What Are Emissions?

Emissions is the term to describe all gases and particles that are put into the air or emitted by a variety of sources, including petrol engines. We all understand that emissions from petrol engines are bad for the environment. But do the emissions from outdoor power tools really matter? You might be surprised to find out.

Climate change is big news – and rightly so, as global warming represents the biggest threat to humankind in our history. Similarly, air pollution is a killer as well as creating negative health impacts for many people living in the worst hit areas.

In this article we’ll explain the key differences in both types of emissions, why they are important, and how they impact users of petrol-powered outdoor equipment.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are gases in the Earth’s atmosphere that form a barrier, trapping heat that would normally escape – this is called the greenhouse effect. During the day, the sun warms the Earth’s surface. At night, our Earth’s surface cools, releasing heat back into the air – but this heat is prevented from escaping by this barrier. This leads to greenhouse gases causing global warming, and a steady increase in average temperatures.

The most common greenhouse gas emission is carbon dioxide, which is typically produced through burning fossil fuels such as diesel, petrol, coal, and gas – hence the expression, “carbon footprint.” A carbon footprint refers to the amount of CO2 emitted by a piece of equipment, or from an organisation.

Air pollution

The other major issue with emissions from petrol engines relates to air pollution. The Royal College of Physicians estimates that 40,000 deaths a year in the UK are linked to air pollution, with hundreds of thousands more people suffering negative impacts such as asthma and related breathing difficulties. Emissions from petrol engines include nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, which are linked to asthma and other lung diseases.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) reduces your blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Outcomes can include headaches and respiratory problems. Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) produce ozone, which can cause inflammation of your airways and reduced lung function, as well as triggering asthma. Hydrocarbons (HC) react with NOx in sunlight to produce photochemical oxidants including ozone, which again causes breathing problems and increased symptoms for people living with asthma. Benzene (C6H6) is both toxic and carcinogenic, with long-term exposure linked to leukaemia. Particulate matter (PM), known more commonly as soot, can pass deep into your lungs, causing respiratory complaints and contributing to the risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases.

Why does this matter?

If you regularly use petrol-powered garden tools or similar outdoor equipment, you are exposing yourself to air pollution while also contributing to climate change.

You might think a brush cutter or strimmer is only small, so it can’t have much impact. However, our research has shown that this is not the case. While the EU has imposed strict emissions standards on diesel and petrol engines for vehicles and plant equipment, emissions from the smaller petrol engines on outdoor power tools remain unregulated. These include engines on tools used for grounds care, landscaping, and gardening, such as leaf blowers, brush cutters, and hedge trimmers.

We commissioned emissions tests on petrol-powered tools at the renowned Millbrook Proving Grounds and the results were startling. Our findings included:

  • Inefficiency – A leaf blower requires 50% of the petrol required to fuel a Ford Fiesta car
  • Air pollution – A brush cutter emits four times as much NOx as a Ford Fiesta
  • Greenhouse gas – A leaf blower emits 11 times as much CO2 as a Ford Fiesta

This evidence proves that switching to all-electric tools such as the EGO Power+ range would enable us to improve air quality, minimise noise pollution, and cut carbon emissions. These shocking findings – and more – are available in a free document called The Report. You can download The Report here.

A viable alternative

For a long time, battery-powered outdoor equipment has been dismissed as not being up to the job. This is no longer the case – tools in the EGO Power+ range all offer the same or better performance than the petrol-powered equivalent. And best of all, they can deliver significant cost savings, too.

In 2019, EGO investigated the total cost of ownership between petrol and battery-powered outdoor equipment. The study looked at the cost of petrol and all-electric brush cutter, hedge trimmer and leaf blower, used by a professional such as a gardener for 170 days per year. Researchers found that the total lifetime savings stacked up to more than £4,500 – and those savings have only increased since fuel prices have soared.

In terms of performance, on a single charge, the 12Ah battery can allow users to mow up to 1,900sqm, use a line trimmer for up to 340 minutes, trim hedges for up to 360 minutes, saw for up to 720 cuts or leaf blow for up to 480 minutes. This is more than sufficient for the majority of jobs done by professional gardeners, local authorities and landscapers. On top of this, EGO batteries are interchangeable, meaning the user can have one on charge while using the machine, and a quick swap enables them to carry on working all day if they need to. It’s no different to having to refill the tank on a 2-stroke tool – in fact, it takes less time and is not as messy.

Equipment manufacturers like Allett now recognise the performance capabilities of our batteries and are using them through our Powered by EGO business. Furthermore, battery technology is improving all the time, so performance will only get better.

Make a difference

The scale of emissions from outdoor equipment is clear and we must address it. The time has come to demand better performance and zero emissions from the tools you use both at work and in your garden. No one should be needlessly breathing in emissions when there are cost-effective, high-performance alternatives readily available.

This is why in 2020 we launched Challenge 2025, our vision that within five years, battery technology will become the principal power source for outdoor equipment. This will lead to significant reductions in emissions and noise while increasing safety and user comfort.

We’ll achieve this by empowering outdoor equipment users to move away from petrol solutions to more sustainable alternatives like those manufactured by EGO.

Find out what your impact is by using the Challenge 2025 emissions calculator. This user-friendly tool can quickly show you how much CO2 your tools are emitting. Simply enter the tools used most often and we’ll do the rest, as well as offer suggestions on reducing your carbon footprint.

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