen oxides and VOCs in California than passenger cars. People who use lawn and garden equipment are exposed to certain pollutants at potentially harmful levels. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and carbon monoxide were among the worst particles in a 2006 study. Even homeowners who use equipment for an hour or more are exposed to levels of pollution under certain conditions that exceed national air quality standards for 24 hours.
The new law covers not only the emission of exhaust gases, but also fuel tanks, where large quantities of gasoline and other dangerous compounds can be released by vaporizing gasoline. Total evaporative pollutants account for about 35% of the pollution from small engines. Because many lawn mowers and other equipment are stored inside garages, evaporated pollutants can seep into homes. California imposed strict regulations on the emission of steam from small engines in 2003, but years later, when CARB examined 60 lawns and garden equipment, it found that 33 of them did not comply. Over the years, small engine makers like Kawasaki and Yamaha have been fined or taken to cities by CARB for failing to comply with state regulations.
This new rule comes at a time when electrical and garden equipment are increasingly competing with gas versions. For example, the best battery-powered lawn mowers get roughly the same score in Consumer Reports. Many manufacturers even offer a battery-powered Morse that can charge two acres at a time while requiring less maintenance.
Under California law, gas-fueled lawn mowers and leaf blowers are prohibited
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