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What the California Generator Ban Means For Your Mobile Business

On October 9, 2021, California Governor, Gavin Newsome, signed into law California State Assembly Bill 1346 (“AB 1346”). This law states, “By July 1, 2022, the state board shall, consistent with federal law, adopt cost-effective and technologically feasible regulations to prohibit engine exhaust and evaporative emissions from new small off-road engines, as defined by the state board.” 

For the non-politicians like us, this means that in an effort to reduce harmful emissions, consumers will not be able to buy a new generator in California in the coming years. Small off-road engines (“SOREs”) is a broad category that includes gas-powered lawn equipment, such as leaf blowers, lawnmowers, chainsaws, and pressure washers, but also extend to generators. Keep in mind, however, that AB 1346 does not ban the operation of such equipment, just the purchase within the state of California. Additionally, SOREs that use diesel fuel are exempt from these regulations.

In essence, this will have ramifications on mobile businesses in California that need power, and planning should begin now for the transition. This law could also foreshadow more legislation and restrictions to come.

History of AB 1346

Introduced by Assemblymember Marc Berman (District 24/Menlo Park), this new law accelerates and gives some specificity to the Executive Order from Governor Newsom that seeks zero emissions by 2035. California is also transitioning towards the goal of 100% clean energy by 2045. SOREs became a primary target of legislative action because they’re dirty—really dirty. 

According to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), a typical commercial lawn mower emits as much smog-forming pollution in one hour as driving a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles. For a typical leaf blower, one hour of operation is the equivalent of driving that same Camry 1100 miles. CARB also estimates that small engine emissions will be double those of passenger cars by 2031 in the Greater Los Angeles area. Clearly, taking steps to reduce the environmental impact of SOREs is a needed component of maintaining healthy air standards.

Unfortunately, for many mobile business owners, the generators needed to run their business are also being targeted even though they don’t have the wide-scale environmental impact of their dirtier, lawn-maintaining cousins. Let’s be clear, though, generators are just as dirty, if not dirtier, but the sheer ubiquity of gas-powered lawn equipment makes them a much larger polluter.

Batteries—The Clear Alternative

So, with the imminent ban on the sale of new gas-guzzling generators, where can you turn to power your mobile business? The restrictions don’t take effect for a few years, and even then, generators will likely still be able to be purchased in neighboring states. With this in mind, it may seem like there is little incentive to change. But, let’s face it, generators have a track record of mechanical failure. Talk to an operator and they describe generators as finicky at best, nightmares at worst. There’s a reason that for most major events, two backup generators are present to supplement the primary as standard practice. If your power source sustains a mechanical failure in the middle of a busy shift, the last thing you’ll want to do is travel out of state to go buy another loud, polluting generator. Just the thought of this scenario is enough to induce hives.

One option is to just operate where reliable shore power is available. That, however, is stifling and negates the ‘mobile’ part of your mobile business.

Instead, power solutions like Joule Case battery systems are a better option… now and especially in the future. Batteries are clean, quiet, and can be recharged from the grid or renewable sources. They supply all of the upsides of generators without any of the downsides.

Convert Now and Save 26%

At Joule Case, we say it all the time, “Generators are cheap to buy but expensive to run.” Converting to battery power is a larger upfront investment and that will likely always be the case. But, one of the ways to make batteries more economically viable is to also install solar panels which enables you to save 26% on the entire system with a federal tax incentive. Read our blog post about the Solar Investment Tax Credit. This credit begins phasing out in 2023, so to take full advantage of this incentive, time is running out.

More Restrictions to Come

Outside of the clear environmental impact, health will also be a key driver for upcoming restrictions on the purchase and operation of generators. In a report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), carbon monoxide from generators kills an average of 80 people in the U.S. each year. So, outside of California, there’s a groundswell of interest to ban 

  • As music festivals push to become more sustainable, generators are an easy target for the chopping block. The campsite at Coachella is famously generator-free.
  • Lawmakers in British Columbia are seeking to remove generators from film production.
  • Multiple cities, including Washington DC, have moved to ban SOREs. Much like AB 1346, the focus of these measures is lawn maintenance equipment but the variability in language between each bill makes it unclear whether generators will be included.

With the amount of pollution they produce and nearly every government entity enacting climate action plans, it’s when—not if—more restrictions on the purchase and operation of generators are enacted. Converting to batteries now, especially with the financial incentives afforded by the Solar Investment Tax Credit, is something every mobile business should consider.

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