Project at a Glance

Title: Assessment of cost effectiveness and public acceptance of Tier II emission standards for handheld equipment.

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Chan, Lit-Mian

Contractor: Engine, Fuel & Emissions Engineering, Inc.

Contract Number: 95-909

Research Program Area: Economic Analysis

Topic Areas: Benefits, Costs, Impacts


The California Air Resources Board (ARB) was required to consider regulating the emissions from off-road mobile sources, including engines used in utility and lawn and garden equipment, by the 1988 California Clean Air Act (CCAA). As a result, the ARB has established two-tier emission standards for utility and lawn and garden equipment engines, including engines used in handheld equipment. The Tier I emission standards took effect in 1995, and have been met by means of simple engine and carburetor modifications. The more stringent Tier II emission standards will take effect in 1999, and are considered technology-forcing. While it has been proven that the Tier II standards are technologically feasible, controversy has arisen over the costs of these technologies, as well as the cost-effectiveness of the standards and their impacts on the consumer market.

While the CCAA required ARB to control emissions from off-road mobile sources, the Federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) include a provision that prohibits any state or political subdivision from regulating emissions from new construction or farm equipment less than 175 horsepower (hp). As a result of this provision, chainsaws with engine size greater than 45 cc and blade capable brushcutters and clearing saws with engine size greater than 40 cc are exempt from ARB regulations. While ARB had emission inventory estimates for all handheld equipment, the fraction of the emission inventory produced by these preempted equipment categories was not known.

In order to clarify these questions, ARB contracted with Engine, Fuel and Emissions Engineering, Inc. (EF&EE) to assess the cost-effectiveness of the Tier II emission standards, to quantify emissions contributed by commercial preempted handheld equipment and to explore consumer attitudes toward the effects of the Tier II emission standards.

EF&EE estimated the retail price equivalent (RPE) cost of several of the most promising emission control technologies for hand-held utility equipment. The RPE is an estimate of the change in average sales prices of the equipment, based on an extensive bottom-up cost analysis of the change in manufacturing costs, and taking into account the overheads and markups involved in manufacturing and distribution. The technologies evaluated included changing from two-stroke to four-stroke engines (with and without catalytic converters), and the use of improved two-stroke engines with a catalytic converter. The estimated RPE increases for these technologies ranged from about $14 to $37 per unit, which included incremental costs for engine and equipment changes. These cost increases would be offset by lifetime fuel cost savings of about $151 per unit for equipment used in commercial service, and about $6 per unit for equipment used by individual homeowners. Based on these estimates, the cost-effectiveness of the Tier II emission standards, compared to retaining the present Tier I standards, was negative for commercial equipment, due to fuel cost saving. For residential equipment, if all lifecycle costs were allocated to reducing HC emissions, the cost per pound of HC eliminated would be about $5, based on the use of the highest incremental RPE (the worst scenario). This is within the range of costs of other emission control measures that have been adopted by ARB.

EF&EE also estimated the emissions from preempted chainsaws, based on a survey of commercial and institutional users such as parks departments and commercial gardening services (use of preempted equipment by individual homeowners was estimated to be negligible). The survey results indicated that 49.4% of the chainsaws in commercial and institutional use fell in the preempted categories. The survey results also indicated that the annual and lifetime hours of usage for commercial chainsaws are higher than the previously published estimates used in ARB's emission inventory, and that the chainsaws last longer as well. Based on the activity data obtained from the survey and ARB's lawn and garden emission inventory, EF&EE estimated that 66% of total chainsaw emissions are from preempted chainsaws. Further, the emissions calculated using the activity data from the survey were about 20% higher than ARB's current emission inventory estimates.

EF&EE subcontracted with a market research company, Freeman, Sullivan & Company (FSC), to undertake a qualitative exploration of attitudes among the residential and business sectors toward the Tier II standards. The primary objective of this research was to obtain overall reactions to the impending standards and to the specific features of the technologies that are likely to be used to meet them. This was done by means of three focus group sessions: two consisting of residential users of hand-held equipment, and one session with commercial and institutional users.

Major points addressed in the focus groups included: equipment usage, attitudes and perceptions toward air pollution, overall reaction to the Tier II emission standards, reactions to various features of prospective Tier II product technology (such as less emission pollutants, reduced fuel consumption, eliminating the need to mix gas and oil, warranty engine coverage, heavier units, more costly units). Most participants agreed that air pollution is a problem, but perceived that the contribution of handheld equipment is minimal. Also, most participants indicated that they would support measures that would improve their personal and/or employee health. While features such as fuel cost saving, eliminating gas and oil mixing and warranty engine coverage were considered somewhat motivating, most participants were concerned about potential drawbacks of these features. Added 20% weight on equipment was generally not perceived as a problem for most of the participants. Nonetheless, some commercial participants claimed it could be a problem for strapless and freehand operation, such as the use of chainsaws in tree trimming. In general, both residential and commercial participants considered that a $35 increase in equipment costs for the new technology would not be a barrier to purchase. While a $50 price increase was the tolerance limit for residential participants, it did not seem to be a problem for the commercial participants.

For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Research Division staff at (916) 445-0753

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