CARB finalizes small engine ban

By Mike Brezonick10 December 2021

Mower New CARB rules will require that off-road spark-ignited engines in California used in machines such as mowers, be zero emissions as of 2024.

The California Air Resources Board has approved measures that will require most newly manufactured small off-road engines (SORE) zero emission starting in 2024. The ruling covers off-road spark-ignition engines that produce 25 hp (19 kW) gross power or less, which are used in lawn and garden equipment, industrial, logging, airport ground support, and commercial utility equipment, golf carts, and specialty vehicles.

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 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.

CARB’s current small off-road spark-ignited engine emissions standards and the new standards that have been approved by the agency. For model year 2028 and later, the exhaust emissions standards for generators are zero.

Californians can continue to operate their current CARB-compliant gasoline-powered SORE equipment and there will be no ban on using older models or used equipment purchased in the future, the agency said. Older models on store shelves can also be purchased even if they are gasoline-powered.

The CARB action aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order signed in September 2020 intended to move the state closer to a zero-emission future. It also provides significant emissions reductions of smog-forming pollution needed for California to achieve stringent federal air quality standards in the future, the agency said.

“Today’s action by the Board addresses these small but highly polluting engines. It is a significant step towards improving air quality in the state and will definitely help us meet stringent federal air quality standards,” said CARB Chair Liane Randolph. “It will also essentially eliminate exposure to harmful fumes for equipment operators and anyone nearby.”

The amended regulation will set SORE emission standards to zero in two phases:

  • For model year (MY) 2024 and all subsequent model years, emission standards will be zero. The standards will apply to engines used in all equipment types produced for sale in California, except generators and large pressure washers. Emissions standards for generators and large pressure washers will be more stringent than the existing standards by 40 to 90% 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 also be zero.

Zero-emission equipment in the SORE sector is widely available, CARB said. In addition, 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 California 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.

While there may be some slight tweaks before the regulations are submitted to the state’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for final approval, which is expected in early 2022, no major changes are expected.

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