By Doug McPherson:
Last fall, California passed legislation outlawing the sale of new gas-powered lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed trimmers, chain saws and machinery with engines that produce 25 horsepower or less, such as golf carts.
The law will take effect in 2024 and requires that kind of equipment, used in both residential and commercial scenarios, to be zero-emission—essentially to be battery-operated or plug-in—by that date or as soon as the California Air Resources Board (CARB) determines it is feasible.
CARB says the small engines cause a “substantial amount” of emissions and that running a gas-powered leaf blower for an hour is the equivalent of driving a 2017 Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles.
Marc Berman, author of the legislation, admits the transition to battery-powered equipment could be a hardship for some small businesses and says California is pledging $30 million to help businesses, which works out to roughly $600 for each small business in the state. “That’s a fraction of what it will cost to comply,” says Tom Bugbee, chief operations officer for CourseCo, a California-based company that manages golf courses. “It’s a first step. And we might see some tax rebates—there’s more than one way to support businesses so that they can comply.”
Bugbee sees two problems with the law: cost and efficiency.
“The cost [to comply] will be high and the efficiency and effectiveness aren’t there yet. Gas-powered blowers can go for six to eight hours but battery power can’t do that. So, our opinion is that the legislation is a great concept but it’s ahead of what the manufacturers can offer right now. I think the golf industry needs to put some heat on the manufacturers with a unified message to get going on this.” Bugbee also believes it’s “pretty reasonable” that other states will adopt similar legislation. New York and Illinois are already among them. And Maryland’s most populous county, Montgomery, may propose legislation this spring to ban gas-powered leaf blowers, and Jon Lobenstine, director of agronomy for the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, thinks the law will pass.
Lobenstine agrees with Bugbee on the cost and efficiency fronts. He estimates it would cost $6,000 to replace each $600 gas blower with battery-powered blowers and, he adds, it would take him longer to accomplish the same tasks.
“Battery-powered blowers are generally lower-rated in CFMs [cubic feet per minute, a measure of air volume], so it takes longer to clear material off a playing surface. Also, because your battery may only last 20 to 45 minutes, it requires a large stockpile of expensive batteries.”
Manufacturers say battery or AC electric tools are quieter, easier to start, vibrate less and require less maintenance, and that workers avoid breathing gas fumes.
John Wyatt, a senior vice president at Stanley Black & Decker, says the newest lithium battery designs for mowers are “incredibly energy dense, and with correct battery management, can be as good or exceed the performance of gas-powered equipment. “Performance has come a long way in battery powered products, and users will see options with comparative specifications to gas, particularly with the handheld tools,” Wyatt says.
Stanley Black & Decker shared that its DeWalt DCBL772X1 60V Max Flexvolt® blower for $269.00 has 600 CFMs and lasts up to 84 minutes per charge on the lowest dial setting using a DCB609 battery, which costs $219.00. However, a reviewer said the charge only lasted 15 minutes, presumably on the highest dial setting, and that it took two hours to recharge.
Lobenstine’s advice: “Approach this topic with an open mind and look for places in operations where zero-emission equipment could be a fit.”
This article was featured in the March/April 2022 edition of Golf Business magazine