LawnSite.com, the online discussion forum, (and part of the Turf family) was abuzz with reaction to a posted article from abc7 news entitled, “California considering statewide ban on gas-powered gardening equipment.” Turf looks into the proposal and highlights some reactions.
How attached are you to your gas powered lawn equipment? In California, regulators at the California Air Resources Board (CARB) are proposing new, stricter emission standards to come in September which target the small off-road engines (SORE) used in most lawn care equipment — from blowers and chainsaws to mowers and trimmers. CARB’s long-term plan includes eventually banning sales of gas powered lawn equipment to meet a 2031 emission reduction goal of 80%.
Why the focus on lawn equipment? According to CARB, there are three million more small engines in CA than light duty passenger cars — and those small engines are projected to increasingly exceed passenger cars in total smog forming emissions over the next decade. By 2031, CARP expects small engine emissions will actually be more than twice those of passenger cars. By today’s standards, CARB asserts operating the best-selling commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry 300 miles.
Reportedly, about 60 cities in CA already have some form of ban on gas-powered landscape equipment. (Gas powered leaf blowers were banned in parts of CA as early as 1975, according to nonoise.org.) Interestingly, 77% of the population of small engines in CA are attributable to residential lawn and garden equipment; 11% are federally regulated construction/farming equipment; and just 9% are commercial lawn and garden equipment.
But while CA’s proposal is the most extreme, other regions are considering, or have already enacted, bans against gas powered leaf blowers, targeted as much for their noise as their emissions. In Washington, D.C., a bill banning the sale or use of gas-powered leaf blowers will take effect January 1, 2022. In Colorado, the towns of Aspen, Carbondale, and Westminister already have bans. Countless other towns have restrictions on blower use. In Illinois, a Senate bill filed in February calls for the same measure as DC: a ban on the sale or use of two or four-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers which would also take effect January 1, 2022. (For blower bans by state, check out HD Supply.)
With bans on the horizon, those interested in learning more about zero emission equipment can check out CARB’s reviews section with links to Popular Mechanics, Consumer Reports, and more. There’s also links to manufacturers listed by equipment type. For instance, under mowers, select “ride on,” and you’ll find links to Cub Cadet, Mean Green, Ryobi, and Troy-Bilt.
But how do landscapers feel about it? On LawnSite.com, the great majority of reaction to the CA news was negative. Though many respondents feel it’s a matter of battery technology catching up to gas power. Here’s some responses edited for content and clarity:
“I find this infuriating, and I’m on the other side of the country. Hopefully this gets shot down by all the people who have actually mowed a lawn before in their lives.”
“Times are changing. Glad I don’t live anywhere close to CA.”
“Good thing my mower is diesel. Not that I live in CA anyway. Battery string trimmers might not be that bad, but losing my RedMax EBZ8500 blower and Husqvarna 372 XP® chainsaw would be a hard blow.”
“I’ve read the electric chain saws are pretty good. The blowers are not.”
“Maybe compared to a 40 cc homeowner saw; but a 5.5 HP pro saw, not even close.”
“I am personally not opposed to using battery-powered landscaping equipment ONCE it can match the performance of 80 cc backpack blowers, chainsaws, and 200 cc 30” mower engines. I don’t want the government outright banning all new gas equipment.”
“I’m all for electric equipment… once the technology becomes good enough for daily commercial use. At that point, the reduced operation and maintenance costs will cause people to voluntarily switch to electric. Statewide ban at this point will wreak havoc on a lot of contractors.”
“I am completely ready to purchase and start using electric equipment and cars WHEN the technology is good enough to FULLY replace my gas equipment and vehicles. I hate these ban ideas popping up. When it is economical to go electric, I don’t doubt the large majority of people will switch. In the meantime, destroying the economy with bans is not going to save the world.”
“Other than mowers, I think we’re one more generation of battery-powered tools away from legit power and battery life that will work for most commercial applications. I can’t wait to go electric. They’re quiet, there are no fumes, and they have a ton of torque. My buddie’s 60V FLEXVOLT ® DeWalt chainsaw will eat my 30 cc gas chainsaw alive. I can’t imagine what an electric chainsaw or trimmer will be like in 10 years.”
“Tough standards beating the smallest gas saw around. When the battery saw can outcut a Husqvarna 372 chainsaw, and outblow a RedMax EBZ8500, and weigh the same or less, and do it for hours—which will probably be never—I’ll have one.”
“I would have no use for anything bigger than a 30 cc saw, but I could see your point if I were an arborist. Anyway, I was pretty blown away with how fast it cut. They cut a lot different than a gas saw. The chain speed isn’t very fast, but you almost can’t bog them down, and I love the fact that the chain stops instantly when you let go of the trigger. My buddy, who is a lineman that does a lot of emergency storm work, said everyone was pretty negative about having their gas saws replaced with electric ones this last year, but now his entire crew loves them. The DeWalt 60 volt chainsaw is his own personal saw. They’re using Stihl electric saws for work though. There will be electric tools that will be just as powerful as your gas tools and weigh even less. I can assure you the technology will exist to make an electric leaf blower more powerful than your 8500 that will run all day on one charge. It’s going to happen in the blink of an eye. A lot of things are going to change in the next 10 or 15 years.”
“I personally think the battery technology has about peaked and it’s not even close to making an 8500 blower that runs all day and weighs as much as the gas one. And a blower and big chainsaw cutting big wood is running at maximum available power the whole time.”
“It’s coming. If you can’t see it, then you’ll be left behind.”
“I’m not against changing over when the weight, power, and cost is equal or better. So far it’s not. And that’s coming from a guy that has an extensive collection of cordless hand tools. Currently battery technology is WAY short of replacing a 8500 backpack blower or 70 cc chainsaw. It’s closer to replacing a 25cc string trimmer but I haven’t used one I liked yet. They’re heavier and don’t turn the RPMs.”
“It will happen when the market and equipment is ready. It should not be up to the government to ban it. If they want to ban useless gas powered things, start with jetskis, pleasure boats, dirt bikes, non work ATV’s, and all of the pro sports teams flying all over the country.”
“This year I plan on trying out my Dad’s DeWalt 20 volt blower to cleanup drives and sidewalks after I mow. I’ve been using a Stihl handheld gasser for this and it really doesn’t like being started up and run for just a minute or two 10 times a day. I think the limiting factor for the DeWalt will be on grass that gets smashed into the concrete by a ZTR tire. Right now my dealer is pushing EGO for electric power….”
“I really doubt there will be a battery backpack blower than can out blow an ECHO PB-8010 on a single charge. I’m not saying a battery backpack blower couldn’t eventually match the 8010’s power out of the tube…. BUT not for an hour straight of wide-open throttle I have on a few of my leaf removals. And I’d much rather wear ear protection with gas powered than [hear] that whine electric blowers have. I’m not against battery powered and I’m pretty happy Red Max has some battery stuff in the works. I’d use a battery operated trimmer and/or blower for mowing debris, but I want the option to use gas powered for thick growth and leaf removal. To ban gas powered is ridiculous.”
“Wake up. If you don’t think this technology is going to be applied our industry, you’re going to be left behind. It may not happen tomorrow, but you need to be prepared for it to happen, and more importantly, accept that it’s going to happen.… You’ve been bamboozled by big oil for the last half century.”
“There is nothing to prepare for. When the time comes, I will buy appropriate equipment. But it isn’t up to the government to ban legitimate equipment right now.”
“Try to mow 200 accounts, some over nine acres, with an electric mower in the Spring when the grass is thick and over 6″ every week. I will stick to my fleet of Xmark Navigators and fleet of Scag V-Rides and you can keep your electric mowers.”
“I’ll buy electric when it makes sense. About a year ago I went to buy a new RC truck to join in the fun with my boys. Initially I wanted to get a gas/nitro one, until the guys at the hobby shop gave me the full story. Electric is faster, cheaper, less than half the maintenance, and gives more run time. Give power equipment a few years and it’ll be better with electric also. But until then, I’m sticking with my gas.”