The California Air Resources Board approved a measure that will require most newly manufactured small off-road engines (SORE) such as those found in leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other equipment be zero emission starting in 2024. Portable generators, including those in recreational vehicles, would be required to meet more stringent standards in 2024 and meet zero-emission standards starting in 2028.
The small off-road engine (SORE) category consists of off-road spark-ignition engines that produce 19 kW gross power or less (25 horsepower or less).
The new requirement, an amendment to CARB’s existing small off-road engine regulations first adopted in 1990, applies to manufacturers and will impact new equipment (Model Year 2024 and later) only. Californians can continue to operate their current CARB-compliant gasoline-powered SORE equipment; there will be no ban on using older models or used equipment purchased in the future. Older models on store shelves can also be purchased even if they are gasoline-powered.
Despite their small size, these engines are highly polluting. The volume of smog-forming emissions from this type of equipment has surpassed emissions from light-duty passenger cars and is projected to be nearly twice those of passenger cars by 2031. Today, a commercial operator using one backpack leaf blower for one hour generates the same smog-forming emissions as a car driving 1100 miles. These regulations will reduce emissions of smog-forming emissions by 72 tons per day.
The amended regulation will set SORE emission standards to zero in two phases:
First, for model year (MY) 2024 and all subsequent model years, emission standards will be zero. These emission standards of zero will apply to engines used in all equipment types produced for sale in California, except generators and large pressure washers. Emission standards for generators and large pressure washers will be more stringent than the existing standards by 40-90 percent starting in MY 2024, but not zero.
The second phase will be implemented starting in MY 2028, when the emission standards for generators and large pressure washers will be zero.
Zero-emission equipment in the SORE sector is widely available, CARB said. The zero-emission alternatives are quieter, cleaner, have less vibration, and havegreatly improved over the last few years. Since 2018, CARB has operated the Zero-Emission Equipment Roadshow, which loans the equipment free of cost for 3 weeks to municipalities and other entities that express interest. There are approximately fifty pieces of professional equipment from eight manufacturers included in the Roadshow. The Roadshow has been to 25 organizations throughout the state. Many users who may have complained about early models have become enthusiastic supporters (examples include the Los Angeles Unified School District, UC Irvine, Santa Barbara Parks and Rec, Capitol Park in Sacramento, and more).
Incentive funds will be available to commercial purchasers of new zero-emission equipment through CARB’s Clean Off-Road Equipment Voucher Incentive Project (CORE), which was created to accelerate deployment of cleaner off-road technologies. The Legislature has allocated $30 million to be dedicated to sole proprietors and other small landscaping businesses in California to help them purchase zero-emission small off-road equipment, including leaf blowers, lawn mowers and string trimmers.