California, the world’s fourth-largest economy, has passed a law to phase out gas-powered lawn mowers by 2024. This move follows the state’s previous legislation to eliminate gas-powered vehicles by 2035. The ban on the sale of gas-powered lawn care equipment is part of California’s efforts to address emissions from small, off-road engines (SOREs), which are known to be more polluting than all cars combined in the state.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB), a state agency that regulates air quality, has compared the emissions from these SOREs to that of a 2016 Toyota Camry. The board found that using a gas-powered lawn mower for one hour releases as much pollution as a Toyota Camry does over 300 miles. This ban is seen as a significant step in the state’s ambitious goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045.
Opposition to the ban comes from certain groups, including some Republicans and gas companies, who argue that it restricts consumer choice. However, a policy analyst at the environmental think tank Frontier Group highlights the growing awareness of the impact of gas-powered appliances on public health. The effectiveness of this ban in driving environmental change will be closely observed by policymakers across the country.
Gas-powered lawn equipment, such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers, emit pollutants comparable to driving a car for 300 miles in just one hour, according to CARB. In 2020, these tools emitted over 30 million tons of CO2. The emissions not only contribute to air pollution but also produce excessive noise. Electric alternatives offer quieter and cleaner operation, making them a more environmentally friendly option.
The need to maintain well-manicured lawns has become a substantial industry, particularly in suburban America. The North American market accounts for a significant portion of the global power lawn and garden equipment market. As regulations become more stringent, manufacturers are investing in battery-powered options and encouraging consumers to transition to electric alternatives. Many individuals and businesses have already voluntarily made the switch, and various cities and towns across the country have implemented bans or restrictions on gas-powered equipment.
The movement towards electric lawn equipment is gaining momentum, supported by incentives provided by local governments and an increase in sales of electric tools. While some companies still offer gas-powered equipment, they are prioritizing electrified devices. Manufacturers like Husqvarna and Honda are focusing on innovations such as robotic mowers and autonomous, battery-powered equipment to efficiently maintain lawns.
However, there are concerns surrounding the costs and performance of electric tools. Electric models can come with a price premium of up to 25% for hand-held grass cutters and 50% for push mowers compared to their gas-powered counterparts. There are also concerns about battery life, durability, and charging limitations, especially for extensive landscaping tasks.
The California rule banning the sale of new gasoline-powered lawn equipment in 2024 aims to drive the transition to electric models without prohibiting the use of existing gas-powered tools. The state has also allocated $30 million for rebates and programs to assist landscapers in shifting to zero-emission equipment. This ban is seen as a stepping stone towards more aggressive policies targeting gas-powered appliances, with the ultimate goal of achieving significant reductions in air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions.