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CARB approves updated regulations requiring most new small off-road engines be zero emission by 2024

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.



Trying to figure out if zero emission equipment means electric as in battery operated or corded electric or there or other options. I have had an EGO battery electric mower for several years now. It is much better than the gas operated Toro mower that I had before. It just runs and the battery charges fast enough.


Cordless lawn care is clean and quiet


Among other things this serves as yet another reality-check for that majority of Americans who still wrongly believe that Europe - Europe's legislators and citizens - are ahead of America when it comes to environmental action and all-things green - including EVs and zero emission alternatives to combustion and gasoline. Here in still largely combustion-addicted, Repsol-ruled Spain we're constantly plagued by stinking, noisy and largely pointless petrol-powered leaf-blowers - it's almost as if the country's mafia-like, combustion-adoring, gasoline-worshipping fundamentalists are becoming increasingly perversely determined to force their dying or under-threat "religion" down our throats, nostrils, lungs and ear-holes in every conceivable, inescapable in-your-face way.
Paul G

Toyota will soon introduce H2 powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers and string trimmers.


Without sarcasm this is beneficial



I trust that this is just a tongue in cheek joke. Toyota could not be that stupid could they?

I can’t imagine how long it will be until fuel cells will be small and inexpensive enough to power SORE devices. The volume required to store enough fuel to power inefficient small ICE engines make that approach a non-starter.

Tools are the one application where battery swapping makes sense and is in wide use.

I have several tools that use 36v Bosch “fat packs” and they are fantastic.

With a 6 pack charger, I can run electric power tools continuously all day long.

Ice chest/cooler size battery packs are now available that replace generators.

Many EVs, especially the new trucks, have V2X capabilities that make electric tools on a job site without grid power more practical than ever before.

The volume required to store enough fuel to power inefficient small ICE engines make that approach a non-starter.
What do you think about methanol?  There are places the grid doesn't run.
Jason Burr

Having just removed a tree from the front yard I can say there is a few more years of development needed in electric tools.

Pro: instant on, no trying to get chain saw to start 30ft up in a tree OR idling while getting into position.
Con: can only cut a couple big limbs before cool down of 30 minutes for motors (not the battery).

Tool costs is comparable for low grade consumer model, but if you want/need a replacement for Stihl or commercial model then you need a car loan. I looked into models from Milwaukee and Stihl and they were several times the cost of gas model to get comparable performance. And I have used super XL and McCulloch and compared them to WalMart Poulan - there is a definite quality difference.

Also for most consumer level models while the tool cost is much cheaper, the battery price is close to or more than the tool price. And you need to purchase multiple batteries for longer run time and/or to use in the other tools that share the battery. Also you better buy into the winning brand so you don't have orphaned tools in a couple years. Or the next big thing in batteries comes along and your brand redesigns so you have to start all over. A gas can and oil doesn't care which blower, chain saw, weed eater you have - it just works.

I'm pulling for a standard battery or some type of interoperability. For the small jobs I'll pick up my electric blower and borrow my buddies electric blow and chain saw.

But there are still some bigger jobs I keep the gas models for.

I’d love to see a practical, clean, renewable liquid fuel infrastructure which would also support small engines, although you’d still have the noise and particulates if you were burning the stuff.

I believe batteries are practical for most applications now. The rate of energy density improvement is so good that it will be very difficult to develop a competitive infrastructure.

Some RV manufacturers for example, are starting to switch from propane to all-electric (solar+battery).

I realize that not all applications can be supported with current battery technology. But a doubling of battery energy density is 7 years away or less at the current rate of progress.

If I lived in an off grid dwelling, I’d rather invest in solar+batteries and efficient climate control and appliances than try to secure a reliable source of methanol.


For a home, maybe.  But there are many other things we need too.

Dry lignocellulose is about 45% carbon by mass (wood higher, grasses lower IIUC).  If we go by the DOE's estimates and assume 1 billion dry tons per year, that's enough to make 1.2 billion tons of methanol.  That's 25.8 quads worth, within a stone's throw of net US petroleum consumption.  Electrify a few things that currently use petroleum and that'll do it.

Completely agree, JB, that battery prices for these devices are high, and lack of interoperability is very disappointing. Mfgs seem to be using it for lock-in.

E-P, I’d love to see methanol for applications that batteries can’t handle. Hope we eventually see fuel cells that have adequate output to replace small generators.

I’m not a fan of small combustion engines, even if the fuel is clean and renewable. Noise is pollution too.

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