In California, the California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board (ARB) refers to lawn mowers, garden and other outdoor power equipment equipped with spark-ignition engines as “small off-road engines,” the acronym being SORE. For the record, the power rating of such is limited to 25 horsepower max.
Now, add to this that in the Golden State, this equipment (with spark-ignition engines) totals 16.5 million units, outnumbering in-state registered light-duty vehicles by 2.8 million, according to the ARB, the air regulatory agency further relating that said lawn and garden equipment accounts for 76 percent of the total (12.6 million units); while construction and farming equipment which, by the way, is federally regulated, commercial lawn and garden and other types of small-engine devices, number 1.8 million (11 percent), 1.5 million (9 percent) and 600,000 (4 percent) units, respectively.
The ARB goes on to point out that an hour’s operation of today’s best-selling gasoline-fueled, spark-ignition-engine-equipped lawn-mower releases as much smog-forming pollution into the air as a 2016 Toyota Camry covering a driving distance of about 300 miles. The best-selling leaf blower, meanwhile, emits about as much smog-forming pollution as the same vehicle traveling almost four times that or 1,100 miles. Remember: those are the best-selling in their respective categories.
Furthermore, in 2016, equipment in the small-engines category emitted more than 50 tons per day of smog-forming emissions while light-duty vehicles traveling roadways that year released right around 70 tons per day in the South Coast Air Basin, according to ARB data.1
Without improvements made in the small-engines equipment domain, that relationship in the South Coast region could dramatically change.
It is important to note that the South Coast region – which includes the Los Angeles and Long Beach communities – is America’s smog capital. And, while it is evident that emissions from light-duty vehicles on the road in California are becoming fewer and fewer through the use of cleaner-burning fuels and engines, in the case of internal-combustion-engine-powered lawn, garden and related equipment, not so much it seems.
That being said, if a substantial amount of this equipment were equipped with better performing engines and burned fuel far more cleanly, this would definitely go a long ways to help improve not only California’s air quality, but potentially the quality of air in other states too.
- Small Engine Fact Sheet, California Environmental Protection Agency Air Resources Board, Jun. 2017.
Article updated on Dec. 5, 2017 at 9:06 a.m. and on Dec. 7, 2017 at 6:08 a.m. Pacific Standard Time.
Image above: Anthony Appleyard